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February 8, 2024 (Klickitat County, Wash.)—Today, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released its final environmental review for the Goldendale Energy Pump Storage Hydroelectric Development proposed by Rye Development and backed by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (Rye). FERC’s final recommendation? License the development despite the objections of Tribal Governments and dozens of climate and environmental advocacy groups. 

Rye proposes to build the largest hydroelectric development in the Pacific Northwest. If approved, Rye would develop two massive reservoirs that would inundate an area known as “Pushpum” by the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation (Yakama Nation) which translates to the ‘mother of all roots’, a sacred area for the Tribe. Excavation and construction of underground infrastructure would obliterate Tribal Cultural Properties and cultural resources of the Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), Nez Perce, and Warm Springs. 

The Washington State Dept. of Ecology’s environmental review concluded that construction and operation of the development would result in unavoidable adverse impacts to tribal and cultural resources and have effects on golden eagles, little brown bats, smooth desert parsley and other rare plants without mitigation measures.  In stark contrast, FERC’s environmental review lacks Tribal consultation and ignores the development’s destruction of irreplaceable tribal cultural resources, large consumption of Columbia River water, and impacts to fish, wildlife, streams, and wetlands.

“Too much is at stake for this development to move forward. Tribal Nations and environmental organizations have worked tirelessly to stop fossil fuel developments and secure monumental climate legislation in the Pacific Northwest. But we refuse to support a sacrifice zone to destroy Native American cultural and sacred sites in the name of combating climate change,” says Lauren Goldberg, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper. “FERC’s willingness to ignore the facts and law is galling. This fight is far from over.”

Seventeen Tribal Governments and over 600 members of the public called out FERC’s inadequate consultation with the Yakama Nation, reiterating what the Tribe has publicly repeated, “FERC has substantially failed thus far to uphold its statutory and federal trust obligations to the Yakama Nation and to honor duties codified by the Treaty.” See Yakama Nation Comments on FERC’s DEIS. 

“A clean and just energy future must prioritize the inherent and treaty rights of tribal nations and impacts on energy siting, or we risk repeating the harms of the past — that is not the way to address the climate crisis. In fact, it’s environmental racism,” said Alyssa Macy, CEO of Washington Conservation Action. “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) analysis lacks the appropriate rigor of review to justify their bad decision to approve the project. FERC is obligated to uphold their trust responsibility to meaningfully consult, and accurately document and account for the damage this project could have on irreplaceable cultural resources of the Yakama Nation.”

FERC’s consultation failures here showcase a disturbing national pattern that the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the oldest and largest organization made up of American Indian and Alaskan Native governments, called out in an emergency resolution issued in February 2023. NCAI’s former President Fawn Sharp stated, “NCAI works aggressively to defend the rights of all Tribal Nations and today, as the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation advocate to protect territory and sacred sites in Juniper Point, Washington—or Pushpum—NCAI stands firmly with and in support of Yakama in protecting all of our histories, properties and territories.”

FERC’s inadequate consultation and the developer’s failure to identify mitigation to avoid the development’s destructive impact underscores a faulty environmental review that cannot be relied upon to issue permits for a development with such detrimental impacts to cultural and natural resources. 

“By issuing this inadequate environmental review, FERC allows additional damage to cultural resources at this site on top of extensive damage already done in the region. This just isn’t right,” says Pat Arnold, board member of Friends of the White Salmon River.

“If we are to be successful at addressing the climate crisis, we must advance real solutions that don’t perpetuate environmental injustices and disproportionately impact indigenous communities,” says Sarah Dyrdahl, Northwest region director at American Rivers. “Rubber stamping this project will only stall our progress in achieving our decarbonization goals.”

“In order to ensure a truly just transition to clean energy and a healthy climate for all, we must transform our social systems and structures from an exploitative economy to a regenerative society built on sustainability and respect for the original stewards of this land,” said Sept Gernez, Director of the Washington State Sierra Club. “The inadequate consultation done by FERC is misaligned with our vision for a just, equitable, and sustainable world.”


The project area is within ceded Yakama Nation land and the area has historically been used by the Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Bands of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, and the Nez Perce Tribe for hunting, traditional gathering, fishing, camping, and traditional ceremonies. 

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