Comment: Don’t fall for TV ads’ climate case for Snake dams

Alternatives to the dams’ power are ready now and their removal would aid the recovery of salmon.

By Marc Sullivan / For The Herald

Desperate times, they say, call for desperate measures. That seems to be the conclusion drawn by last-ditch defenders of four embattled dams on the lower Snake River in southeastern Washington. A sign of that despration: A recent television and radio ad blitz by Northwest RiverPartners, an advocacy group representing public utilities, that serves up evasions, exaggerations and misinformation.

There’s a growing understanding that, for endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia Basin — especially in its largest tributary, the Snake River — the choice is restoration of a free-flowing lower Snake or imminent extinction. RiverPartners’ ads are guilty of evasion for not even mentioning the decades of scientific evidence that supports the need for restoring the river.

Gross exaggeration is a fair description of their charge that replacing the dams’ energy would result in steep electric rate increases. A 2018 study by a well-regarded energy consulting firm, Energy Strategies LLC, found that replacing the dams’ output with a balanced portfolio of demand management, energy efficiency, wind, solar and storage technologies — all of which are available now — would add about $1.25 to consumers’ average monthly energy bill. Sharp declines in the cost of these clean resources since that 2018 study make even that impact likely overstated.

And then there’s the misinformation. “The only way to replace dams would be by burning fossil fuels,” intones one RiverPartners ad. Just plain not true, as the Energy Strategies study demonstrates.

For more recent evidence, look no further than Puget Sound Energy (PSE). In 2021 PSE issued an request for proposals for about 3,200 megawatts of energy and capacity to be available to the utility in 2025. Bids into the proposals for wind, solar and batteries — with zero fossil fuel, mind you — totaled about 18,000 megawatts. The opportunity to replace the services of the lower Snake River dams with clean resources has never been greater.

But it’s the hypocrisy of RiverPartners in posing as champions in the fight against climate change that’s especially shameless.

The Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition recently undertook an historical study of the actions of RiverPartners member organizations in regard to three Washington state initiatives (I-937, I-732 and I-1631) and two key pieces of state legislation (Clean Energy Transformation Act, Climate Commitment Act), each designed to take substantive steps to confront climate change. No RiverPartners member — not one — publicly supported any of these measures. The many who did take a position uniformly opposed, by resolution, press statement or campaign contributions, serious steps to slow, stop and ultimately reverse climate change.

What we’ve been doing for 30 or more years to recover abundant, harvestable populations of salmon and steelhead isn’t working for anyone, or any species. Clinging to a failing status quo through evasion, exaggeration and misinformation, cloaked in hypocrisy, is a desperate — and doomed — position.

Marc Sullivan is Northwest Washington coordinator for the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition. He previously served as director of strategic and power supply planning for Seattle City Light. He lives near Sequim.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Wednesday, April 17

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

A new apple variety, WA 64, has been developed by WSU's College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences. The college is taking suggestions on what to name the variety. (WSU)
Editorial: Apple-naming contest fun celebration of state icon

A new variety developed at WSU needs a name. But take a pass on suggesting Crispy McPinkface.

Apply ‘Kayden’s Law’ in Washington’s family courts

Next session, our state Legislature must pass legislation that clarifies how family… Continue reading

What religious icons will Trump sell next?

My word! So now Donald Trump is in the business of selling… Continue reading

Commen: ‘Civil War’ movie could prompt some civil discourse

The dystopian movie serves to warn against division and for finding common ground in our concerns.

Liz Skinner, right, and Emma Titterness, both from Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County, speak with a man near the Silver Lake Safeway while conducting a point-in-time count Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, in Everett, Washington. The man, who had slept at that location the previous night, was provided some food and a warming kit after participating in the PIT survey. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Editorial: Among obstacles, hope to curb homelessness

Panelists from service providers and local officials discussed homelessness’ interwoven challenges.

FILE - In this photo taken Oct. 2, 2018, semi-automatic rifles fill a wall at a gun shop in Lynnwood, Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee is joining state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to propose limits to magazine capacity and a ban on the sale of assault weapons. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Editorial: ‘History, tradition’ poor test for gun safety laws

Judge’s ruling against the state’s law on large-capacity gun clips is based on a problematic decision.

This combination of photos taken on Capitol Hill in Washington shows Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., on March 23, 2023, left, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., on Nov. 3, 2021. The two lawmakers from opposing parties are floating a new plan to protect the privacy of Americans' personal data. The draft legislation was announced Sunday, April 7, 2024, and would make privacy a consumer right and set new rules for companies that collect and transfer personal data. (AP Photo)
Editorial: Adopt federal rules on data privacy and rights

A bipartisan plan from Sen. Cantwell and Rep. McMorris Rodgers offers consumer protection online.

Students make their way through a portion of a secure gate a fence at the front of Lakewood Elementary School on Tuesday, March 19, 2024 in Marysville, Washington. Fencing the entire campus is something that would hopefully be upgraded with fund from the levy. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Editorial: Levies in two north county districts deserve support

Lakewood School District is seeking approval of two levies. Fire District 21 seeks a levy increase.

Editorial cartoons for Tuesday, April 16

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Harrop: Expect no compromise from anti-abortion right

And no clarity from Donald Trump regarding his position, at least until he’s back in office.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.