House Republicans are pushing for more hydro-electricity, saying that the endangered species rules are precluding the development of those resources that release fewer carbon emissions than the fossil fuels.
They also say that if more hydro-electric dams were built, it would help fulfill President Trump’s infrastructure plan that he laid out this week. He wants $1 trillion to go towards such projects.
The House Natural Resources Committee had a hearing this week to discuss the matter, saying that hydropower makes up 7% percent of the nation’s electricity mix but that it could supply much more than that. The Washington Examiner reports that an internal memo said that hydropower provides electricity around the clock, unlike wind and solar that are intermittent.
“However, some believe hydropower projects can have negative impacts on migratory fish, wildlife and their habitats as well as water quality,” the memo said, according to the paper. “For a number of reasons, some have described hydropower’s growth as ‘stagnant’ when compared to other electricity sources.”
Endangered species rules are thus holding back the development of hydroelectric dams, the story says, which references a Republican aide to the committee.
The issue has come to light in the wake of the Oroville Dam incident, which almost gave in after enormous rainfalls in northern California. If it had collapsed, it would have poured untold amounts of water into the local towns, destroying homes and lives.
Some say that this is why the nation needs to reinvest in its infrastructure — that decades of neglect have led to this and that the result is the loss of economic opportunity. There have been warnings that the dam didn’t meet modern construction or environmental standards.
Repairing it, however, has implications for the fish population in the region.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is overseeing the repair of the Oroville Dam, says that such fixes be made to accommodate the fish. That didn’t sit well with some House Republicans.
“These requirements really are unbelievable and emblematic of the sometimes draconian and inflexible reading the Endangered Species Act and backwards priorities of the federal bureaucracy that delay and frustrate all types of activities, including water infrastructure,” said Parish Braden, communications director for the Natural Resources Committee, in an interview with the Washington Examiner.
Last month, the Endangered Species Act was in the spotlight.
At a hearing of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, Republican lawmakers discussed that the goal was to cut rules that impaired jobs as well as the development of natural resources. According to the Washington Post, the Interior Department under President Trump has delayed the start date of protections for the endangered rusty patched bumblebee, which has lost an estimated 90 percent of its population in the past two decades.
“As our committee explores the need to modernize the Endangered Species Act, I hope we can emulate the bipartisanship leadership that we had here on this committee and that the Western Governors Association has demonstrated in this Act.
“And when I talk about the bipartisanship in this committee, I hope we can replicate last year’s bipartisan success when the entire committee joined together, Republican and Democrat, to modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act, achieving the first major environmental reform in that area in roughly 40 years.” said Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, in a statement.