by Gosia Wozniacka, Associated Press
PORTLAND -- The federal government won't micromanage or "take over" the Bonneville Power Administration because of a hiring scandal at the agency, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a letter Friday.
The letter came in response to one sent last week by 23 lawmakers from Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana that asked about the extent of federal oversight of the agency.
In response, Moniz said "the role of BPA management in making policy and business decisions for Bonneville is not being displaced."
He said BPA's status as a 'separate and distinct' organizational entity within the Department of Energy will continue to be recognized.
The federal utility is self-financed and enjoys autonomy in policy making unusual among federal agencies.
An inspector general report found widespread discrimination in hiring veterans and retaliation against whistleblowers at BPA.
It followed a highly critical audit of human resources work and the suspension of two top administrators. The report said the hiring problems resulted partly from a management culture that distanced the organization from Department of Energy procedures and processes and deflected federal oversight.
In October, the Department of Energy ordered Bonneville's human resources director and legal counsel to report directly to department headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The actions, Moniz said in his letter, are meant to rebuild BPA's administrative functions, fix serious, systemic hiring problems, and ensure that BPA complies with the law.The BPA markets power from 31 federal dams in the Columbia Basin to 140-plus utilities in the Pacific Northwest.
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