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Biden Administration Engages in Negotiations Over Hydroelectric Dams in Washington

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The Biden administration is currently engaged in confidential discussions with environmental groups that advocate for the removal of four hydroelectric dams in Washington to protect salmon populations.

The government has developed a set of actions and commitments, and has agreed to temporarily halt litigation with the plaintiffs in the case. The parties involved have requested a multiyear pause on the litigation to allow for the implementation of the package by December 15, 2023. The specific conditions included in the package have not been disclosed.

Credits: DepositPhotos

The environmental groups involved in the case argue that breaching the dams is necessary to preserve declining salmon populations in the lower Snake River.

However, four House Republicans from the Pacific Northwest have reminded the Biden administration that Congress alone has the authority to decide on the breach of the dams. They cautioned against attempting to circumvent this authority through clever manipulation of language.

While the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Department of the Interior have engaged with the plaintiff groups, they have not explicitly endorsed the removal of the dams.

President Biden expressed his willingness to work with supporters of breaching the dams, including Indigenous tribes and certain senators and representatives. However, he did not mention working with opponents of the breach, such as Representative Dan Newhouse and industry groups like the Public Power Council (PPC).

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The PPC, which represents consumer-owned utilities in the Pacific Northwest, has criticized the lack of transparency in the negotiations. They were not given an opportunity to provide input, and are concerned about the potential new costs and uncertainties that could arise from the secretive process.

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Removing the hydroelectric dams would have significant consequences for energy production, climate goals, and transportation in Washington. The dams were originally built to facilitate barge transportation and currently provide about 8% of the state’s electricity.

The loss of this clean energy source would likely necessitate the use of fossil fuel alternatives and increase carbon emissions. Additionally, the removal of the dams would impact the economy and disrupt agriculture exports, as the river system plays a crucial role in transporting wheat.

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Credit: DepositPhotos

While the Biden administration claims to be committed to balancing the needs of wildlife, agriculture, and clean energy, the details of the agreement with environmental groups remain confidential.

The administration cites a confidentiality agreement as the reason for not disclosing the specifics. Earthjustice, one of the environmental groups involved, has also stated that the details of the package of actions and commitments are confidential at this time.

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