A group of House lawmakers representing the Pacific Northwest have revealed a confidential mediation agreement between the Biden administration and environmental groups, which aims to remove four hydroelectric dams in Washington to protect salmon.
The document, which was drafted on November 2nd as part of an agreement to pause litigation against the federal government, has been made public by lawmakers led by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and her colleagues Reps. Dan Newhouse, Cliff Bentz, and Russ Fulcher. The agreement was made between the activist groups and the federal government, who were in favor of breaching the federally-managed dams due to declining salmon populations in the lower Snake River.
In a letter to President Biden, the lawmakers expressed their concern about the impacts of this agreement on the region, stating that it is their duty to ensure that any action taken does not bypass congressional authorization. They also questioned the Biden administration’s intentions and demanded to know which scientific reports the government has used to come to its conclusions.
The Biden administration is quietly discussing a potentially far-reaching settlement with environmental groups that advocate for tearing down four hydroelectric dams in Washington to protect salmon.
(F-ing insanity……no greener energy than hydro.) pic.twitter.com/WYrKdDc7aO
— beam*me*up (@james31033636) November 22, 2023
The confidential mediation document states, “the science is clear, and now so must be our path forward,” and argues for quick deployment of green energy to compensate for the lost power if the four dams are removed. However, multiple government and private reports have concluded that breaching the dams would have a devastating effect on energy production, climate goals, and transportation in Washington.
The dams, built in the 1960s and 1970s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, were primarily constructed to facilitate barge transportation on the Snake River. However, they now provide reliable clean energy, generating about 8% of the state’s electricity and having a total capacity of 3,000 megawatts. Removing these dams would not only impact energy and climate goals but also damage the regional economy and agriculture exports, which heavily rely on the Columbia River system.
Industry groups, including Northwest RiverPartners, Public Power Council, and Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, have expressed their concerns about being excluded from the negotiations and the potential harm to millions of residents who were not represented in the process. According to Northwest RiverPartners, the mediation document goes beyond breaching the four Snake River dams and could jeopardize the entire Federal Columbia River Power System.
If the goal is a non fossil fuel, all electric future, why in the world is Biden secretly negotiating the removal of 4 Washington hydroelectric dams?
Biden admin quietly developing settlement with groups seeking to tear down key power sourcehttps://t.co/ipSP9Bud5N
— David L Wagner (@DavidLWagner4) November 22, 2023
The proposal has been met with criticism from various stakeholders, including businesses, power utilities, ports, and agriculture companies, who are worried about the economic impact of the dams’ removal. The Columbia River system is a key gateway for wheat exports, with barges carrying over 60% of Washington’s annual wheat exports and 40% of the nation’s total wheat production.
Earthjustice, one of the plaintiffs involved in the case and mediation, declined to comment on the document, citing confidentiality rules. However, the parties involved in the case may request a multiyear pause on litigation to allow for the implementation of the agreement, which could have significant consequences for the region.
As of now, the White House Council on Environmental Quality has not responded to requests for comment on the confidential mediation agreement. However, with the details now made public, it remains to be seen how the Biden administration will proceed and what impact the agreement could have on the Pacific Northwest region and its economy.