WildEarth Guardians

A Force for Nature

Select Page

Current work in wildlife, rivers, public lands, and climate

Press Releases

FERC moves forward with pumped storage hydro project near Lake Powell

February 19, 2021
Jen Pelz, WildEarth Guardians, (303) 884-2702, jpelz@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
#CORiver, #LivingRivers, #PressStatement, #ProtectWhatYouLove, #RethinkRivers
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today issued a preliminary permit for a pumped hydropower storage project that would use Lake Powell Reservoir and a newly constructed hydropower station above the dam to pump and release water to generate electricity along the Utah-Arizona state line. The proposal by Navajo Energy Storage Station, LLC would cost $3.6 billion and anticipates using the transmission lines and other infrastructure from the now shuttered Navajo Generating Station coal-fired power plant to distribute the power.

“It’s deeply disappointing that FERC did not take advantage of this opportunity to acknowledge the severe impacts of climate change on the Colorado River and scrutinize the feasibility of this project,” said Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, Legal Director at WildEarth Guardians. “Basic climate science reveals that Lake Powell is not a reliable water source for this ill-conceived project.”

Notice of the application was first published in the Federal Register in January of 2020. WildEarth Guardians and Save the Colorado jointly intervened in the preliminary permit process. The groups highlighted their concerns over the feasibility of the project given the already acute crisis of increasing demands and dwindling supply on the Colorado River and the downward spiral of the river flows due to climate change. Other parties that participated in or intervened in the preliminary permit process included the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service, the Navajo Nation, Southwest Transmission Dependent Utility Group, and the Center for Biological Diversity.

“This is just another example of how federal agencies continue to exhibit climate denial that threatens the sustainability of the Colorado River Basin,” said Gary Wockner, Co-founder and Executive Director of Save The Colorado. “We will continue our fight to stop this project from coming to fruition.”

FERC identified in its order numerous and fatal flaws of this project including lack of access to tribal and federal lands, no consent from the Navajo Nation, failure to initiate government-to-government consultation with the tribe, infeasibility of the project due to climate change, and the effects of the project on water rights and water resources, threatened and endangered species, and water quality, among others. Despite these red flags, FERC cursorily dismissed each of the concerns as premature and inconsequential and granted the permit.

“Unsustainable use of the Colorado River has already taken this life source to its knees,” said Jen Pelz, the Wild Rivers Program Director at WildEarth Guardians. “If we intend to sustain this living river for future generations, we cannot ask the river to bear this heavy burden any longer. It is time to look elsewhere to wind, solar and other forms of power storage.

Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell Reservoir

Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell Reservoir. Photo by Nate Loper.

Other Contact
Gary Wockner, Save the Colorado, 970-218-8310, gary@savethecolorado.org