VOICES-Opinion of Felice Pace of Klamath, Calif.
Dear Two Rivers Tribune,
I agree with PacifiCorp VP and chief PR man Dean Brockbank who in the January 22nd TRT wrote: “Everyone owes it to those who are impacted by this issue (dam removal) and trying to sort out its complexities to responsibly stick to the facts.” That’s why I can’t understand how Mr. Brockbank could have also written in that same letter:“The liability protection described in the KHSA would only protect the company and its customers from impacts related to the actions of others in carrying out the dam removal process itself.”
To determine whether Mr. Brockbank’s statement about PacifiCorp’s “liability protection described in the KHSA” is forthright, let’s look at the actual language from the KHSA pertaining to PacifiCorp’s liability. That language is repeated word for word in HR 3398 by Mike Thompson and S 1851 by Jeff Merkley – federal legislation which would authorize and fund the KHSA Dam Deal and the KBRA Water Deal. Here’s that liability language:
“(a) PacifiCorp- Notwithstanding any other Federal, State, local, or other law (including common law), PacifiCorp shall not be liable for any harm to persons, property, or the environment, or damages resulting from either facilities removal or facility operation, arising from, relating to, or triggered by actions associated with facilities removal, including but not limited to any damage caused by the release of any material or substance, including but not limited to hazardous substances.”
Note that where Brockbank’s letter refers to “dam removal” the KHSA language refers to “facilities removal”. The “facilities” which under the KHSA Dam Deal PacifiCorp plans to turn over to a “dam removal entity” are not just dams but include powerhouses and a variety of other electrical facilities some of which are over 100 years old. Old powerhouses often harbor toxic legacies – including PCBs – from the era prior to when highly toxic chemicals were banned.
If the KHSA becomes federal law, PacifiCorp “and its customers” (funny how Brockbank never mention the shareholders!) will walk away not only from liability for dam removal but also from liability for toxic legacies which are likely lying around those decrepit powerhouses and other electrical facilities. Those toxic legacies have not been assessed; they could cost taxpayers many millions of dollars to clean up.
So, when we examine Mr. Brockbank’s statement closely, it turns out that the PR man is himself not being honest and forthright. Of course that’s what often happens when a person or corporation stands to profit at someone else’s expense. Mr. Brockbank’s job is to convince taxpayers that they should support a deal that transfers a big part of the cost of removing PacifiCorp’s obsolete dams and powerhouses to them. There’s a sucker born every minute; are you one of them?
Walking away from toxic legacies is, of course, an old corporate trick. In Northern California and throughout the west, timber companies “donated” old mill sites to local governments which later found that the fine print had absolved the company from “liability” for toxic legacies. Taxpayers had to pick up the bill for cleaning up those toxics.
Let’s not let PacifiCorp walk away from the Klamath “facilities” it owns. Instead let’s insist on a dam removal agreement under FERC – an agreement under which, as happened in the case of Condit Dam, PacifiCorp is responsible for removing the outdated dams and powerhouses it owns – including responsibility for toxic legacies.