By Thomas Catenacci
A coalition of more than 130 organizations and companies signed a petition Monday, urging the federal government to require hydropower utilities to report emissions data.
“By reporting emissions from dams and reservoirs, we can develop smarter climate policies at the federal, state, and local levels,” Michael Hiatt, a senior attorney with Earthjustice, said in a statement. “The Biden administration has prioritized addressing methane pollution and building a clean energy future.”
“It is imperative that we better understand methane emissions from dams and reservoirs, and that we do not pursue energy sources that are not actually clean,” Hiatt said.
The petition, led by Earthjustice and outdoor apparel company Patagonia, asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to initiate a rulemaking procedure that would add dams and reservoirs as a source category under the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GGRP). The coalition argued that hydropower facilities are exempt from reporting requirements despite being a producer of harmful methane emissions.
The GGRP is an EPA program that requires greenhouse gas emission sources, fuel and industrial gas suppliers to publicly disclose how much pollution they emit on an annual basis. The agency shares the data in an annual October report.
“This petition matters in the fight against climate change because you can’t solve the biggest problem facing humanity without good information,” Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert said. “The EPA counts greenhouse gas emissions from more than 8,000 sites. It doesn’t make sense to exclude dams and reservoirs that are emitting methane, a greenhouse gas twenty-five times as potent as carbon dioxide.”
But groups such as the National Hydropower Association (NHA) have argued that the power source is essential to ensuring a carbon-free future. The group has described hydropower as a “climate solution.”
Overall, hydropower accounted for about 2.65% of the total energy consumed in the U.S. in 2020, the latest year with data, according to the Energy Information Administration. By comparison, solar produced 1.32% and wind accounted for 3.12%, the data showed.
In July 2021, Democratic Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell and Republican Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski introduced a bill that would create new federal tax incentives to encourage hydropower development. The bipartisan legislation maintained the importance of ensuring the availability of “emissions-free, affordable electricity” to Americans.
“Recognizing the importance of the health of our rivers and hydropower, Senators Cantwell and Murkowski are moving forward a critical piece of a negotiated proposal between conservation groups, dam safety organizations, and the hydropower industry for investment in the rehabilitation, retrofit, and removal of dams,” four industry groups — American Rivers, the NHA, The Nature Conservancy and Low Impact Hydropower Institute — said in a joint statement after the bill was introduced.
Green groups have also taken issue with both solar and wind power on environmental grounds. They have also opposed mining projects in the U.S. despite the importance of critical minerals for developing clean energy technology.
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8 thoughts on “Environmental groups attack hydropower over large emissions profile”
The problem with methane (CH4) is that there is no problem. The reason why is that the absorption spectrum of water vapor (H2O) masks most that of methane. Which means the GHG effects of methane are insignificant as most radiation which methane might absorb have already been captured by water vapor. Also the concentration of CH4 in the atmosphere is very slight, averaging about 1800 ppb compared to CO2 at 400 ppm and H20 at 10000 – 20000 ppm.
Fine. If they think hydro power producers are hiding CO2 emissions, especially when compared to solar and wind, they’re in for a rude awakening. All this legislation would do is add more bureaucratic costs for the consumer. On the other hand, Hydro Quebec, for example, already publishes its emissions data. And it still sells its power for less than half the cost of solar and wind. And the Seabrook nuclear power Vermont buys on an on-demand basis emits no CO2 and still costs only pennies more than HQ power.
This article seemed to concentrate more on methane. So, is this the beginning of the end for livestock. Is this how we’re made to transfer to an all plant based diet.
Hydro Quebec (HQ) emission data also includes methane. When reservoirs are first created, because of the organic material initially submerged, methane emissions are relatively high. But over time they diminish significantly. Most of HQ’s generating capacity comes from reservoirs created years ago in which methane emissions have declined.
Re: “So, is this the beginning of the end for livestock.”
This is the crux of the current environmental panic. Any living thing that digests green plants (directly or indirectly) interferes with the carbon sequestration cycle (i.e., photosynthesis). When taken out of context, it appears to some that we’re destroying the planet by our mere existence. This social pathology (some now call it Mass Formation Psychosis) grows as population and mass-communication driven stress increases. I suspect we’re witnessing more and more chronic depression, self-hatred, feelings of inadequacy, guilt (original sin), and low self-esteem, resulting in the further breakdown of social norms, including pansexual and aggressive behavior, declining birth rates and, in extreme cases, more instances of the Jonestown “messiah” disorder.
My opinion: It’s nature’s way. Praemonitus praemunitus.
I want all these environmentalists to be smart test cases for their wants. Give them all smart meters that turns off their power when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, or the load exceeds what the green sources can produce. After a year of living like that, they can report back to what they like about it. — How come not a single one of them wants to live like that.
Think these “environmentalists” should go out to evaluate methane releases from beaver dams, swamps and vents for septic tanks. Don’t return until you have fully documented and written a report on all sources.
“we do not pursue energy sources that are not actually clean,”
“emissions-free, affordable electricity”
Seems to me that you can wish all you want, but now and for the foreseeable future, these things do not exist.
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