State of Oregon’s Motion for Court Injunction to Control Dam Operations Reflects Disjointed Energy Policies, Disregard for Consumer Energy Costs & Climate Concerns
Governor Brown’s Actions Will Punish the Region’s Electricity Customers
The following press statement was issued today by Kurt Miller, executive
director, Northwest RiverPartners.
Key Quote: “It is hard to imagine that Governor Brown would be complicit in
purposely raising electricity rates for Oregonians while increasing our carbon
footprint and reducing our ability to endure climate events. Oregon’s motion
would more than double the region’s risk of blackouts when electricity is most
needed to preserve lives during extreme weather events. With the region
emerging from devastating pandemic losses and experiencing historic heat,
drought, wildfires, rampant homelessness, and significant loss of life, we ask
Governor Brown and the court to consider the full ramifications of Oregon’s illadvised motion.”
Background: Today, the State of Oregon filed a motion for injunctive relief,
asking the U.S. District Court in Portland, Oregon to take control of Columbia
River System Operations. The motion calls for significantly increased spill at the
federal hydroelectric dams on the lower Columbia and lower Snake rivers and
lower reservoir levels on the lower Snake River.
If the court sides in Oregon’s favor, electricity bills in the region could skyrocket
because this action would waste 1300 average megawatts worth of electricity by
spilling water over the top of dams rather than letting it generate energy by
passing through turbines. One average megawatt is enough to power roughly
Just two weeks ago, utilities relied on the full capabilities of the hydropower
system to supply the region with the energy it needed to keep air conditioning
systems running during the record-breaking heat dome that covered the entire
Northwest. It’s currently estimated that nearly 800 people died as a result of that
extreme heat. Reducing the capabilities of our hydropower system doesn’t just
bring higher costs, but potentially puts lives at risk.
Oregon’s action, while claiming to help salmon, may do more harm than good. In
2019, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report blaming
significant declines in marine fish populations on warming, acidifying oceans
caused by climate change–a trend it noted has been happening unabated for the
last 50 years. Several other studies pertaining specifically to salmon support the
Given the implications of oceanic warming, asking the court to purposely waste
large amounts of renewable energy is a step in the wrong direction for salmon. In
the near-term, most of the replacement energy will come from existing fossilfueled resources because new renewables can’t be built quickly enough.
Furthermore, Brown’s decision to litigate undermines current efforts to resolve
the dams debate. Oregon is a co-organizer of the Columbia Basin Collaborative–
an initiative designed to move the region beyond the courtroom as we seek
common ground for salmon recovery solutions.
We have said that Oregon can’t be a sincere partner or arbiter if it is litigating
behind the scenes. As an organizer, Oregon needs to be above reproach so
participants have the chance at a fair and unbiased outcome.
Roughly 30% of Oregon’s energy needs are served by BPA-provided electricity.
About Northwest RiverPartners
Northwest RiverPartners (NWRP) is a not-for-profit, member-driven organization.
We represent not-for-profit, community-owned utilities across Washington,
Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Nevada. We also proudly represent
farmers, ports, and businesses across the region that support clean energy and
NWRP is focused on raising awareness about how the Northwest’s hydropower
system betters communities and the natural environment, and we encourage
science-based solutions that help hydropower and salmon coexist and