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Reasonable Balance Needed on ANWR,
Dam Spillage Issues

by Staff
The Chronicle, November 25, 2005

The score in the contest for reasonable balance between environmentalism and economic need is advantage environmentalism on a couple of prominent issues.

But the jury is still out on how they will finally be resolved. If environmentalism wins, it will likely come at a high cost for energy consumers.

The issues are how much water to spill over Columbia Basin dams for fish migration and whether to allow drilling for oil in a minuscule portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

So far, a federal judge has sided with the National Wildlife Federation's contention that federal hydroelectric dam operators need to spill more water next year over the dams to help young fish migrate to the ocean.

But if the judge persists, a recent analysis by the four-state Northwest Power Council indicates the additional spillage would reduce the reliability of the regional power supply, force electricity rates higher and increase the risk of power failures in the Northwest.

The power cost increases could be from $125 million to $560 million just for next year alone, the council estimates. Higher wholesale power charges could be passed on to utility customers, such as with the Lewis County PUD.

The council's analysis is credible because it "is a regional planning agency -- neither a utility nor a fish and wildlife agency," said chairwoman Melinda Eden. "We are neutral in this matter."

U.S. District Judge James Redden would be wise to take the council's analysis into full consideration before he dictates policy on dam spillage, a subject judges shouldn't be deciding anyway. His bottom line should be reasonable balance between wider economic considerations and protection of fish.

As to drilling in ANWR, if Congress fails to authorize it because a handful of weak Republicans beholden to environmentalists are worried about reelection, prepare for more dependency on foreign oil and the negative national security implications of that. Same goes for lifting of the moratorium on drilling for oil off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, which the liberal Republicans with their leverage also stopped.

They and the Democrats seem not to have learned the lessons of this hurricane season, including that it isn't wise to have our offshore oil production, oil refining and import facilities so concentrated along the vulnerable Gulf Coast.

The ANWR drilling would be even more protective of the environment than the Alaskan North Slope drilling and trans-Alaska pipeline that began in the 1970s. If we put too much emphasis on alternative sources of energy to the exclusion of more fossil fuel development, we'll pay the price.

We need more balance in these decisions.

Reasonable Balance Needed on ANWR, Dam Spillage Issues
The Chronicle, November 25, 2005

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