Republican News

Jun 05 2003

ENERGY BILL'S HYDROPOWER PROVISION RETAINS PUBLIC INPUT, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTIONS

DOMENICI, CRAIG CLARIFY MISCHARACTERIZATION OF PROVISION

Washington, D.C. – Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici and Public Lands and Forests Subcommittee Chairman Larry Craig today set the record straight on the hydropower provision in S. 14 – The Energy Policy Act of 2003 – which is currently under consideration by the Senate. The hydropower relicensing provision in the bill ensures reliable and affordable electricity by seeking to eliminate unnecessary costs, delays and uncertainty in the relicensing process. Senator Domenici’s statement: I supported this provision because it protects the American consumer and our environment. This provision is one of several in my bill that ensures affordable, reliable and clean power. Hydropower is our single biggest source of clean and renewable power. We must ensure its reliability and affordability. The relicensing provision in my bill helps do that. I am disappointed that those opposed to this clean and renewable energy source have mischaracterized the provision. Let me set the record straight. The hydropower provision in my bill fully preserves every opportunity for public input. It fully preserves existing environmental laws. It preserves the NEPA process. It gives final authority to federal agencies tasked with the protection of our environment, wildlife and fish. Our fish, our wildlife, our water ways and our air are fully protected. This provision seeks to eliminate some of federal bureaucratic delays, vagaries and uncertainties that have, in some cases, dramatically driven up the cost of relicensing a hydropower dam – costs that are passed on to the consumer. Anyone who has ever been in a prolonged federal permitting or licensing process knows how absurd and costly it can become. Agencies hand down mandates that, in some cases, have nothing to do with the matter at hand. In one instance, a utility was asked to spend $473 million on mandates a federal agency imposed as part of the relicensing requirement. Meeting those requirements would increase electricity rates in the (more) region by 400 percent. Some of these mandates are absurd. Another utility was asked to reintroduce Big Horn Sheep into the region as part of its relicensing procedure, even though the sheep weren’t in the area when the dam was built. I consider such mandates an abuse of the public trust and have worked with Sen. Craig to address the problem with this provision. Senator Craig’s statement: "The arguments against this common sense, responsible reform of the hydro-relicensing process ring hollow. Our legislation does not circumvent environmental protections, it follows current law which allows federal agencies to determine what 'adequate protection' of the reservation is, unlike the amendment proposed today which would create a new, entirely arbitrary environmental standard for alternative conditions. Our legislation holds the agencies accountable and provides balance to the process. The Bingaman amendment invites conflict and ties the hands of the Secretaries of the agencies. I remain optimistic that the bipartisan hydro-licensing reform title in the Energy bill will pass." ###