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ESA Compliance Represents
Up to 20 Percent of Western Hydropower Costs

Water & Power Subcommittee to hold hearing
Press Release 5/3/05

Washington, DC - The Subcommittee on Water and Power will hold an oversight hearing on "Stabilizing Rural Electricity Service Through Common Sense Application of the Endangered Species Act (ESA)."   The hearing will be held Wednesday, May 4 at 2:00pm in 1324 Longworth House Office Building.  

"Residents in Western states suffer from especially high energy costs due to problematic applications of the ESA," said House Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-CA).  "It's important that we discuss the effects of federal policy on energy deficient regions in this country and take steps to increase the stability of those areas."  

Many electricity consumers throughout the West receive power supplies from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA).  The BPA estimates that over the last five years, its operating costs related to the ESA have been nearly one-quarter of its total costs.  The Western Area Power Administration estimates its ESA costs amounted to one-sixth of its total costs in Fiscal Year 2003.  These costs are directly passed on to electricity consumers.

"Everyone wants to protect endangered species, but we need to improve the way the Endangered Species Act is being carried out," said Water and Power Subcommittee Chairman George Radanovich (R-CA).  "At a time when America needs domestic energy supplies and grid reliability is questioned, we need to figure out a better way of ensuring the same level of protection while not breaking the backs of electricity ratepayers.  Finding common sense alternatives is the goal of this hearing."

Last year, the Bonneville Power Administration lost $77 million through its summer spill program.  These water releases were initiated primarily to protect a specific population of sockeye salmon.  According to BPA estimates, the spills would result in 20 returning adults from this population, yielding a cost of $3.85 million per targeted fish.

 "As we work to strengthen and update the 30-year-old Endangered Species Act, we must take into consideration the important balance between conservation and the production of electricity through clean, renewable hydropower and other means," said Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR).  "Ratepayers in the Northwest currently pay $600 million per year beyond their electricity costs to the Bonneville Power Administration for species and habitat conservation projects.  While the health and well-being of species in our region is most important, we also have a responsibility to make sure that these projects, and those like them throughout the nation, are driven by sound science and decisions that take into account the viability of both species and communities." 

At the beginning of the 109th Congress, Chairman Richard W. Pombo and the Resources Committee announced a renewed effort to improve and update the Endangered Species Act.  This hearing is one in a series to be held throughout the year around the country.

For more information on the Endangered Species Act, please visit:

http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/issues/more/esa/esa.htm

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