LITTLE RIVER 10/5/2020 — On September 24, the House passed the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act, sending it on to the Senate where it is pending. The act included an amendment sponsored by United States Representative Jared Huffman to hold the PacifiCorp energy company (a subsidiary of the Warren Buffett Company Berkshire Hathaway) responsible for the negative impacts of four dams on the Klamath River.
The Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement Tribal Fairness Amendment is also designed to protect downstream Native communities from harm caused by the outdated dams. Huffman and others claim that the decaying dams have changed the ecology of the river and adversely impacted the salmon fishing industry and local tribal communities.
This House resolution (H.R. 4447) passed about a month after Huffman held a panel to recognize the environmental, economic, and tribal issues caused by the dams and discuss a settlement agreement between tribes, PacifiCorp, the state, and many other signatories that has been under negotiation for 10 years.
During the August panel, Huffman expressed concern that PacifiCorp would back out of the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement. This amendment puts pressure on PacifiCorp not to do so. If PacifiCorp did walk out, the amendment, if passed into law, would subject Pacificorp to new rules and conditions for relicensing.
The amendment would require PacifiCorp to communicate with the public regarding water pollution, dam safety, the financial situation, and fish recovery, all things they were not required to do before. The dam owner would also have to comply with state and tribal recommendation to reduce fishery harm. To become law, the Senate needs to pass the act and the president must sign it into law.
Opponents of the dam who attended the panel claimed that PacifiCorp has “stalled” negotiations due to alterations made by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that PacifiCorp does not believe adequately consider the potential economic implications for their company or their rate payers, who would hold some of the cost.
In a press release, Congressman Huffman said, “By approving the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement Tribal Fairness amendment today, the House has sent a very clear message to PacifiCorp that we will no longer accept business as usual with their destructive Klamath River dams. PacifiCorp should not expect automatic annual licenses for these dams that harm tribal fisheries and downstream water quality: they will be responsible for the needs of the tribes and of the states of Oregon and California, and they will have to regularly report to the public on the dams’ serious negative impacts.
PacifiCorp has previously agreed to do the right thing for the people of the Klamath River and for their customers and shareholders. Every moment that they delay the KHSA results in the worsening health of Klamath River communities and tribes, and Congress will not support that ongoing injustice.”
You can read more about the issues surrounding the Klamath dams and the August panel here.