Huffman to Warren Buffett: 'Do the Right Thing' on Klamath Dams

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North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman, shortly before the signing of an agreement to remove four hydroelectric dams along the Klamath River. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman, shortly before the signing of an agreement to remove four hydroelectric dams along the Klamath River.
North Coast Congressmember Jared Huffman jointed two of his colleagues today in sending a letter to one of the world’s richest people urging him to move forward an agreement to remove four hydroelectric dams from the ailing Klamath River.

The letter comes as the hard fought agreement reached in 2016 to complete what would be the largest dam removal effort in the nation’s history is in peril. In July, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled that PacifiCorp — the power company that owns and operates the dams and is itself owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway — could not simply hand off the dams to a nonprofit created to remove them, thus avoiding any potential liability should something go wrong or removal prove more expensive than projected.

PacifiCorp maintains the ruling undercuts a major tenet of the agreements by exposing its ratepayers to the impacts of potential lawsuits and cost overruns, and the company is looking to renegotiate the agreements. But other parties to the deal — including the states of California and Oregon, the Yurok and Karuk tribes and a variety of environmental groups — warn that the dam choked river is dying, with devastating impacts on fish populations, and that any additional delays in the removal process will drive up costs.

Huffman has repeatedly cast the situation through a social justice lens, saying it represents an opportunity for Buffett and PacifiCorp to address generations of trauma and exploitation inflected upon Native tribes along the river, which once offered them abundant cultural, dietary and economic resources that have all dwindled in recent decades. Today, Huffman, who chairs the House Natural Resources Water, Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee, joined Natural Resources Committee Chair Raul Grijalva and Deb Haaland, who chairs a Natural Resources subcommittee on parks and public lands, in penning a letter that struck a similar chord.

“Our country is in the middle of a reckoning with systemic racism and injustices that continue to impact communities of color,” the letter states. “Across the west, western water projects like PacifiCorp’s have come at the expense of Indigenous peoples and tribal fisheries and resources. Today, PacifiCorp has an opportunity to bring about a more just and equitable future by confronting the historic and ongoing harm caused by PacifiCorp’s obsolete dams on the Klamath River.

“Rarely do social justice and economics intersect so clearly and create such an opportunity,” the letter continues. “We urge you to move PacifiCorp over the finish line with all haste and do the right thing for the people of the Klamath River, your customers, and your shareholders. The Klamath River and the people who depend on it cannot afford further delay.”

Read the full letter here and find past coverage of the Klamath dam agreements linked below.

Huffman, Grijalva, Haaland Call on Warren Buffett to Follow Through on Promise to Remove Dams, Provide Justice for Tribes

San Rafael, CA – Today, Representatives Jared Huffman (CA-02), Chair of the Natural Resources Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee, Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03), Natural Resources Committee Chairman, and Deb Haaland (NM-01), Chair of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, led a letter to Warren Buffett urging him to move forward with the agreement to remove four aging dams on the Klamath River owned by PacifiCorp and Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, which have made millions for PacifiCorp’s shareholders to the detriment of native communities and cultures.

The Members appealed to Mr. Buffet in their letter, stating: “Our country is in the middle of a reckoning with systemic racism and injustices that continue to impact communities of color. Across the west, western water projects like PacifiCorp’s have come at the expense of Indigenous peoples and tribal fisheries and resources. Today, PacifiCorp has an opportunity to bring about a more just and equitable future by confronting the historic and ongoing harm caused by PacifiCorp’s obsolete dams on the Klamath River.

“Rarely do social justice and economics intersect so clearly and create such an opportunity. We urge you to move PacifiCorp over the finish line with all haste and do the right thing for the people of the Klamath River, your customers, and your shareholders. The Klamath River and the people who depend on it cannot afford further delay,” they concluded.

In 2010, after widespread public outcry, PacifiCorp struck a deal with several tribes, the states of Oregon and California, and fishing and conservation groups to remove the dams and revive the river.  Under the deal, the settling parties asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to transfer the hydro license to a dam removal entity they formed called the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC).  FERC recently approved that request, with the condition to keep PacifiCorp as a co-licensee until the dams are removed. The company is now using this decision to call the agreement into question and further delay removal of the dams.

This August, Representative Huffman led an investigative forum to examine the impact of the dams on the Klamath River. Rep. Huffman was joined by California State Senator Mike McGuire, Assemblymember Jim Wood, and members of the House Natural Resources Committee, including Rep. Ruben Gallego and a video appearance by Rep. Deb Haaland in questioning a panel of expert witnesses.

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