MARCH 12, 2003
Andrew Fahlund, Rob Masonis or Liz Birnbaum,
House Energy Bill: Hydropower Title Worse
than Last Year's;
American Rivers Testimony Available at www.americanrivers.org
- March 12 - As the House of Representatives moves towards a new
comprehensive energy bill, American Rivers today testified before
the House Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee the current draft
would rollback 80 years of established environmental protections
at hydropower dams in the name of regulatory "streamlining." Under
the currently proposed language, more than 500 dams on 150 rivers
in 38 states would sail through less-stringent licensing procedures
in the coming 15 years -- costing the nation a once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity to restore thousands of river miles.
community called on Congress drop the so-called "Title III" altogether
and instead allow the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
and other federal agencies to continue their promising initiative
to reform the hydropower licensing process with administrative
written, the bill would not 'streamline' anything. Instead it
would let dam owners off the hook from their most basic environmental
obligations and strangle everyone that might object in red tape,"
said Rob Masonis, Northwest Regional Director of American Rivers.
"This language is actually worse than anything contained in either
the House or Senate energy bills from last year."
Title III would allow utilities to avoid installing fish ladders,
elevators, or providing other means for fish to pass safely around
their dams. Although no panacea for the environmental impacts
of hydropower dams, fish passage is a proven tool that has lead
to the rebound of many fish stocks on dammed rivers across the
country. Under Title III, utilities could avoid these obligations
and instead artificially propagate fish, protect offsite habitat,
or contribute to environmental trust funds.
such a proven technique for environmental restoration makes about
as much sense as putting lead back into gasoline," Masonis said.
Title III would
also tie the hands of federal and state natural resource agencies
and the public during the hydropower licensing negotiations --
freeing FERC to cut sweetheart deals with the utilities seeking
new licenses. The language would hinder the National Forest Service
and other agencies seeking operations changes to protect federal
lands. The public would be held to different levels of participation
than the dam-owning utility -- even though rivers are public resources,
not private lands.
III become law, it would preempt a promising initiative from FERC
to administratively overhaul the hydropower licensing process.
The Commission has thus far drawn heavily on consensus positions
developed by industry moderates, the conservation community, and
state representatives during negotiations conducted over the past
For more information,
point your browser to http://www.americanrivers.org
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