A legislative field hearing held on the recently proposed "Saving Our Dams and Hydropower Development and Jobs Act of 2012" provided an opportunity for witnesses to explain the bill's benefits.
The act -- officially known as House Resolution 6247 -- was introduced by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) earlier this month and would "protect America's dams and promote new clean, low-cost hydropower to help create jobs and grow the economy."
The field hearing was held this week in Pasco, Wash., where 70% of the state's power comes from hydroelectric sources, though Hastings says the legislation would be beneficial nationwide.
"The bill I introduced two weeks ago shines a bright light on the enormous benefits and potential of federal and non-federal hydropower dams, both in the Northwest and across the nation," Hastings says. "The bill, as with all legislation, is a starting point for discussion and contains common sense actions to protect this renewable energy source."
Amongst its myriad measures, H.R. 6247 emphasizes that it would not only provide energy for millions of Americans, but also provide water for irrigation, protect navigable waters, generate non-federal funding for new projects, diminish regulatory red-tape, and improve transparency.
"H.R. 6247 offers a very different future for our nation," says Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Water and Power. "It envisions a future in which families can enjoy the prosperity that plentiful water and electricity provides."
A number of other witnesses also spoke on the bill's behalf, saying:
- "Dam removal will not increase fish survival and would have a significant negative impact on our economy and environment by eliminating about 1,020 average MW of carbon-free energy, increasing greenhouse gasses and reducing navigation capacity. H.R. 6247, by enacting funding prohibitions on dam removal ensures that the focus of salmon and steelhead recovery is on actions that actually work and help fish." -- Tom Flint, President of the United Power Trades Organization
- "At times it is hard to believe that we have to defend the economic and environmental benefits of the dams, but we do." -- Jim Sanders, General Manager for Benton Public Utility District
- "Breaching dams would end barge navigation, and put up to 700,000 more trucks on the highways and increase greenhouse gas emissions. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are tied directly to the river system's activity, trade and commerce." -- Kara Rowe, Affairs and Outreach Director for the Washington Association of Wheat Growers
- "I believe it's naïve to think that we can feed an additional two billion people and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels without growing our portfolio of water storage and hydropower. Dams play a critical role in the production of food for this country and for others who are unable to feed themselves." Chris Voigt, Executive Director of the Washington State Potato Commission and Advisory Board Member for the Family Farm Alliance
- "As costs of biological opinions, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing, regulatory requirements and mitigation continue to increase and force additional operations expenses, the rates and bills of consumers will go up." -- Jim Yost, Northwest Power and Conservation Council
Hastings' bill follows close behind the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2012 (H.R. 5892), which passed the House with a unanimous 372-0 vote in July.