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MEDIA STATEMENT: The Hoover Dam “Pumped Storage” False Information in the New York Times

Hi Colorado River Basin Media,

The New York Times broke a story last week that contained false and misleading information, and then the story was picked up by other media outlets. With the facts available to you (below), this story and news cycle offers a great opportunity to educate the public about the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with dams and reservoirs.

The NYTimes story was titled, “The $3 Billion Plan To Turn Hoover Dam Into A Giant Battery“, which discussed the ‘pumped storage’ concept at Hoover Dam. The story focused partly on the fallacious “clean energy” and “reduced carbon emissions” of Hoover Dam’s hydropower. The story was then re-reported with a different angle by the Nevada Independent, and then again by several technical publications over the last two days.

Over the last four years, I’ve researched and written extensively on the GHG/methane emissions associated with hydropower and dams/reservoirs. Further, specifically at Glen Canyon Dam and Hoover Dam on the Colorado River, the best available science indicates that both dams/hydropower systems are large GHG emitters. Even more, the science indicates that Hoover Dam produces as much GHG as a coal-fired powerplant of equivalent electricity production.

1. For a general discussion of methane emissions from dams/reservoirs, read my 2015 piece, “The Hydropower Methane Bomb No One Wants To Talk About” in EcoWatch.
2. For a more specific discussion of the U.S. Govt’s admission that Colorado River dams emit GHGs, see my 2016 Save The Colorado press release, “U.S. Dept. of Interior Admits Glen Canyon Dam Emits Dirty Energy Due To Methane Emissions“.
3. For a specific comparison of Lake Mead/Hoover Dam GHG emissions to coal-fired powerplants, see #2 above, and this 2016 Save The Colorado media statement, “Hoover Dam vs Navajo Coal-Fired Powerplant — Who’s The Biggest Climate Polluter?
4. For a general discussion of the Lake Mead/Hoover Dam GHG emissions story, see my 2017 High Country News piece, “California Isn’t Accounting For This Major Emitter: Even Though Large Reservoirs Emit Methane, The State Doesn’t Offset Their Impact“.

The reporter at the Nevada Independent, Daniel Rothberg, has clarified his story in two tweets to Save The Colorado on Friday, where he said, “I didn’t refer to the power as ‘clean'”, and, “And yes, you’re right about methane being produced in these reservoirs”. I emailed and tweeted to the New York Times — no response yet.

This story offers a GREAT opportunity on a quick-moving news cycle to tell the facts and science about GHG emissions from dams/reservoirs on the Colorado River and across the planet.


— Gary Wockner, PhD, Director
Save the Colorado: Colorado River Waterkeeper Network
Author: “River Warrior: Fighting to Protect the World’s Rivers” (2016)
PO Box 1066, Fort Collins, CO 80522

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