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Economic and dam related articles

Think Ahead:
Rebuild BPA's Technical Capability

by Jim Malinowski
The Columbian, April 27, 2006

Not all county Grange members agree with the positions stated in the April 25t "Local view" column by Lawrence Cooper and Wes Rainey about Bonneville Power Administration's rates.

The column fails to mention that Clark Public Utilities' rates are among the highest in the state. Clark Public Utilities' decision to reduce its BPA power take when it built the natural gas-fired River Road Power Plant, and replacing for five years BPA power with purchased private power, is why our rates are 45 percent higher than they should be. We are very lucky BPA allowed Clark Public Utilities to replace the private power supply for the load component not served by the River Road Plant. Otherwise, our rates would be far higher.

For the first three months of 2006, the cost of power from the BPA was 3.05 cents per kilowatt hour. Power from the River Road Plant was 8.32 cents per kilowatt hour, 270 percent higher than BPA's rate. Other state PUDs that made supply purchase blunders that raised their rates significantly have joined with the state Grange to blame BPA for their rate problems. Clark Public Utilities, to its credit, has not joined in the rather hypocritical effort by other PUDs to shift blame from their own decisions.

BPA rate increases contributed very little to the five Clark Public Utilities rate increases cited in the column by Cooper and Rainey, a fact the column ignores.

The envy of other regions

The BPA's low-cost federal power is the major reason our state's electric rates are among the lowest in the nation. Other regions would love to have the problems we have.

All Northwest ratepayers should be focusing on protecting the BPA from efforts to privatize the agency and drive our rates much higher than they are now. When local groups such as the Northwest Coalition for Affordable Power beat up on BPA, they play into the hands of those who would destroy the benefits of our public power systems.

I and other energy professionals are concerned that the BPA's response to rate-cutting pressures is threatening to reduce the agency's technical capability below that needed to address the real energy supply and transmission problems the region faces.

It is time to support rebuilding BPA's technical capability rather than forcing small rate decreases that may be penny wise but will prove to be pound foolish.

Jim Malinowski of Amboy is treasurer of Mountain Valley Grange and a Clark College power utilities technology instructor.
Think Ahead: Rebuild BPA's Technical Capability
The Columbian, April 30, 2006

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