responsibility of Pacific Northwest electricity consumers to pay for a plan to
restore threatened and endangered salmon runs has been stretched beyond
reasonable limits, according to a letter sent this month asking that the
governors of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington demand a “God Squad”
assessment of the situation.
Endangered Species Committee, created as part of congressional amendments to
the Endangered Species Act, can be called together to decide whether a federal
agency, or agencies, can be exempted from responsibilities regarding the
protection of listed species.
the case of the letter sent April 7 to Gov. C.I. “Butch Otter, Idaho; John
Kitzhaber, Oregon; Steve Bullock, Montana, and Jay Inslee of Washington by the
Columbia-Snake River Irrigators Association, the species in question are 13
salmon and steelhead stocks.
Squad intervention is needed to “halt excessive and unbridled litigation
directed toward the region’s electric power ratepayers,” according to the
letter signed by CSRIA President Ron Reimann and CSRIA board representative
CSRIA represents many of eastern Washington's most prominent farming operations,
with its members irrigating about 250,000 acres of prime row crop, vineyard,
and orchard lands. Irrigators absorb considerable electricity to, among other
things, pump water to their crops.
Endangered Species Act has a remedy to end this nonsense, and it is a remedy
that is consistent with sound resource protection policies and management,”
according to the CSRIA letter. “That remedy allows the state governors the
statutory right to demand that and Endangered Species Act Committee be convened.
Committee has power to exempt further river ‘mitigation’ from the Act, and to
finalize ‘reasonable mitigation and enhancement measures’ once and for all. The
governors should end this perverse litigation cycle.”
request by the CRSIA was prompted by the March 24 filing of a 60-day notice of
intent to sue the Bonneville Power Administration that alleges the power
marketing agency violated the ESA with the signing of a record of decision
adopting a fish protection strategy approved early this year by NOAA Fisheries.
The ESA BiOp outlines hydro system, habitat, harvest and hatchery measures NOAA
Fisheries believes necessary to avoid jeopardizing protected fish.
60-day notice was filed by Earthjustice for the Federation of Fly Fishers,
Sierra Club, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Institute
for Fisheries Resources, Idaho Rivers United and the Northwest Sportfishing
CBB, April 4, 2014, “Fishing/Conservation Groups File Sue Notice On Challenging
Salmon BiOp In Ninth Circuit” http://www.cbbulletin.com/430255.aspx)
after many years of participation, at times, in challenges to prior Federal
Columbia River Power System biological opinions, the CSRIA decided intervention
to the CSRIA, “environmentalists” in ongoing claims say that BPA, the U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and NOAA Fisheries have not done
enough to avoid jeopardizing 13 listed salmon and steelhead stocks as a result
of the operation of federal hydro projects in the Columbia and Snake river
listings, and litigation challenging the adequacy of restoration plans, have
driven up costs, according to the CSRIA.
large share of those costs are covered by BPA, which markets power generated in
the region’s federal hydro system and is obligated under the Northwest Power
Act to mitigate for impacts to fish and wildlife. The Corps and Bureau operate
the dams, and NOAA Fisheries has among its charges protecting listed stocks.
said that fish and wildlife investments -- ground restoration activities, dam
operational changes, revenue generating opportunities foregone in order to accommodate
fish passage and improve survival -- now represent about 30 percent of BPA
our view that it shouldn’t go up,” Olsen said of fish and wildlife costs that
have been as high as $900 million. “That’s enough money.”
CSRIA sees the God Squad as a potential “tool” to hold the financial line.
agencies have no motivation now “to do anything but ask for more money,” Olsen
1978 amendment to the ESA attempted to “retain the basic integrity of the ESA,
while introducing some flexibility which will permit exemptions from the Act's
amendments established rules for a God Squad -- a committee composed of seven
Cabinet-level members: The administrators of the Environmental Protection
Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the chairman of
the Council of Economic Advisers, a representative of the state in question,
the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of
committee has the authority to allow the extinction by exempting a federal
agency from Section 7 requirements. To exempt a species, five of the seven
members must vote in favor of the exemption.
following conditions must be met for a species to be considered for exemption:
there must be no reasonable alternative to the agencies action;
the benefits of the action must outweigh the benefits of an alternative action
where the species is conserved;
the action is of regional or national importance;
neither the federal agency or the exemption applicant made irreversible
commitment to the resources.
mitigation efforts must be taken to reduce the negative effects on the
Section 7(e) creates and describes the committee Section 7(g) that describes
the exemption process. And 7(g)(1) says who may apply for an exemption.
A Federal agency, the Governor of the State in which an agency action will
occur, if any, or a permit or license applicant may apply to the Secretary for
an exemption for an agency action of such agency if, after consultation under
subsection (a)(2), the Secretary's opinion under subsection (b) indicates that
the agency action would violate subsection (a)(2). An application for an
exemption shall be considered initially by the Secretary in the manner provided
for in this subsection, and shall be considered by the Committee for a final
determination under subsection (h) after a report is made pursuant to paragraph
(5). The applicant for an exemption shall be referred to as the "exemption
applicant" in this section.”
CSRIA letter says that “the federal agencies, along with several state and
tribal entities, perhaps have developed the most comprehensive ecosystem
planning program in the world; and ratepayers have principally funded the
extreme environmental elements will relentlessly embroil the region in
litigation – seizing household income – so long as the last rate payer stands.”
God Squad was convened during the battles in the Pacific Northwest over the
Northern Spotted Owl in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
the Bush Administration, the Bureau of Land Management filed for an exemption
from Section 7 of the ESA, that would allow logging in areas where a federal
judge had ordered a halt to timber sales. The God Squad voted 5-2 to allow an
ESA exemption for some of the timber sales.
when the Clinton Administration took office the BLM’s exemption request was
withdrawn. Instead the administration set up a Forest Ecosystem Management
Assessment Team, which led to an agreement in which 10 million acres of old
growth forest were protected, while allowing limited logging.