Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and a bipartisan group of their colleagues urged federal officials to oppose Trump’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget scheme that would auction off the transmission assets of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and other Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs).
“There is a long, bipartisan tradition of opposing similar past proposals, including last year’s proposal that recommended selling off federal PMA transmission assets,” the senators wrote to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney. ”Unfortunately, this year’s budget is broader in scope, potentially undermining reliable and affordable electric service in our states.”
The senators also expressed concern that the proposal would hurt citizens and local businesses who depend on BPA for affordable electricity.
“Privatizing these assets will likely not result in incentivizing new transmission infrastructure that many of us support. Instead, it will simply shift economic value from families and businesses in our states to investors,” the senators wrote. “Following the release of the FY 19 Budget, Moody’s Investor’s Service published a report stating the proposal ‘is likely to raise transmission rates for BPA […] customers… because the new private owners would have higher capital costs that would need to be recovered in rates.’”
Utilities from across the Northwest have spoken out to express concern that selling off BPA’s assets would raise electricity rates and hurt consumers.
“The budget proposals regarding BPA would raise rates for Northwest electricity consumers. We appreciate the leadership of our Congressional delegation in putting this ill-advised scheme to bed so we can focus attention on the serious work needed to maintain BPA as the preferred supplier into the future,” said Scott Corwin, Executive Director of the Public Power Council, which represents consumer-owned utilities in Oregon and throughout the Pacific Northwest.
BPA markets and transmits power generated at 31 federal hydropower projects and several other non-federal power plants. It primarily provides power to rural electric cooperatives and public power utilities serving consumers throughout the Pacific Northwest. BPA also operates and maintains nearly three-fourths of the high-voltage transmission that takes place throughout Oregon, Washington state and Idaho, as well as parts of California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana.
Wyden has fought previous attempts from administrations to sell off BPA assets.
In addition to Wyden and Merkley, the letter was also signed by Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Patty Murray, D-Wash., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., John Boozman, R-Ark., Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Steve Daines, R-Mont., Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Dean Heller, R-Nev., John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.