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 7/18/06 PRESS RELEASE: House Committee on Resources

ESA sunshine bill heads to markup

WHO: House Committee on Resources

WHAT: Markup of H.R. 4857: To better inform consumers regarding costs associated with compliance for protecting endangered and threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. (Endangered Species Compliance and Transparency Act of 2006)

WHERE: 1324 Longworth House Office Building

WHEN: Wednesday, July 19, 10 a.m.

H.R. 4857, sponsored by Rep. Cathy McMorris (R -Wash.), would provide greater transparency to federal power consumers by requiring the four federal power marketing administrations (PMAs) to disclose costs associated with Endangered Species Act (ESA) compliance.

"Electricity ratepayers are being hit from all angles, and families and businesses deserve answers about contributing factors to our rising energy costs," said Cathy McMorris (R-WA), Vice-Chair of the Water and Power Subcommittee. "At hearings in both Washington D.C. and Washington state, we heard from farmers, educators, federal agencies, and business and community groups about the need to keep our energy rates low. No one disagrees with the need to protect truly endangered species. Yet with millions being spent each year on salmon recovery efforts, consumers deserve to know how that impacts their monthly energy costs. Ratepayers can then decide for themselves whether or not these expenditures are being spent effectively."

Most power sold by federal PMAs is delivered to wholesale customers, who are usually non-profit municipal, rural electric cooperative, public utility district and irrigation districts and Native American tribes. Ultimately, these wholesale customers provide the power to end-use consumers like businesses, schools, and homes. The end-use consumer absorbs the costs of power production and annual PMA operations, including ESA mandates. Neither the PMAs nor the wholesale customers profit. The bill would require the PMAs to disclose ESA costs on their bills to the wholesale providers.

ESA costs range from habitat restoration and facility modifications to the purchase of replacement power when energy production is halted.

In 2005, the Pacific Northwest's Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), for example, estimates its ESA-related costs accounted for 23 percent of its wholesale electricity rates, or approiximately $600 million annually. In addition, the BPA's rates have risen 46 percent since 2001 due, in part, to higher ESA costs. In the summer of 2004, BPA was forced to reduce power production at its dams for migrating endangered salmon. The federal government, at the time, estimated that lost power generation cost $77 million, yet only 20 adult salmon were estimated to be saved. That's $3.85 million per fish, a price tag passed entirely on to ratepayers.

Yet, according to a 2005 Northwest River Partners poll, 70 percent of respondents either didn't know how much they pay for salmon recovery or believe that less than 5 percent of their monthly bills go to salmon recovery. HR 4857 would ensure that these customers are better informed.

"I commend Rep. McMorris for her dedication to the consumers' right to know," Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo said. "ESA compliance is proving to be the most volatile and uncertain cost for many western ratepayers. Consumers deserve to know how their money is being spent so they can make more informed decisions about the program."

 

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