Herrera Beutler makes statement with hydroelectricity bill

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, passed a nonbinding resolution on Thursday to recognize hydroelectric power as a renewable energy source.

Her bill does not change clean energy rules for Southwest Washington, but it does touch on a debate over clean energy law in the state.

In 2006, Washington voters approved Initiative 937, which requires the state’s larger utilities to get 15 percent of their power from a renewable energy source such as wind or solar by 2020. They can’t count hydroelectricity as a renewable source.

Proponents of I-937 said the new rules would help discourage utilities from using fossil fuels to produce energy, and that pollution from fossil fuels contribute to health problems, including lung disease and asthma. They also said similar rules have saved money in other states.

Politicians have attempted to change the new energy rules multiple times, and the initiative was broadened a bit during this year’s 60-day legislative session. Last week, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law Senate Bill 5575, which defines biomass energy created at pulp mills as renewable.

Herrera Beutler’s House Resolution 579 states: “it is the sense of the House of Representatives that hydroelectric power is the most abundant source of clean, renewable energy in the United States and should be fully utilized in the nation’s pursuit of energy independence and affordable energy for all people of the United States.”

Nearly 70 percent of electricity used in Washington state comes from hydro power, and hydroelectricity is currently the least expensive way to generate electricity, Herrera Beutler noted in a news release.

“Jaime passed this resolution to make sure hydro is protected and promoted,” Herrera Beutler’s spokesman, Casey Bowman said in an e-mail on Monday. “It’s a chance for members of both parties to express that hydro is a clean, renewable and affordable energy supply.”

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