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Congress Thwarts BPA Hike

by Ellyn Ferguson
The Bellingham Herald - March 12, 2005

Northwest lawmakers halt effort to raise power rates

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Northwest lawmakers say they have blocked a proposed rate hike for the Bonneville Power Administration that could have cost ratepayers and consumers billions of dollars.

The proposed Bush administration budget would have increased Bonneville rates 20 percent a year until reaching market rate levels.

Budget writers in the House and Senate spared the BPA when they wrote their respective budget blueprints this week, but zeroed in on Medicaid.

Next week, the full House and Senate are expected to vote on the budget resolutions before leaving for a two-week spring recess.

Budget writers ignored the Bush administration's call to require the federal energy agency to charge market rates for its power. Instead, the chairmen listened to angry Northwest lawmakers who said such a move would cost the region thousands of jobs.

Sens. Larry Craig, R-Idaho; Gordon Smith, R-Ore.; and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., were confident Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg would not include provisions directing the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to move ahead with the proposal.

On Thursday night, Wyden announced that he and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, had gotten language into the Senate resolution that flatly states the U.S. government will not receive more revenue from Bonneville and the other federal power marketers through market-based electricity rates.

On the House side, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, worked to make sure the House Budget Committee also killed the proposal.

Budget writers, however, did not spare Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled.

President Bush had proposed up to $60 billion in Medicaid spending cuts over 10 years. The House and Senate budget panels approved $15 billion in cuts over five years.

Ellyn Ferguson
Congress Thwarts BPA Hike
The Bellingham Herald, March 12, 2005

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