Trout Unlimited Opposes Hydroelectric Legislation, Says It Would Put The Interests of Utilities Over Rivers And Fish
House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air quality will hold a hearing on the Radanovich, Hastings, Walden bill on Wednesday, March 12
3/11/2003 -- Washington, DC -- Legislation that proposes to change the way federal hydroelectric facilities are relicensed is not only unnecessary, it is designed to benefit utilities at the expense of rivers and fish, said a representative of the national conservation organization Trout Unlimited.
The legislation (HR 1013), introduced by Reps. Radanovich (R-CA), Hastings R-WA) and Walden (R-OR), would require new processes, add additional delay to the licensing process and comes at a time when federal agencies, states and conservationists are working with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to develop new rules to improve relicensing.
“This proposed legislation would derail existing efforts to reform the relicensing process and would cut short the current trend toward collaborative settlements of relicensing cases for federal hydroelectric facilities,” said Leon Szeptycki, the Eastern Conservation Director and General Counsel of Trout Unlimited “The bill would fundamentally shift the balance of interests away from river protection and towards higher profits and power generation. It would dramatically reduce the incentives that companies now have to sit down and negotiate settlements that work for everybody and, as a result, produce longer more expensive relicensings that accomplish less than the current process.”
In addition to putting in place unnecessary red tape, Szeptycki said the measure, if it becomes law, would substantially reduce the environmental protections that current law provides for rivers affected by hydropower, and would result in a long term barrier to the health of those rivers. Sport fisheries, recreational opportunities, and aquatic health would all suffer because H.R. 1013 would require federal agencies to consider the private economic interests of a dam owner on an equal footing with requirements for fish passage and protection of federal lands.
“The irony of this legislation is that the majority of responsible hydroelectric operators have long recognized and accepted the health of a river as part of the way you do business. Over the past few years, these same responsible operators have worked toward collaborative relicensing settlements that strike the right balance among all the competing interests in a relicensing, including the cost, power generation, aquatic health, fisheries, and recreation. H.R. 1013 seems to be designed to benefit the slackards in the hydroelectric industry – those who want to put profits ahead of working hard with stakeholders for rivers and fish,” said Szeptycki.
While the legislation would affect rivers nationwide, a number of the west’s premier trout and salmon rivers could be devastated if H.R. 1013 becomes law. California’s rivers including the Feather, the Hat, the San Joaquin, and the Klamath will be particularly impacted. Licenses on 150 dams in that state are set to expire over the next 15 years. Most of the current relicensings are being done as collaborative negotiations, but that trend is unlikely to continue under H.R. 1013.
Trout Unlimited and others will testify at a hearing on the legislation, scheduled for Wednesday, March 12, 2003 in the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality at 2:30 p.m. in 2322 Rayburn House Office Building.
Trout Unlimited is the nation's leading coldwater conservation organization, dedicated to the protection and enhancement of trout and salmon rivers and streams and their watersheds. The organization has over 130,000 members in North America and over the last ten years has directly participated in numerous hydroelectric relicensings from California to Maine.
For more information: Leon Szeptycki, 434-984-4919; Steve Moyer, 703-284-9406