In 2006, Washington Citizens passed Initiative 937 which required utilities to obtain 15% of
their power from renewable sources. The initiative was designed to encourage development of new
renewable energy technologies. The initiative did not include hydropower as the state already
produces approximately 3/4 of it's electricity from hydropower. In fact,
“Washington’s hydroelectric power industry is the largest in the Nation,”
according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy.
Under the initiative hydropower can only be counted as new renewable energy if it is produced through efficiency improvements at existing facilities or if it is added to irrigation pipes and canals where the additional generation in either case does not result in new water diversions or impoundments (see RCW 19.285.030). The goal was to make sure we derive maximum benefit from existing facilities while not encouraging the construction of new dams.
Two years after an initiative passes the state legislature can modify the terms of the initiative through the legislative process with a simple majority and that process is underway. AW has been in Olympia this past week and is following legislative proposals closely with our colleagues from the Hydropower Reform Coalition. Among the suggestions are proposals to expand hydropower development in the state which could have devastating impacts on the state's free-flowing rivers. Currently the focus of discussion is in the Technology, Energy & Communications where Chairman McCoy, a friend of rivers, has introduced HB 1133 which is protective of free-flowing rivers. The bill makes it clear that electricity counting for renewable energy credits may not be produced as a result of new water diversions, impoundments, or dams.
The Chairman is increasingly under pressure from utilities and other committee members to change this language, and include small, incremental or run-of-river projects. The result would be new incentives to construct projects on headwater streams which include many of the region's top creek runs. Runs like the Clearwater, Canyon Creek, and others will be at risk if the bill is amended. Paddlers are uniquely qualifed to speak to the benefits of headwater streams and we have time to influence the discussion, but we need to act quickly.
1) Write your own letter of support for HB 1133 and send it to Chairman John McCoy. A simple message saying that you support HB 1133 as written, that you are concerned about the impacts of new dams on Washington's rivers, and urging the Chairman to not include language allowing new dams to be counted as an eligible renewable energy source. You can review our testimony which we jointly filed with members of the Hydropower Reform Coalition in Washington State. To be most effective letters should be emailed on Monday or Tuesday of this week. If you are a constituent of any member on the committee you should email them too (particularly if you live in Bellingham and Jeff Morris is your representative).
Representative John McCoy, Chair
House Technology, Energy and Communications Committee
205-A John L. O'Brian Bldg., P.O. Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
2) In the Senate SB 5505 has been introduced and referred to the Committee on Environment, Energy and Water. This is a very bad bill for rivers and would count all hydropower as renewable. This bill has not yet received a hearing but we encourage paddlers to write now and we will keep you informed of additional opportunities to weigh in if it moves forward. You can send a letter to your Senator (Find Your Senator) along with a copy to the Committee Chair. Because the bill has not yet had a hearing we have a bit more time than in the House.
House Bill 1133 would modify the renewable energy and energy conservation requirements of Washington State's Energy Independence Act passed through Initiative 937.