H.R. 7410 bad for rivers and communities; wrong approach for hydro

July 17, 2020

Contact: Amy Kober, 503-708-1145

The “Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act” introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA) would roll back critical river and clean water protections, cut the public out of decision-making and put rivers nationwide at risk, American Rivers warned today.

“This legislation is a misguided attack on healthy rivers and the environment under the guise of ‘regulatory reform.’ By slashing safeguards for rivers, clean water and wildlife this bill would let energy companies off the hook for the damage their dams cause,” said Bob Irvin, President and CEO of American Rivers.

Key concerns with the legislation include:

  • Takes authority from the agencies charged with managing natural resources and gives that authority to a different agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which has a different mandate. 
  • Tightly limits agency 4(e) and Sect. 18 authority to address only direct project impacts instead of cumulative impacts. Currently, agencies have the authority to not just mitigate impacts but to require enhancement of the resource. That would end under this bill.
  • Limits participation of Native American tribes, states and the public in hydropower licensing proceedings by shortening timelines, eliminating meetings and reducing opportunities for effective mitigation measures that address project impacts. 
  • Limits scientific studies and places the burden of demonstrating the need and value of necessary studies on agencies (freeing the project applicant from that responsibility). 

“There is a role for hydropower in the fight against climate change, and we must maximize low-carbon sources of energy,” said Irvin. “But it is imperative that we not destroy the environment we are trying to save by ignoring the serious environmental harm caused by hydropower dams, and the resulting economic and societal costs. We can have, and must demand, energy that avoids carbon emissions, does not consume finite natural resources, and does not irreparably harm the environment.”

Irvin added, “Hydropower dams constructed over the past century have decimated fish and wildlife, dried up rivers, inundated riverside lands and destroyed cultural sites sacred to Native American tribes. This legislation ignores these harmful impacts and creates loopholes for powerful energy companies to avoid addressing them.”

“In addition to our decades of successful work removing dams and restoring rivers, American Rivers has also long supported efforts to advance responsible hydropower development that doesn’t cause new harm to rivers,” Irvin said. “Examples include increasing efficiency at existing hydropower dams and adding power generation to irrigation conduits and currently non-powered dams. Unfortunately, this legislation undermines those positive efforts and is counterproductive to finding collaborative solutions that meet our nation’s needs.”

About American Rivers:

American Rivers believes a future of clean water and healthy rivers for everyone, everywhere is essential. Since 1973, we have protected wild rivers, restored damaged rivers and conserved clean water for people and nature. With headquarters in Washington, D.C., and 300,000 supporters, members and volunteers across the country, we are the most trusted and influential river conservation organization in the United States, delivering solutions for a better future. Because life needs rivers. www.AmericanRivers.org