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Acting BPA Chief Likely to get Job

by Bert Caldwell
The Spokesman Review
- April 19, 2001

Craig checking nominees; Wright is a 20-year veteran

Steve Wright has been the interim or acting administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration since Judi Johansen resigned the position in November.

He may find out as early as next week whether the job will be permanent.

Mike Tracy, a spokesman for Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, said the Republican is sounding out other members of the Northwest congressional delegation on possible nominees for the Bonneville post.

"Steve Wright appears to be the foremost candidate," Tracy said.

As administrator, Wright would head an agency with a $2.2 billion budget. Bonneville sells 40 percent of all the electricity consumed in the Northwest and operates about 80 percent of the region's high-voltage transmission grid.

The salary, about $125,000, is significantly lower than what private utilities pay their top executives.

The right to recommend someone for the job normally falls to a Northwest politician who shares the president's party affiliation.

Johansen was picked by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., in 1997.

Tracy said Craig will probably make his recommendation in a letter to Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham and Vice President Dick Cheney.

"The goal is to get someone in there as soon as possible," he said.

Wright, he said, already knows the challenges faced by an agency confronting historically low streamflows at federal dams and unprecedented high prices in wholesale electricity markets.

"We don't have a rudderless ship right now," Tracy said.

Wright declined comment on his chances, saying only that he serves at the pleasure of the energy secretary.

But he added that he is proud to head an organization where he has worked for 20 years.

"This job is the greatest intellectual challenge of my life, but it's also the biggest emotional challenge," he said, because of the livelihoods affected by Bonneville rates and policies.

"I don't sleep as well at night," Wright said.

Bert Caldwell
Acting BPA Chief Likely to get Job
The Spokesman Review April 19, 2001

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