- June 10 - The deregulation of the electric power industry represents a new threat
to the health of rivers because of the changing ownership and operation of hydroelectric
dams, according to a report released today by Public Citizen.
by regulated utilities for most of the century, many of the nations 2,300
hydroelectric dams -- which produce about 10 percent of the nations electricity
-- are now being purchased by new, unregulated companies, according to Dammed
Deregulation: How Deregulation of the Electric Power Industry Could Affect the
dams inflict heavy damage to waterways and neighboring ecosystems," said
Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass
Energy Project. "But regulated utilities in many cases have been required
to take actions to reduce those environmental impacts. In a deregulated market,
in which utility profits are not guaranteed, there will be enormous pressure to
cut corners and operate these hydroelectric plants solely for profit.
however, are not profit machines," Hauter said. "They belong to the
American public, and we must ensure that these dams are operated in ways that
protect the public interest."
is forcing power plant operators to reduce costs, dam owners may cut back on maintenance
or abandon operating procedures that lessen impacts to the environment, the report
says. Economic pressures may also force some dam owners to abandon their projects,
leaving taxpayers stuck with a public safety and environmental menace.
deregulated power markets are placing a greater value on "peak hour"
electricity, creating financial incentives that could harm rivers. And tens of
thousands of acres of undeveloped land surrounding hydroelectric projects could
be sold to private developers, creating even more stress on riverine ecosystems.
electricity marketers are interested in marketing hydro power as "green,"
or environmentally benign, in a new deregulated market that will allow consumers
in many states to choose their electricity retailer. However, these claims belie
that fact that many dams inflict heavy damage to fish and wildlife. They also
disrupt the lives of people who depend on healthy rivers for their livelihoods.
hydro power 'green' would mislead consumers into thinking that hydro electricity
does not harm people or the environment," said Charlie Higley, senior policy
analyst. "It also could squelch the development of real renewable energy
recommends the following:
- Hydro power should not
be designated as a renewable energy resource in deregulation legislation.
- Electricity retailers should
be prohibited from selling hydro power as "green" electricity.
- A financing mechanism should
be provided to ensure removal of dams abandoned due to the deregulation of electricity
- Current laws and regulations
designed to mitigate the environmental impacts of hydro projects should be preserved.
- Consumers should be informed
about the environmental impacts of their electricity purchases through detailed
- Before utilities produce
plans for either divesting or spinning off their hydro assets, public policies
should be implemented to protect environmental resources, including in-stream
habitats and surrounding lands.
- Legislation should protect
against damage to Canadas rivers, which will be under increased pressure
as electricity generators seek to build new dams to serve the deregulated retail
market in the United States.
The report can be purchased
for $10 by calling Public Citizen's publication department at (202) 588-7780,
or click on the title above for a free online version.