Spin Control: Politicians
by Jim Camden
We have not yet reached the dog days of summer, when news mountains can be made from information mole hills, but the state political parties seem headed there faster than the rest of us.
Consider, for example, the Washington state Republicans, who were trying to whip up righteous indignation against congressional Democrats.
Yes, that is their job. But one must pick one's battles, right?
Last week they sent out a fuming press release denouncing the six Democrats in the House delegation for voting against an amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill: "WA Dems refuse to protect Snake River, Columbia dams."
State GOP Chairman Luke Esser was duly outraged that, unlike Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and the state's other two House Republicans, the Democrats voted against a proposal to ban any federal money from being used to tear down a federal hydroelectric dam.
"Spending any money to remove or study the removal of these dams is fiscally irresponsible and bad for the environment," he scolded, adding that the vote "puts 40,000 jobs in the Portland area directly in danger."
But before Palouse readers grab shotguns and head for a dam to ward off a phalanx of government bulldozers driven by environmentalists, consider what Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind., the chairman of the subcommittee that wrote the bill, said during the debate:
"Certainly, this country and the government should proceed very carefully before any such decision (on breaching dams) is made. I would point out, however, that there are no funds in this bill for that purpose. I would remind my colleagues that authorization and direct appropriations for this purpose would also be needed."
So it wouldn't seem that those Portland-area jobs are in immediate danger. For those who say that Visclosky can't be trusted because, well, he's a Democrat, consider what Ohio Rep. David Hobson, the panel's ranking Republican, had to say.
The amendment is "too broadly written and could lead to unintended negative consequences," Hobson said. Congress should find a way "to see how we can get some language at some point that might address the problem in a more appropriate way."
The amendment got hammered, by the way, 157 yes votes to 247 no votes.
AMENDMENT OFFERED BY MR. SHADEGG
Mr. SHADEGG. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.
The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
The text of the amendment is as follows:
Amendment offered by Mr. Shadegg:
At the end of the bill, before the short title, insert the following:
SEC. 503. LIMITATION ON FUNDS RELATED TO FEDERAL DAMS.
No funds appropriated in or made available by this Act may be used to study or implement any plan to breach, decommission, or remove any Federal dams producing hydropower.
The Acting CHAIRMAN. Pursuant to the order of the House of Tuesday, June 19, 2007, the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Shadegg) and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Arizona.
Mr. SHADEGG. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 2 minutes.
Mr. Chairman, I want to begin by complimenting the chairman of the committee, the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Visclosky), and the ranking member, the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Hobson), for showing support for hydropower in the base bill.
Hydropower has long been overlooked as a source for clean energy. I am very pleased that this bill, and the report that goes along with it, support hydropower and encourage its use and its utilization.
My amendment builds off of that effort by simply saying that the existing hydropower that we have should not be decommissioned at this point in time.
As everybody in this body knows, we are very concerned about greenhouse gases, both on the Commerce Committee, where I serve, and on the Select Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence.
We are looking at the danger posed to this country by greenhouse gases. Indeed, that is a threat to this economy, to this Nation, and to this world. My amendment simply says that hydropower manages to address that issue by producing both clean power and power which has no hydrocarbons whatsoever.
Hydropower is emission-free, and it is also completely renewable; so therefore this amendment simply says that none of the funds in this legislation shall be used to decommission any existing Federal dam which is currently producing hydroelectric power.
Now, I know of no dam that has currently been proposed to be decommissioned that is a Federal dam and is producing electric power. But it seems to me that this is an action item. This is an opportunity for us to say we are serious about greenhouse gas reduction. We are serious about renewable energy. We are serious about a clean environment. We are serious about not doing more damage by simply saying none of these funds shall be used to decommission or remove from current production any existing hydroelectric power dam that is producing electricity for Americans today.
It truly is clean, and it truly is renewable; and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment.
The Acting CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Indiana is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate, I truly do, the gentleman's concerns regarding the breaching of hydropower dams. Certainly, this country and the government should proceed very carefully before any such decision is made.
I would point out, however, Mr. Chairman, that there are no funds in this bill for that purpose. Indeed, I would remind my colleagues that authorization and direct appropriations for this purpose would also be needed. So I do rise in opposition to the gentleman's amendment. But I would also point out in a positive fashion that there is $95 million in this bill for the rehabilitation of existing hydroelectric facilities on our waterways.
I certainly do think they make a significant, and can make even a greater, contribution to the energy demands of this country. But again, Mr. Chairman, I stand in opposition to the gentleman's amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. SHADEGG. Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from California (Mr. Bilbray), the former chairman of the Clean Air Resources Board in California.
Mr. BILBRAY. Mr. Chairman, as a former member of the Clean Air Resources Board in California, as I think a lot of people in this town know, one of the premier air pollution agencies in the world, the one thing that we have got to send a message out there is ``do no harm.'' Even though the chairman may think that there isn't a need to send a message, I think we need to say very clearly that climate change is a threat, something we need to address. We have to be willing to make sure we do the right things now.
This amendment is really a way for us to start off right from the get-go that we are not going to allow a mistake to happen that could cause major impacts on climate emissions and that we just didn't care enough to pass this resolution.
I strongly support the amendment of the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Shadegg) because I think we should say right off, our first step at reducing greenhouse gas emissions is to make sure we do not decommission any zero generators from this point forward unless it is part of a comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gases. So please, here is a motion at least we can stand up and say, we did no harm; we made sure that a mistake wasn't made.
Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I would yield such time as he may consume to my colleague from Ohio (Mr. Hobson).
Mr. HOBSON. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the amendment. But I want to tell you I am very sympathetic to the gentleman's concerns. We should preserve hydropower wherever we can. We should advance hydropower. He is correct in those statements.
However, I think the amendment is too broadly written and could lead to unintended negative consequences because there may be certain structures that because of environmental reasons or economic reasons we need to take some action on.
So what I would like to suggest to everyone is that we oppose the amendment, but we work together to see, because I think the chairman shares the concern for hydropower and that we would try to work to see how we can get some language at some point that might address the problem in a more appropriate way. So I do reluctantly oppose the amendment, but I am certainly within the spirit of the amendment.
Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I would certainly be happy to cooperate with my colleague and ranking member, Mr. Hobson, in that regard.
Mr. SHADEGG. Mr. Chairman, I thank both the gentlemen for their comments.
Mr. Chairman, I would yield 1 minute to the gentleman from California (Mr. Doolittle).
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Mr. Chairman, I do hope something can be worked out here, because hydropower is the original renewable resource. And there is starting to be a bias in this country against hydropower. There is also starting to be a bias in this country in some quarters in favor of tearing dams down.
I think it is very, very important, and by the way with reference to hydropower, just look at California's greenhouse gas reduction plan. They do not give any credit for power generated by hydropower. I think that is very bad.
I think Mr. Shadegg is on the right track. We have got to speak up for hydropower. We have got to slow down this effort to tear down dams. I know the chairman and ranking member have the best of intentions. I am glad they are running the committee. I would just like to lend my voice for this very responsible amendment that Mr. Shadegg has offered. I hope that we can work something out.
Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. SHADEGG. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Chairman, I thank both of the gentlemen. I would be happy to work with them. I simply want to stress, we understand, and I think everyone here does, that hydropower is more efficient than virtually all other energy. Ninety percent of its available energy is converted into electricity by hydropower. By contrast, the best fossil fuel power converts only 50 percent of its energy.
Hydropower produces zero greenhouse gas emissions. And we have avoided some 160 million tons of carbon emissions by the use of hydropower here in the United States in the last year.
The report says hydropower is reliable, it is efficient, it is domestic, and it is emissions-free. Indeed, as I state in my comments, the report is very supportive of hydropower. I think this amendment is an opportunity to take a concrete step both toward renewable energy and toward clean energy that produces no greenhouse gases.
I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
The Acting CHAIRMAN. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Shadegg).
The question was taken; and the Acting Chairman announced that the noes appeared to have it.
Mr. SHADEGG. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote.
The Acting CHAIRMAN. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Arizona will be postponed.
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