June 7 in Seattle, a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a petition filed by the Northwest Resource Information Center challenging the Council’s Sixth Northwest Power Plan. The Council adopted the plan in 2010.
The petitioner, a non-profit based in Eagle, Idaho, challenged the way the Council incorporated fish and wildlife measures and analyzed the environmental costs of power resources in the resource strategy the Council created in the power plan.
The Council’s General Counsel, John Shurts, argued in response that the Northwest Power Act, which tells the Council how to develop the power plan, requires the Council to use the fish and wildlife measures developed prior to the power plan in the separate fish and wildlife program planning process, which includes deference to the recommendations of the fish and wildlife agencies and tribes, and not to “revisit” those measures in the power plan. And the Act directs the Council, in developing the power plan, to analyze the environmental costs of new resources, not existing hydrosystem resources, as NRIC also asserted, Shurts said. And finally, in response to another claim by NRIC, Shurts noted that the Council included in the power plan information on how Bonneville reports the cost of implementing the fish and wildlife program for information purposes only. Under the Act that information had no relevance to the power plan’s new resource strategy or any other element of the power plan.
A recording of the oral arguments is available on the court website. A decision from the court likely will be many months away.