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Groups Voice Concern About Columbia River Basin Restoration Document

The American Public Power Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association on Dec. 1 sent a joint letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm voicing concern about a recently released document, “U.S. Government Commitments in Support of the Columbia River Basin Restoration Initiative and in Partnership with the Six Sovereigns.”

The letter expresses alarm with purported agreements in the document, as well as dismay with the lack of transparency in the Columbia River System Operations mediation process.

On Wednesday, a document that appears to reflect numerous commitments made by the U.S. Government in long-standing mediation regarding the CRSO was made public by Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Cliff Bentz (R-OR), and Russ Fulcher (R-ID).

McMorris Rodgers, Newhouse, Bentz, and Fulcher recently sent a letter to President Biden asking numerous questions regarding the broad language in the commitments and what participants were involved in the production of the commitments made in the document.

While acknowledging that breaching the Lower Snake River Dams requires congressional approval, the document states that the U.S. Government is “committed to restoration of the Lower Snake River, including dam breach” and makes numerous commitments to six sovereign Indian nations “to make headway” on their restoration goals.

APPA and the NRECA said that if the draft agreement recently released by Congress is ratified, “it would jeopardize electric reliability and increase costs for millions of Americans throughout the Pacific Northwest.”

The draft agreement “clearly shows that the Administration’s goal is dam breaching, a conclusion that runs counter to decades of studies, science, and governmental actions, and an outcome that would destabilize the economy of an entire region of the nation. Not only does this expose a severe lack of understanding about the importance of keeping the lights on, it also reveals a misplaced desire to undermine our nation’s essential emissions-free hydropower system without considering the cost,” the groups said.

The draft agreement “would weaken the Administration’s stated greenhouse gas reduction goals by undermining hydropower, an always available, emissions-free source of electric generation critical to grid stability,” APPA and NRECA said.

“As our nation depends on electricity to power more of the economy, we need more generating resources -- not fewer. This proposal flies in the face of common sense and would make hydroelectric operations unnecessarily costly and unstable,” the groups said.

They noted that the Bonneville Power Administration’s hydropower system forms the backbone of reliability in the region. “Communities across the West, including those in rural America, many of which are located in persistent poverty counties, would suffer the brunt of these impacts.”

“In addition to the severely questionable obligations of the Draft Agreement, NRECA and APPA also have significant concerns about the lack of transparency inherent in this Columbia River System Operations (CRSO) mediation, as well as the Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) Request for Information on the management of the CRSO,” they said.

This process has shut critical stakeholders and parties out of this Agreement and the administrative process, the letter said.

“It has deprived our members in the Northwest, intimate stakeholders in CRSO operations, and millions of their customers of having fair representation in these proceedings. We strongly oppose the ratification of the Draft Agreement,” APPA and NRECA said.

“The reliability of the Western electric grid is critical to continued national security, stability of our domestic food and mineral supplies, national economic stability, and our nation’s energy security. Reliability should be prioritized as the U.S. Government moves forward in assessing the legality and appropriateness of these proposed obligations,” the groups said.

“Moreover, the Administration should engage in an open and transparent process with our members, all CRSO stakeholders, and Congress to address our concerns going forward,” the letter said.

The letter was signed by APPA President and CEO Scott Corwin and Jim Matheson, CEO of NRECA.

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