Court filings reveal secret agreement between Biden admin, eco
groups seeking to tear down (Columbia River Dams)key power
Government chose for months to hold secret negotiations and
refused to share any details with us,' lead industry groups say
in joint statement
Thomas Catenacci, FOX NEWS 11/29/23
A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
dam is shown in the Columbia River system in Washington state. (Marli
Miller/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
A group of House lawmakers representing
the Pacific Northwest made public a court-approved
confidential mediation between
the Biden administration and environmental groups pushing to
remove four hydroelectric dams in Washington to protect salmon.
The document, which until now hasn't been
made public, was drafted on Nov. 2 as part of an agreement in
which activist groups agreed to pause their litigation against
the federal government. The groups have argued in favor of
breaching the four federally-managed dams amid declining
salmon populations in the
lower Snake River, which winds through Idaho and Washington
before feeding into the Columbia River and then into the Pacific
President Biden said in March he would work with proponents of
breaching — Indigenous tribes; Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and
Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; and Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho — to
"bring healthy and abundant salmon runs back" to the Columbia
River system. (Jim
Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
"It is imperative that our constituents, whose livelihoods
depend on the Columbia River System, have a comprehensive
understanding of this document’s contents so they can anticipate
and prepare for the wide-ranging impacts that will inevitably be
felt across the region should the commitments detailed in this
document be realized," the lawmakers, led by Rep. Cathy McMorris
Rodgers, R-Wash., wrote to President Biden on Wednesday.
"Additionally, as Members of Congress representing the Pacific
Northwest and tasked with oversight of the Executive Branch, it
is our duty to ensure any actions committed to as part of this
agreement do not circumvent by any means the congressional
authorization that would be required to execute certain proposed
provisions, such as the removal of certain dams," they
In the letter — which included the
confidential mediation document the lawmakers recently obtained
— Rodgers, who chairs
the House Energy and Commerce Committee,
and Reps. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.; Cliff Bentz, R-Ore.; and Russ
Fulcher, R-Idaho, asked a series of questions about the Biden
administration's intentions with the agreement.
For example, the mediation states "the science is clear, and now
so must be our path forward." The lawmakers questioned what
exactly "the science" was and which scientific reports the
federal government has used to come to its conclusions.
"We agree that business as usual — and the consequential
disappearance of salmon and other native fish populations in the
Columbia River Basin — is unacceptable," the mediation states.
"And while there is still time to save these fish, there is no
time to waste."
It further notes that Democratic
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., released recommendations last year
to quickly deploy green energy in the region to account for lost
power were the four dams to be torn down. The document later
notes the region must account for power to replace energy
services currently provided by the dams.
In recent years, multiple government and
private reports have determined that breaching the dams would
have a dramatic negative impact on energy production, climate
goals and transportation in
The dams were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s by the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers primarily to ensure the Snake River was
passable for barge transportation. However, since then, the main
benefit has been their reliable clean energy output. They still
provide about 8% of the state's electricity, enough to serve
millions of residents, and have a large total capacity of 3,000
Removing the dams would also likely chip
away at U.S. climate goals since their energy production would
likely need to be replaced by fossil fuel alternatives.
According to federal data, replacing hydropower generated by the
dams with natural gas generation would increase
carbon emissions by up to
2.6 million metric tons per year, the equivalent of 421,000
"Our organizations have repeatedly looked for ways to find
common ground with the plaintiffs’ concerns during the mediation
process, submitting numerous inputs, documents, and studies,"
said the executive directors of Northwest RiverPartners, the
Public Power Council, and the Pacific Northwest Waterways
Association, which collectively represent power utilities,
ports, agriculture companies and other businesses dependent on
"Instead of working with all interests, the U.S. Government
chose for months to hold secret negotiations and refused to
share any details with us, let alone allow our participation,"
they continued. "It is not surprising, then, that this proposal
turns its back on over three million electricity customers as
well as the farming, transportation, navigation, and economic
needs of the region. By purposely excluding our respective
organizations from the negotiations, literally millions of
Northwest residents were deprived of fair representation in this
According to Northwest RiverPartners, the mediation document
goes "well beyond creating a roadmap for breaching the lower
Snake River dams, establishing a plan that could demolish the
capabilities of the entire Federal Columbia River Power System."
In addition to the impacts on energy and
climate ambitions, industry groups have argued that removing the
four Snake River dams would disrupt the economy and
harm agriculture exports. The
river system notably feeds the largest U.S. wheat export
Aided by the dams, barges traveling along the Columbia River
system carry about 60% of Washington's annual wheat exports and
a staggering 40% of the nation's total wheat production.
In a statement to Fox News Digital on Wednesday, Earthjustice,
one of the plaintiffs involved in the case and mediation, said
it couldn't comment on the documents made public earlier in the
"Unless we hear differently from the Federal Mediation and
Conciliation Services, it remains against the rules for us to
share anything in this DRAFT & CONFIDENTIAL document,"
Earthjustice spokesperson Elizabeth Manning said.
"So no, we cannot comment on the agreement," she added. "Again,
this is customary in mediation, and all parties to this
litigation — including plaintiffs, defendants and all
intervening parties — are bound by the same confidentiality
According to court filings, the parties involved in the case may
request a multiyear pause on litigation to allow for the
implementation of the package as soon as Dec. 15.
The White House Council on Environmental Quality didn't respond
to a request for comment.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C.
section 107, any copyrighted material
herein is distributed without profit or
payment to those who have expressed a
prior interest in receiving this
information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only. For more
information go to: