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Return to Previous PageDam Re-licensing Bill Provides Balance

Editorial By Sen. Larry Craig

After reading the Post Register’s April 19, 2000, editorial, Craig’s one-sided bill,” three questions immediately come to mind: Did anyone from the Post Register attempt to discuss with me or my staff what my bill attempts to do? Did anyone at the Post Register read my bill? If someone did, was there any attempt by that person to check his or her understanding of the bill with someone outside my office who knows the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s relicensing process?

The first question I can answer – no one from the Post Register attempted to discuss with me or my staff what my bill attempts to do. The answers to the other two questions I leave to the Post Register.

Clearly, the editorial exposes a lack of knowledge of what is in my bill and of the law that currently rules the commissions re-licensing process. But it may also expose something far worse for a newspaper – a reckless disregard of facts that results in misleading the public on an important issue. Many years ago Bernard Baruch said: “Every man has a right to his opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.” For a newspaper, this admonition should be the foundation on which all reporting is based. A reverent respect for facts by newspaper journalists and owners is not only expected by our citizens, it isnnecessary for the continued vitality of the First Amendment to our Constitution. Now, let’s look at some of the facts that should have been reported about my bill.

The fundamental purpose of my legislation is to ensure “balance” in the commission’s hydropower licensing process. Currently, federal resource and land management agencies have the authority to impose conditions without being required “balance” other environmental, recreational and economic interests associated with hydropower projects. There is simply no accountability for the consequences of federal agency action.

Federal agencies have not always exercised this authority. It was not until 1984 when the Supreme Court ruled that they had the authority and that the commission could not modify or balance the content of agency conditions. Although the agencies only modestly asserted this authority immediately after the 1984 opinion, they have much more aggressively done so since 1992, when the commission began to become more frustrated with the intractability of agency positions in the hydropower licensing process.

My legislation was in response to commission opinions and federal court of appeal opinions that expressed concern bout the practical application of the Supreme Court’s decision. The current application of this decision skews the entire licensing process because there is no legal requirement forcing the federal agencies to balance or even consider the impact of their conditions on other important interests, including the need for power and creational uses.

As the Post Register editorial correctly notes, the 1986 amendment to the Federal Power Act requires the commission to weigh environmental considerations equally with power generation needs and safety issues. There is absolutely no good or fair reason why the federal resource and land management agencies should not be held to the same bedrock standard of Part 1 of the Federal Power Act. My legislation requires that, and does so without diminishing any environmental authority these agencies currently have.

By requiring all federal agencies with the authority to impose conditions on hydropower licenses to take into account the economic consequences of their actions, my legislation will help ensure responsible government decision making. Accountability is the cornerstone of responsible government.

My legislation has been endorsed by a large coalition of interests that includes not only power developers but municipalities, labor, environmental, consumer, recreational and farming groups from around the country.

My legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Adolphus Towns, a Democrat, and enjoys significant bipartisan support.

These are some of the important facts that were inexplicably missing from the Post Register’s editorial, facts that were easily ascertainable if J. Robb Brady or some other employee of that paper had only completed the research.

Idaho Falls, Idaho
April 26, 2000

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