Three Things You Need to Know About Unlock Hydro Bills

Rock Creek Dam | Tom O'KeefeRock Creek Dam | Tom O’Keefe

They’re at it again. An opinion piece in The New York Times today co-authored by Senator Lisa Murkowski tries to put a positive spin on harmful hydropower legislation.

But behind all of the talking points about clean and green energy, the truth is that the hydropower industry’s so-called “Unlock Hydro” bill is an attack on healthy rivers and your right to have a say in how your rivers are managed.

Here is why President Obama vowed to veto the legislation:

  1. The hydro legislation is an extreme power grab: The legislation represents a major power grab by already powerful energy companies including Pacific Gas & Electric, Duke Energy, Exelon and Southern Company. The bill would gut environmental protections and curtail the ability of states, tribes, local communities and recreation and conservation interests to have a say in how dams are operated. By trying to “streamline” the dam relicensing process, energy companies are steamrolling your values.
  2. Giant loopholes for energy companies: This legislation creates major loopholes for dam owners so they can avoid requirements to protect fish, wildlife or clean water. It also undermines the rights of states and Native American tribes to protect these values on their lands.
  3. Rivers pay the price: Poorly operated hydropower dams can dry up rivers, kill fish and wildlife, and cause major damage to communities and businesses that rely on healthy rivers. There’s nothing “clean” or “green” about that. If hydropower is so clean, why are hydro companies lobbying Congress to get them out of complying with the Clean Water Act?

It’s time to stop this legislation in its tracks. Learn more about H.R. 8 and take action for rivers today.

5 Responses to “Three Things You Need to Know About Unlock Hydro Bills”

Roger McMillion

Maintain a high level of environmental protection and protection to all human beings….

Warren Winders

This legislation, if it passes, will put hydro power right up there with mountain top removal and fracking as an under regulated and environmentally disastrous source of energy. The present FERC licensing process, at the very least, allows concerned citizens a voice in the conditions set for license renewal. Furthermore, giving dam owners exemptions from the Clean Water Act and fish passage regulations amounts to the “taking” of property that belongs to the public. The water and the fisheries that it supports belong to all of us. Dam owners use that water at the public’s discretion. There are precedent court rulings going back centuries that firmly establish this public domain in our laws.

Will Robinson

Not once does the Times article mention sediment – anything can be “clean” if you narrow the scope of focus enough.

Can’t help but wonder how much funding Murkowski’s next campaign will get for writing that article…


I’m not from Missouri, but you’re going to have to show me more than this diatribe about how ‘power-hungry utilities’ are subverting the environment with hydro power dams. Hydro power is probably the LEAST EXPENSIVE and MOST RELIABLE form of electrical power generation we have and it seems the EPA and environmentalists are not happy about being unable to fully control that, too, along with effectively killing oil production and coal-fired electric generation. Until we are able to store electric power or to simply do WITHOUT electric power completely [in our cave]… let’s not toss the baby out [yet] with the bath water.

    Jeff Wiedner

    Thanks, Ron, but we don’t oppose hydropower. We believe hydropower could be done right, when it’s sited properly and there is respect for the environment and water quality.

    But the hydropower industry and their allies in Congress are pushing a bill that would allow them to “opt out” of complying with the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act. It also makes it difficult, if not impossible, for river communities to have a say in the quality of water on their river. We don’t think you can call that clean, or responsible, energy.

    HR 8 is backed by large corporations like Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Duke Energy and Southern Company who claim that the provisions are necessary — companies that own some of the worst polluting coal-fired plants. These same provisions take us back to the 17th century when we didn’t care about our natural resources. And we’re not alone in this opposition. More than 200 groups ranging from conservation to hunting to state organizations like the California Water Control Board agree this is bill is irresponsible.

    You can read more about this bill here or compare facts versus the industry talking points.