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Cantwell Urges Canadian Prime Minister To Start Talks On Columbia River Treaty; Murray Quizzes Moniz
Posted on Friday, March 11, 2016 (PST)

On Wednesday, the first day of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to the United States, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) sent a letter to Trudeau urging modernization of the Columbia River Treaty as an opportunity to “demonstrate global leadership and cooperation on climate change and energy.”

 

A modernized Columbia River Treaty would provide opportunities for the United States and Canada to address current climate challenges and its impact on water resources, said Cantwell. A modernized treaty would also allow joint US-Canada work on critical energy solutions such as smart grid with intermittent power, grid-scale storage and clean infrastructure solutions, she said.

 

“As two of the world’s largest trading partners, our countries share mutual goals to further clean energy solutions and affect climate change. I urge you to prioritize modernization of the Columbia River Treaty and appoint a Canadian negotiating team for the benefit of both of our countries,” said Cantwell, the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “Given the growing impact to our climate, natural environment and economy, I believe we must find a mutually beneficial path forward to modernize the treaty in a way that balances flood control, ecosystem-based function, and hydropower generation.”

 

The Columbia River Treaty between the United States and Canada was signed in 1961 and controls the water flows on the Columbia River for flood control and power generation. As of September 2014, either the United States or Canada can terminate the Columbia River Treaty or seek changes by providing ten years notice to the other side. Neither party to the treaty has done so.

 

In April 2015, Cantwell joined the 25 other members of the Pacific Northwest Congressional delegation in a letter to President Obama, asking the administration to move forward with a strategy for addressing the treaty.

 

Full text of the letter is below:

 

“Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

 

“The United States and Canada have a great opportunity to join forces on a U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Initiative.  As two of the world’s largest trading partners, our countries share mutual goals to further clean energy solutions and affect climate change.  Modernization of the Columbia River Treaty could be an important step in this partnership.  Additionally, it would allow us to work jointly on critical energy solutions such as smart grid with intermittent power, grid-scale storage and clean infrastructure solutions.  Given the United States and Canada are among the largest hydroelectric energy producers in the world, there is significant, untapped potential to generate new jobs and drive economic growth on both sides of the border.

 

“I urge you to prioritize modernization of the Columbia River Treaty and appoint a Canadian negotiating team for the benefit of both of our countries.

 

“When the treaty went into effect over 50 years ago, the world did not yet understand the serious challenges that would be presented by climate change.  Given the growing impact to our climate, natural environment and economy, I believe we must find a mutually beneficial path forward to modernize the treaty in a way that balances flood control, ecosystem-based function, and hydropower generation.

 

“A modernized treaty could serve as a template for adaptation strategies to climate challenges impact on water resources as well as demonstrate how our two countries, along with Native American Tribes and First Nations, can harmonize policies to strengthen our stewardship of a critical resource.   At the same time, there are opportunities to use the storage capability of the Columbia River Basin hydropower projects to facilitate the development of new intermittent renewable energy projects to meet the region’s growing demand for emissions-free energy.

 

“Our countries and in particular, Washington state and British Columbia, which already partner on many cross border clean energy projects such as clean transportation and infrastructure solutions, depend on each other for economic and global success.  Let’s grow our economies and meet the challenges of the 21st Century together.”

 

Meanwhile, Washington’s other U.S. Senator, Democrat Patty Murray, questioned Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz at a hearing this week about the Columbia River Treaty:

 

Murray: Okay. And finally I wanted to ask you about the Columbia River Treaty. In December 2013, the Administration was presented a regional consensus to modernize the Columbia River Treaty. It was a multi-year process involving Northwest tribes and stakeholders. The entire Northwest Delegation urged the Administration to begin formal negotiations with Canada, but not a lot of progress has been made.

 

My constituents are really concerned about the impacts a change in Administration will have on these negotiations.

 

I wanted to urge you today to push the Administration to begin these formal negotiations with Canada, and I really hope that you proactively raise the Columbia River Treaty when Prime Minister Trudeau visits the United States this week.

 

Moniz: If I may say, Senator Murray, we agree with you – and as you know Bonneville (Power Administration) is our lead negotiator on that. I met with Secretary Kerry last week and we both agreed about the importance of pushing this along. There is a negotiator –

 

Murray: We’ve had a negotiator for a while. We need this to get started, because we can’t afford to wait once a new Administration gets in, whoever it is, to reeducate everybody, have new people appointed, and get it started. It needs to get started now.

 

Moniz: Agreed.

 

Murray: Thank you.

 

For background on the Columbia River Treaty see:

 

-- CBB, Feb. 12, 2016, “Cross-Border Coalition Urges Collaboration In Modernizing U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436053.aspx

 

-- CBB, June 12, 2015, “State Department: Columbia River Treaty Negotiating Position To Include ‘Ecosystem-Based Function,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/434234.aspx

 

-- CBB, April 17, 2015, “NW Congressional Delegation Urges Obama To Initiate Negotiations On Columbia River Treaty,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/433725.aspx

 

-- CBB, Sept. 19, 2014, “Columbia River Treaty Reaches Age 50 This Week; British Columbia, U.S. Considering Future Options” http://www.cbbulletin.com/432128.aspx

 

-- CBB, March 21, 2014, “British Columbia Announces Decision To Continue Columbia River Treaty While Seeking ‘Improvements,’” http://www.cbbulletin.com/430094.aspx

 

-- CBB, Feb. 28, 2014 “15 Basin Tribes, Canadian First Nations Issue Report On Restoring Upper Columbia Salmon Passage,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/429847.aspx

 

-- CBB, Dec. 20, 2013, “Final Recommendations For Revising Columbia River Treaty With Canada Sent To State Department,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/429315.aspx

 

-- CBB, Nov. 27, 2013, “Columbia River Treaty Prompts Discussion Of Restoring Salmon Passage To Canadian Headwaters” http://www.cbbulletin.com/429144.aspx

 

-- CBB, Nov. 1, 2013, “Columbia River Treaty Negotiations Will Impact Libby Dam Operations, Reservoir Drafting/Refill,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/428897.aspx

 

-- CBB, Oct. 18, 2013, “B.C. Releases Draft Columbia River Treaty Recommendations, Wants Full Accounting Of U.S. Benefits,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/428719.aspx

 

-- CBB, Sept. 27, 2013, “U.S. Releases Draft Recommendations For ‘Modernizing’ Columbia River Treaty” http://www.cbbulletin.com/428444.aspx

 

-- CBB, Aug. 16, 2013, “Environmentalists Say Columbia River Treaty Needs To Expand To Include ‘Ecosystem-Based Functions,”’ http://www.cbbulletin.com/427918.aspx

 

-- CBB, Aug. 9, 2013, “Utilities Group Expresses Concern With Columbia River Treaty Draft Recommendations, Process, Scope,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/427854.aspx

 

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