McMorris, Hastings Hold Congressional Hearing on Northwest Energy Costs

(Washington, D.C.)  Congresswoman Cathy McMorris (WA-05) and Congressman Doc Hastings (WA-04) announced today that the House Water and Power Subcommittee will hold a Congressional field hearing on “Electricity Costs and Salmon: Finding a Balance.” The hearing will be held on Friday, July 7th, 2006 at 10:00 am in the Gjerde Multipurpose Facility at Columbia Basin College located at 2600 N. 20th Avenue, Pasco, Washington.

“Electricity ratepayers in the Pacific Northwest are being hit from all angles, said McMorris, Vice-Chair of the Water and Power Subcommittee. “The low-cost hydropower resources that have fueled our economy for generations are being compromised by a number of factors. Eastern Washington’s families and businesses deserve answers about increasing energy prices. This hearing will help provide those answers and solutions in helping to keep energy rates low and maintaining the multipurpose use of our river system.”

“Northwest ratepayers spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on salmon recovery – making it the largest endangered species program anywhere,” said Hastings. “I look forward to participating in this hearing because protecting our dams and ending policies that waste money, increase power rates and fail to achieve recovery results is critical to our economy and our way of life.”

In the Pacific Northwest, communities depend on dams to provide low cost renewable power. Yet, costs associated with Endangered Species Act compliance have risen steadily in recent years, contributing to rising electric rates. These added costs are passed directly on to the consumer, whether the fish efforts they fund are cost-effective or not. For example, the spilling of water through our dams in late summer for Snake River Fall Chinook costs up to $3.85 million per endangered fish.

Due to these high and often hidden costs, McMorris recently introduced the Endangered Species Compliance and Transparency Cost Act, which gives consumers the right to know how much of the federal government’s ESA costs are being passed on to the electricity consumer. Hastings is an original cosponsor of this legislation.

“I have always believed that Congress must hear directly from those on-the-ground most affected by federal policies,” said Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo. “As such, the field hearing proposal to hear from impacted energy consumers in Eastern Washington is an excellent way to help Congress craft new and improved federal energy policies that will bring real relief at home.”

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