McMorris Rodgers, PNW Lawmakers Demand Transparency in Biden Administration’s Closed Door Dam-Breaching Negotiation

Sep 14, 2023
Clean Energy

Washington, D.C. – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) and a number of her colleagues from the Pacific Northwest are calling for more transparency in the Biden administration’s closed door negotiations to breach the Lower Snake River Dams and are demanding they include all stakeholders in the negotiations. 

The letter sent to Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory follows the agency’s announcement earlier this month that it will be extending the stay of the federal litigation on the Columbia River Basin for 60 days. 

Rodgers was joined in sending the letter by Representatives Cliff Bentz (OR-02), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Russ Fulcher (ID-01), and Matt Rosendale (MT-02). 

Below are highlights and excerpts from the letter: 

“Over the past two years, we have continually heard from stakeholders that they are left in the dark as negotiations take place. While the mediation process is confidential, many of the intervenor defendants have expressed deep reservations and considerable disappointment regarding the overall process that has been followed. Of particular concern is the Biden administration’s apparent push to forgo trying to reach a “consensus” resolution and instead advance a predetermined outcome of dam removal.

“Unfortunately, it has become clear that this mediation process fails to allow meaningful input from the intervenor defendants. These organizations represent millions of electricity customers, farmers, river-dependent ports, transportation, and export sectors across the Northwest whose livelihoods and interests have not had a true seat at the table. This is deeply concerning, as it implies that a small group of stakeholders is attempting to dictate decisions for our entire region regarding our climate response, electricity rates, transportation, grid reliability, food and energy security, and the future of river dependent communities without the full opportunity of affected stakeholders to participate.

“If our shared goal to establish “a durable long-term strategy” is truly the priority, then it is imperative that an inclusive mediation process needs to take place to best account for the impacts to the region’s ratepayers, and the economy. It is unacceptable that the mediation negotiations are being conducted behind closed doors via private caucuses to craft concessions to plaintiffs without regard to the impacts to the region’s ratepayers, the economy, or ensuring that the Congressionally authorized purposes of the Columbia River System are met.

“We implore you to redirect your efforts towards engaging all stakeholders in the region rather than solely focusing on the plaintiffs. This will ensure a more productive, inclusive, and transparent mediation process.”

CLICK HERE to read the letter. 

NOTE: In May, Cathy pressed CEQ for answers about the White House’s approach to public engagement during the confidential mediation process focused on restoring Columbia Basin salmon. Click here to read the letter. Last year, Cathy led PNW lawmakers in demanding answers from ten federal agencies involved in CEQ’s exploration of plans to breach the Lower Snake River dams. Click here to read those letters. Also last year, Cathy called out the Biden administration for its lack of transparency and political intervention in processes that could lead to breaching the Lower Snake River dams. Click here to read those letters. 


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