McMorris Rodgers Exposes White House’s Hydropower Hypocrisy, Demands Transparency in Mediation Process

Administration Confirms Only Congress Has Authority Over Lower Snake River Dams

Washington, D.C. – Today, Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) exposed the Biden administration’s hypocrisy on the future of the Columbia-Snake River System, while highlighting the significant role hydropower plays in strengthening the Pacific Northwest’s energy grid.

During this morning’s House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on unleashing American hydropower, Cathy called out the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) for their months-long mediation process over the future of the Columbia-Snake River System. This process, which was supposed to be open and transparent, has instead consisted of an undisclosed number of backdoor meetings between a select group of organizations and individuals who believe breaching the four Lower Snake River dams is the only way to recover endangered salmon populations.

Excerpts and highlights from her remarks:

“We know hydropower is an especially vital resource in the Pacific Northwest, which is home to the Columbia-Snake River system. There are over 60 dams in the Columbia River Basin, including the four Lower Snake River dams. 

“They have strengthened our energy grid and lowered energy costs for families and businesses – all while reducing carbon emissions. They provide critical flood control benefits, supply water for irrigation, and make it possible for farmers to barge their products … all across America and to countries around the world.  

“I am deeply concerned that these conversations are already happening at the highest levels of government with the Biden Administration’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) secretly coordinating with environmental groups behind closed doors and ignoring the voices of the people whose livelihoods depend on them. 

“Let me be clear: Breaching the Lower Snake River dams would permanently harm our way of life in Washington, not to mention all the other states in the region that have come to rely on them.   

“Over the past two years, I have led a series of letters demanding transparency in this mediation process to ensure ALL voices are heard in the debate over the future of these dams. 

“I’d also like to remind our witnesses from the administration here today that Congress – and Congress alone – has the authority to change the operations of the federally-operated Snake River dams. 

“As we work towards a final outcome, we must consider the facts, prioritize transparency, and utilize sound science and input from all tribes, industry groups, and the people in our Pacific Northwest communities – not just a small group of radical organizations and overreaching government officials whose sole focus is to rip out the dams.”

Demanding Answers From CEQ

Following her remarks, Cathy questioned the witnesses at today’s hearing, including Bonneville Power Administrator John Hairston and CEQ Chief of Staff Matt Lee-Ashley. 

Excerpts from her exchange with Mr. Lee-Ashley:

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers: “Mr. Lee-Ashley, will you provide a list of all the meetings that CEQ has been involved with relating to the Lower Snake River Dams, as well as a list of all participants in those meetings?”

Mr. Matt Lee-Ashley: “CEQ is not actually managing the mediation itself.”

CMR: “Is it not CEQ chairing that mediation?”

MLA: “CEQ coordinates federal agencies and our work across agencies to advance salmon restoration and address the many challenges of the Columbia River System.”

CMR: “Is coordinating leading?”

MLA: “I would say coordinating is a good word to describe it.”

CMR: “Last September, NOAA concluded in a report CEQ requested that breaching the dams must be a ‘centerpiece action’ to restore endangered salmon. Did CEQ provide guidance, comment, or influence regarding the information included in this report?”

MLA: “We have been involved in trying to encourage agencies … to develop information to support the regional dialogue about the Columbia River System.”

CMR: “My understanding is that NOAA previously did not advocate for breaching of the dams; but then this recent report from NOAA recommends breaching the dams. Was CEQ involved in developing that recommendation?

MLA: “That’s ultimately a decision Congress would have to make if it were appropriate at some point in the future.”

CMR: “Do you believe that dam breaching could be a term of the mediation agreement?”

MLA: “Only Congress can decide whether to breach those dams.”

CMR: “Does CEQ support breaching the four Lower Snake River dams?”

MLA: “We don’t have a position on that currently. We do very much support … ensuring that all stakeholders have a voice and a view in this process.”

CMR: “The stakeholders do not feel like their voices are being heard, so I urge you as you move forward to include all voices – all stakeholders – from the region in this mediation.”


Expanding Hydropower in America

The committee also discussed Cathy’s legislation to help preserve America’s existing hydropower fleet and bring more power online as demand grows into the future. The Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act (H.R. 4045) would reform the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) licensing process and remove barriers to rapidly expand hydropower development.

Excerpts and highlights from her remarks:

“Hydropower is a vital source of energy for the U.S., especially for Eastern Washington. It is an essential component of House Republicans’ all-of-the-above approach to energy – a renewable, carbon-free, baseload power source that grid operators can dispatch in a moment’s notice.  

“Renewable energy from sources like weather-dependent wind and solar can play a role in America’s overall energy mix, but they cannot replace hydropower, especially in terms of reliability.    

“Just ask the people of California, a state that imports a significant amount of hydroelectric power from Washington state. California relies on hydropower to balance its grid when inconsistent resources like wind and solar can’t produce enough energy to meet demand.  

“For these reasons, we must protect and modernize our existing hydropower fleet, and expand production where we can. My legislation, the Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act, will do just that.   

“H.R. 4045 could help double hydropower production in the United States, modernize an outdated permitting process, promote next-generation hydro technologies, and eliminate barriers to new dam development.   

“This bill will also enhance coordination among dozens of agencies by authorizing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to set schedules, clarify responsibilities, and resolve disputes. H.R. 4045 builds on the important permitting reforms contained in H.R. 1, the Lower Energy Costs Act, to expand clean, reliable, and affordable energy for the American people.    

“Hydropower is a vital part of a strong energy mix in the United States – one that will help to lower energy costs, enhance grid reliability, and ensure America continues to be a global leader in reducing emissions.”

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act.

CLICK HERE for a one pager on the bill.

CLICK HERE to read the bill text.

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