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Economic and dam related articles

Protect Northwest Hydropower

by Editors
The Oregonian, February 6, 2003

While memories of the energy crisis are still fresh, imagine this: Enron running the Columbia River hydropower system.

While visions of salmon dying in the Klamath River Basin are still vivid, imagine Enron entrusted with salmon habitat -- anywhere.

While still feeling the weight of higher electric power rates, imagine if the Bonneville Power Administration had been replaced by a private operator like Enron.

Had enough?

Every time federal officials put the BPA and privatization in the same sentence, the Northwest's congressional delegation should rise as a body to pound that idea into the ground.

The latest swipe at the BPA appeared this week in the assessment portion of the 2004 budget proposed by the Bush administration.

Every few years, the Office of Management and Budget accuses the Northwest of unfairly benefiting from having a renewable resource: the Columbia River hydropower system.

The last time was in 1996 when the OMB railed against BPA's low-cost U.S. Treasury financing, which it wrongly characterizes as being subsidized by U.S. taxpayers.

The repeated attacks led the BPA in 1996 to refinance the system's debt. It agreed to a higher 6.5 percent interest rate and, in effect, increased its payment to the Treasury by $100 million.

That effort was supposed to put an end permanently to OMB's perennial sniping attacks on BPA and the Northwest's economy.

But Northwest ratepayers always look ripe for plucking when the federal budget deficit expands. While this administration hasn't proposed selling BPA to the highest bidder as the Reagan budgeters did, the Bush administration hasn't ruled out contracting out part of its operation.

That's a problem in its own right.

As Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., points out, that's a recipe for creating "artificial pockets of shortage."

The Columbia River is a public waterway and the BPA serves an important public purpose in helping supply the region's electric power needs -- and much, much more.

The rates that Northwesterners pay for BPA power also pay for fish preservation and environmental recovery on the Columbia River system.

The BPA's energy supply -- which Northwesterners have paid for several times over -- is an important buffer against the volatile energy markets of recent years.

Forward-looking political leadership built the hydropower system here and helped it become an essential element of the region's economy. Today's political leaders must protect the system for future generations

Related Pages:
Bush Official Denies Plan to Sell Off BPA, Tom Detzel, The Oregonian, 2/6/3

Editors, of The Oregonian
Protect Northwest Hydropower
The Oregonian, February 6, 2003

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