Looking ahead to 2018, there will be some interesting challenges for Oregon electric cooperatives, especially in the upcoming legislative short session. I am writing to update you on an issue that threatens to make your electric bill more expensive for years to come.
The state of Oregon continues to demand that federal agencies that operate the Columbia River dams—such as the Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers— spill more water over the dams for juvenile fish passage. Spill occurs when water is sent through spill gates, rather than through the turbines. Spill is one of several passage routes for juvenile salmon, but too much spill can have negative consequences. It is also costly to you and the environment. The state of Oregon’s approach will cost ratepayers an estimated $40 million and increase regional greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 840,000 metric tons by substituting fossil-fuel generation for carbon-free hydropower.
This month, the Oregon Legislature will begin the debate of reducing carbon through a cap-and-trade program. It appears Oregon’s fish policy is misaligned with its carbon policy. The state wants to reduce emissions from power plants and the transportation sector, while limiting the production of carbon- free electricity from our incredible hydropower system.
In the coming weeks and months, I will ask for your support to convince our elected leaders that the Federal Columbia River Power System must continue to be part of the solution to reducing carbon in the Pacific Northwest, and that the state of Oregon should not pursue a risky spill program that will take money from hard-working Oregonians and increase carbon emissions.