Omaha, NE – Members of California’s three largest Indian Tribes and allies from commercial fishing and conservation groups demonstrated today at the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting, known as the Woodstock of Capitalism. The group is demanding the removal of four Klamath Dams owned by Berkshire subsidiary PacifiCorp. Two members of the coalition asked questions directly to Buffett and his partner Charles Munger before a crowd of 27,000 shareholders. Buffett denied there need for dams remove with an uneducated remark.
Ronnie Pellegrini, wife of a commercial salmon fisherman, traveled to the meeting with her two teenage daughters. Husband Paul was out to sea to take to advantage of limited fishing opportunities. Pellegrini explained to Buffett that her family lost 95 percent of its income last year because her husband is a salmon fisherman. Salmon fishing was banned along 700 miles of California and Oregon coastline last year due to low runs of Klamath salmon. Buffett’s dams are blamed for the declines of salmon. In describing the plight of salmon fishing families Pellegrini said, “they’re barely hanging onto their livelihoods because of the Klamath River crisis.”
Wendy George, council member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe stated, “my people are river people, our entire culture, religion and subsistence is based on the river.” George appealed to Buffett to meet with the Tribes in order to find a solution to the problem.
In response the normally polished Buffett fumbled through papers to read a written response. Instead of taking responsibility for his company’s actions, Buffett stated that regulators such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would decide the issue. Buffett declined to acknowledge that the Tribes are seeking a negotiated settlement with the company as is common in dam relicensing proceedings.
Leaf Hillman of the Karuk Tribe said, “I am overwhelmed with disappointment. Although Mr. Buffett stressed over and over to young investors the importance of researching your investments, he clearly has a poor understanding of Klamath issues.”
Buffett remarked to the crowd that “27 parties are involved in dam negotiations and there are 27 opinions.”
Hillman said, “there are actually 28 parties, but there are only two opinions about dam removal. PacifiCorp’s and everyone else’s. Everyone else includes Tribes, conservation groups, counties, farmers, and governments. We have a real chance to end the Klamath crisis in a way that saves Berskshire money, yet PacifiCorp refuses to work with us in good faith.”
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as well as the California Energy Commission have reported that dam removal is cheaper than relicensing even if the energy lost is replaced by other carbon neutral energy sources.
Even the fiscally conservative Forbes Magazine opined that, “it would have been more heroic [of Buffett] to agree to meet with the people affected and to put his weight behind a fair and proper solution.” link to www.forbes.com
“Its ridiculous,” concludes Hillman. “What Mr. Buffett doesn’t know is killing us.”
Author: Klamath Riverkeeper