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Commentaries and editorials

It's Time to Bury Plan
to Sell Bonneville Power

by Editorial Board
Union-Bulletin, July 6, 2018

Despite assurances that BPA was not for sale, the Trump administration has resurrected the plan.
It must be quashed.

Transmission Lines, BPA plans more for SW Washington (NREL photo) The Bonneville Power Administration’s transmission assets should not be for sale. It is essential the federal government retain control of the power infrastructure in the United States.

Yet, despite assurances in May from the U.S. Department of Energy that plans to sell off transmissions assets from BPA and other federal agencies had been removed from consideration, the plan has resurfaced.

The (Vancouver, Wash. ) Columbian newspaper reported this week that the Trump administration is considering selling the federally owned transmission assets of BPA, Tennessee Valley Authority, Southwestern Power Administration and Western Area Power Administration to “encourage a more efficient allocation of economic resources and mitigate unnecessary risk to taxpayers.”

“The Federal Government’s role in owning and operating transmission assets creates unnecessary risk for taxpayers and distorts private markets that are better equipped to carry out this function,” the plan reads. “Ownership of transmission assets is best carried out by the private sector, where there are appropriate market and regulatory incentives.”

That is absolute nonsense.

BPA is part of the U.S. Department of Energy, although it is self-funding. The agency essentially pays its own way by marketing the wholesale electric power. However, since BPA is ultimately controlled by the government, the rates it charges are carefully monitored and are generally consumer-friendly.

In addition, BPA funds energy-conservation efforts and fish protection.

A privately controlled transmission system would be looking to make a profit for its investors. That means it would raise the price for wholesale power to utilities and those higher costs would, of course, be passed on to consumers. While fish protection is mandated, it likely wouldn’t be as high a priority for private owners.

BPA operates and maintains about 75 percent of the high-voltage transmission system in the Pacific Northwest, mostly in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

Selling BPA assets would be economically foolish as BPA generates revenue that pays for maintaining the high-voltage grid. That keeps costs down and thus results in lower energy rates for those living in the Pacific Northwest.

Beyond that, maintaining control of the power grid is essential to our national security. If the power goes down, chaos follows. It is prudent to have control over power transmission in the hands of the federal government rather than private companies.

In late May, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and the three other Republicans in Congress from Washington state issued a joint statement announcing the U.S. Department of Energy assured them it would not sell the BPA’s assets.

Now that it looks as if they have been double-crossed, they need to take swift action to get the Trump administration to, once again, abandon the idea of selling BPA assets -- and stick to it.

Related Pages:
Trump Abandons Bonneville Power Administration Asset Sell-off Plan by Editorial Board, Portland Business Journal, 5/24/18
Trump's Bonneville Power Administration Selloff is In Doubt by Noah Haglund, Herald Net, 5/25/18
Trump's Budget on BPA Goes from Bad to Worse by Scott Corwin, The Oregonian, 2/19/18
Trump Wants Bonneville Power Administration Sell-off by Noah Haglund, Herald Net, 2/18/18
Trump Budget Proposes Selling Off Bonneville Power Transmission Lines (Again) by Courtney Flatt, Oregon Public Broadcasting, 2/13/18
Trump Budget Goes After Bonneville Power Administration Again by Editorial Board, Portland Business Journal, 2/12/18
Wyden on Energy Department Nominee -- Selling Off Bonneville Power is a Nonstarter by Staff, My Central Oregon, 6/6/17
BPA Grid Sale Tied to Fantasy Budget by Editorial Board, Spokesman-Review, 6/7/17
21 U.S. Senators Blast Trump Proposal to Sell BPA Power Grid by Staff, Seattle Times, 6/8/17
Northwest Lawmakers Oppose Selling BPA Transmission Lines by Dameon Pesanti, The Columbian, 6/6/17
Politicians Oppose Privatization of Bonneville Power Administration by News Sources, KOBI 5, 6/5/17
NW Lawmakers Urge President Trump: Don't Sell Off BPA Assets by News Sources, KTVZ, 6/5/17


Editorial Board
It's Time to Bury Plan to Sell Bonneville Power
Union-Bulletin, July 6, 2018

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