the film
Economic and dam related articles

Leave BPA's Rates Alone

by Editors
The Olympian, March 4, 2005

Watch out if the Bush administration has its way with the Bonneville Power Administration.

A White House plan to force the region's federal power marketing agency to sell electricity at market rates would be a crippling blow to the ratepayers and economy of the Pacific Northwest.

Bonneville is a branch of the federal Department of Energy. It markets power from 31 federal hydropower dams on the Columbia and Snake River systems and one nonfederal nuclear power plant on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The power is sold at cost to public utilities and direct service industries. In addition, the residential and small-farm customers of privately owned utilities including Puget Sound Energy receive some of the benefits of the low-cost power.

BPA power is some of the cheapest in the nation. It has fueled economic growth and development in the region for decades. And it continues to be a key piston in the economic engine of the Pacific Northwest.

If the Bush team has its way, Bonneville would be required to raise its wholesale electric rates. The extra revenue would flow to the federal Treasury to help balance the federal budget.

It's a bad idea with devastating consequences in the Pacific Northwest, which receives more than half of its electricity from the Bonneville system.

Fortunately, the plan has garnered widespread opposition in the Senate and is not likely to be included in the Senate's 2005 budget resolution. Now the House must reject the proposal, too.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council analyzed the plan and found little good to say about it. To wit:

The power council likened the effect of the proposed rate increase to what happened during the West Coast energy crisis of 2000-01.

That's a lot of pain to gain $1.7 billion to help reduce the federal budget deficit during the next three years.

Members of Congress from throughout the region -- both Democrats and Republicans -- have lined up to voice their opposition to the plan, and well they should.

"It'll slam the brakes on the regional economy and raid the pocketbooks of working families a second time," said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

Past administrations have tried to mess with Bonneville rates or spin off the federal power marketing agency to the private sector.

These manipulations of the region's power system are never in the region's best interests.

Weighing in

To register an opinion on a Bush administration plan to raise BPA power rates, contact Department of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman at a toll-free public comment line at 800-dial-DOE, or e-mail him at

Leave BPA's Rates Alone
The Olympian, March 4, 2005

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation