Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Berkshire Hathaway: "Landmark Agreement to Remove 4 Klamath River Dams " (BRK.A)

Pacificorp is a subsidiary of MidAmerican Energy which is in turn majority owned by BRK. There is a bit of irony in the destruction of this cleanest of energy sources. It will be good for the salmon though.
From the New York Times:
In a development that could herald the largest dam removal in modern history, 29 parties signed a draft agreement today to destroy four dams on the Klamath River to restore salmon and steelhead runs that have been partially blocked for the better part of the past century on the California-Oregon border.

The agreement is the product of years of often bitter negotiations among electric utilities, government officials, commercial fishers, farmers, native tribes and environmental groups. It calls for the breaching and removal of four Klamath River hydroelectric plants owned and operated by PacifiCorp.

PacifiCorp, which is owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., appears ready to go along with the agreement when -- and if -- officials from Oregon, California and the Interior Department make the pact official through a number of policy measures.

"If the federal government and the states of California and Oregon sign onto this negotiated final settlement, then we will join with them and all the other stakeholder groups that may choose to sign this agreement," said Greg Abel, chairman and CEO of PacifiCorp.

Abel went on to say his company's top priority is "to keep our customers out of legal harm's way and keep their costs and risks as low as possible when compared against the option of relicensing the dams."

Translation: PacifiCorp executives appear ready to remove the dams rather than pursue expensive fish-saving modifications that would have cost the utility more than $300 million. A study by the California Energy Commission determined that dam removal would cost about $100 million less than the modifications....

...Under the agreement, PacifiCorp's ratepayers in Oregon would foot much of the bill, contributing up to $200 million for dam removal and river restoration. The agreement calls for proceedings at the Oregon and California public utilities commissions to raise money for removal through customer surcharges.

Oregon ratepayers would be responsible for up to $184 million of the project's cost. California ratepayers would be on the hook for far less, at no more than $16 million of the total cost.

If the project's costs go higher, the California Legislature would be expected to pass a bond for an additional $250 million, which is no easy feat in Sacramento's budget-constrained environment. Most estimates peg the cost of dam removal at no more than $200 million, making the bond issue unlikely....MORE