Benton PUD: Congressional Lawmakers Call for President Biden to Prioritize Columbia River Treaty Negotiations
Congressional leaders from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana are urging President Biden to enlist a “top-level White House led strategy” to ensure efforts to modernize the Columbia River Treaty between the United States and Canada is a top priority for the new Administration.
In their letter, the delegation wrote, “After almost a decade of work in the Northwest and British Columbia and 10 rounds of formal Treaty talks between the two countries, the time to press for completion of the Treaty modernization effort is now. The status quo is not acceptable to our region and comes at significant economic harm.”
The current treaty between the U.S. and Canada was signed by both countries in 1964. The 60-year agreement included key flood control protection through 2024 as well as power provisions to share in the downstream benefits of power generation on the Columbia River.
This power provision, known as the Canadian Entitlement, calls upon the U.S. to return hydropower capacity and energy to Canada for 60 years after which there would be an opportunity for the countries to discuss how to rebalance the provision based on the value to each country. The Columbia River Treaty Power Group, a coalition of more utilities serving over 7 million customers in the Northwest, estimates that the 1000 MW of capacity and 400 average megawatts of hydropower sent to Canada under the treaty exceeds the benefits to the United States by $150 million annually.
“Access to reliable, low-cost hydropower is critical to powering everything from agriculture to industry in communities small and large across the Pacific Northwest and is an important part of clean energy today and into the future,” said Rick Dunn, General Manager of Benton PUD. “The time to act is now. We applaud and support the delegation for continuing to advocate for our hydro system.”
Since September 2014, the U.S. government has had the contractual right under the Treaty to give 10 years’ notice seeking a renegotiation of the power payments to Canada. There have been 10 rounds of U.S. Department of State led negotiations, with the last occurring a year ago in June of 2020. Considering the long delay, the Columbia River Treaty Power Group strongly supports the congressional delegation’s letter, which indicates their interest in successfully and promptly completing negotiations with Canada. Without prompt action, the U.S. will continue to lose access to its own clean, renewable hydropower for many years to come.
CLICK HERE to read the full letter.
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