Breaking news regarding the future of your federal hydropower resources.

Ice Harbor Dam

The federal hydro dams in the northwest supply Flathead Electric Cooperative with the reliable, carbon-free electricity our area relies on to power our community’s homes and businesses and to keep our electric rates some of the lowest in the nation.

Recently, the U.S. Government (USG) has engaged in closed-door negotiations with four Northwest Tribes and the states of Washington and Oregon regarding the future of our region’s hydropower resources. Although the USG’s agreement will directly impact the affordability and reliability of your electricity, your interests as impacted ratepayers were not fairly considered in this process.

Flathead Electric Cooperative is gravely concerned about the impacts to our members of the package of proposed USG actions and commitments from this process. Given the resulting unknown increases in future power costs and uncertainty in system reliability impacts, public power experts view the agreement as the greatest threat to the northwest hydropower system to date.

As our area struggles to adapt to rising costs across nearly all sectors, Flathead Electric Cooperative has worked very hard to ensure rate stability for our members. Montanans cannot afford the exposure to the much higher rates that could come out of this agreement, which industry analysts indicate could result in BPA rate increases from 5% to over 50%. Importantly, this agreement fails to protect the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and its customers, like Flathead Electric Cooperative, from exposure to further costs through operational changes or lawsuits from parties outside this agreement. With no limits on the future costs that may be passed onto ratepayers, utilities will not have the certainty required to plan for the future.

The Pacific Northwest is facing mounting resource adequacy challenges related to serving significant load growth as we shift away from baseload-generating resources to intermittent renewable generation. Flathead Electric is actively incorporating new renewable energy resources; however, we will need every drop of carbon-free hydropower we can get to keep the lights on and electric bills reasonable through this energy transition. Now is not the time to move toward removing productive, carbon-free, and reliable hydropower.

Flathead Electric Cooperative has been actively engaged on your behalf with our industry associations, legal counsel, congressional delegation, and the state of Montana during this challenging time. Rest assured, we are fighting to maintain our members’ access to their affordable and reliable hydroelectric power supply.

Montanans Value Hydropower

The 2023 Montana Legislature passed a joint resolution expressly opposing the breach of the lower Snake River dams. The resolution received overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers and near unanimous support of the tribal caucus. In addition, a 2022 scientific statewide poll of Montana voters concluded that 83 percent of voters support using hydroelectric dams to produce electricity. Of those, 62 percent support using the lower Snake River dams to produce electricity. A majority of voters believe removing the LSRD could do more harm than good. Importantly, poll results further reflect that this is not a democratic majority issue for Montana voters. Of the total democrats polled, 51% reported supporting hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River to produce electricity, while only 28% reported opposing their use (compared to 73% support and 12% oppose for republicans). (Montana Chamber of Commerce, December 2022 Poll of Montana Voters, Moore Information Group).

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