Help Stop HR 8: A Breathtaking Assault on Our Rivers

H.R. 8 is a federal bill that would dramatically weaken the nation’s basic environmental standards as applied to hydropower dams across the country. Sponsored by the nation’s hydropower dam operators under the guise of “unlocking” or “modernizing” hydropower, H.R. 8 actually takes hydropower dam operations back decades. It creates a giant loophole for hydropower dam operators, so they are not required to protect fish, wildlife, or water quality. And the costs for cleaning up their mess? That would get passed on to taxpayers, like you.

With this bill, energy companies win; everyone else loses – river communities, municipal utilities, paddlers, and anyone who enjoys our public lands and rivers. Tell Congress to oppose this. The hydropower industry wants to be seen as clean and sustainable. But hydropower is the only renewable energy that drives species toward extinction. It needs to be done right to minimize the damage. And this legislation will result in dried up rivers, dead fish and wildlife, and destroyed recreational opportunities.

We agree that America’s energy picture is changing rapidly and that we need to update and modernize our energy infrastructure, but don't let the hydropower industry take us backwards in time. Tell Congress to oppose this power grab by the energy companies.

Key Points in H.R. 8:

·       The most egregious part of H.R. 8 is that it waives the Endangered Species Act or the Clean Water Act if a state, tribe, or federal agency cannot meet a FERC imposed schedule or misses a deadline. FERC and the license applicant may simply proceed with the proposed action and the authorization is waived. There are no similar remedies or penalties if FERC or the license applicant fails to meet a deadline, or if delay caused by FERC or the license applicant results in an agency missing a deadline. The end result of this will be that states and tribes may be forced to deny certification for new projects in order to avoid potential legal liability.

·       H.R. 8 will give FERC the power to limit the scope of environmental review. In practice, this will limit the scope of the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act to whatever FERC says it should be. FERC has neither the in-house expertise nor the inclination to do this.

·       Fails to require FERC to provide agencies with the information they need to make a decision on FERC’s timeline. FERC often refuses to require information that agencies need to complete these authorizations, and it does not require that applications for these authorizations be complete before it starts the clock. This results in major delays as agencies are forced to request the information they need from licensees.

·       Forces states, tribes, and federal agencies to go to a federal court of appeals to request an extension of time if they are unable to meet a FERC deadline, regardless of cause, such as an applicant or FERC failing to provide necessary information for the agency to complete its analysis.

·       The Federal Power Act requires FERC to balance all competing interests in issuing a license because no single use of a river should automatically take precedence. Unfortunately, H.R. 8 would upend that balance, placing power generation above all other uses of the river.

·       This bill does not improve a process many take issue with; it is a brazen and clumsy attempt to provide the hydropower industry with their preferred regulatory wishlist and provide weaker oversight and management of hydroelectric dams and the natural resources they undoubtedly impact.

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Sacramento, CA