Washington - Congress may be on vacation, but that hasn’t stopped Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) from introducing a bill that outlines a radical and potentially destructive vision for American hydropower—a vision that is at odds with mainstream thinking about hydropower policy. The bill, HR 6247, is designed to muzzle critics of unsafe and environmentally destructive dams, while protecting lavish subsidies to irrigators and agribusinesses that derive their profits from those dams.
"This extreme proposal would jeopardize jobs, public safety, and the outdoor recreation industry that fuels the economic engines of so many communities across America," said Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers. Hastings, who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources, plans to hold a legislative field hearing on his proposal in Pasco, Washington on August 15.
"American Rivers strongly opposes this bill," stated Irvin. "It articulates a radical anti-environmental agenda. It caters to a few extremist water and power users that have received outlandish taxpayer support for decades and are unwilling to stop feeding at the public trough, no matter how much harm they inflict on rivers and the human and natural communities that depend on those rivers."
At a time when the fragile economy is on the minds of every American, the Hastings bill would slow job growth and hurt businesses.
- River restoration, including the removal of dams that are obsolete, unsafe, or no longer provide a financial return, is spurring one of America’s fastest-growing economic sectors, outdoor recreation. The Outdoor Industry Association estimates that outdoor recreation contributes $730 billion to the U.S. economy and supports 6.5 million jobs. In Washington State alone, outdoor recreation supports 115,000 jobs and contributes $11.7 billion to the state economy. The Hastings proposal would bring restoration to a screeching halt, curtailing growth in commercial and recreational fishing, and jeopardizing the recreational boating industry in some parts of the country.
The Hastings bill would harm rivers and wildlife while threatening public safety.
- It would prohibit federal funds from being used to remove, breach or study the removal or breaching of any hydropower dam unless explicitly authorized by Congress. This includes even unsafe and uneconomical dams that the dam owner and the local community want to remove.
- It would give federal energy regulators veto power over other agencies’ decisions to protect federal lands, Native American tribal rights, fish, and wildlife.
The Hastings bill would endanger rivers already threatened with extreme drought by preventing federal agencies from bypassing turbines to release flows into a river, even if a state has declared a drought emergency.
In a time of fiscal constraint, the Hastings bill would increase, not reduce, federal spending.
- An expensive new subsidy would give blanket permission to private water users to build new dams, whether or not they are in the public interest. Taxpayers would then be required to reimburse the full cost of the private parties’ investment.
In a brazen attempt to stifle public participation in the courts to protect the environment, the Hastings bill would undermine free speech and the rule of law.
- Rep. Hastings would prohibit organizations that participate in hydropower or dam-related lawsuits against the federal government from receiving federal funds for 10 years—even when a court finds that the government has abused its authority or broken the law. This is a shameful and unprecedented attack on American constitutional protections of free speech, the right to seek redress from our government, equal access to justice, and due process of law.
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.