Trump Abandons Bonneville Power
by Pete Danko
A group in Congress says it will fight any attempt to privatize the Northwest's hydroelectric system.
The Trump administration has backed off on its proposal to sell the Bonneville Power Administration's 15,000-mile high-voltage electric transmission system, according to a quartet of Washington state Republicans.
“We applaud the administration for responding to our concerns over the potential sale of BPA's transmission assets and making the formal decision to abandon such plans,” Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Dan Newhouse, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dave Reichert said in a statement released Thursday.
The proposal in the president's fiscal year 2019 budget was opposed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the Northwest and elsewhere in the country where other federal power marketing administration assets were also targeted.
In an emailed statement, Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden said he was glad to see the president “has finally recognized what history and common sense could have told him months ago before he launched this misguided proposal that would have hurt ratepayers in the Northwest.”
A similar Trump budget proposal in 2017 went nowhere, just as earlier sell-off bids from other presidents had failed.
The Trump administration figured Bonneville's assets would bring $5.2 billion over 10 years, and that the introduction of market-based rates would yield further savings.
The Public Power Council, which represents many BPA customers, disagreed, and it had Moody's Investor Services on its side. The bond credit-rating firm said in a research note that the publicly owned systems “have operated well from a reliability and cost standpoint” and that divestiture was likely to raise rates “because the new private owners would have higher capital costs that would need to be recovered in rates.”
Although the statement by the Washington Republicans referenced a Department of Energy "announcement," one wasn't immediately available from the agency.
Nonetheless, the lawmakers said the administration had heard their call not to privatize.
“We have voiced our strong opposition to this proposal and are grateful to Secretary Perry for continuing to study the impact a sell-off would have on our region and recognizing BPA's unique and vital role in maintaining economic vitality for our Northwest communities," they said. "It's a big relief to know that this harmful proposal will not be pursued.”
BPA is not without its challenges, however, amid shifting market dynamics.
In a five-year strategic plan unveiled in January it noted that as of the end of 2017, it had consumed $5 billion of its federal borrowing authority, and that it was on a course to run up against a $7.7 billion limit by 2023. One of the planks of the strategic plan is to meet capital needs on a 10-year rolling basis and preserve $1.5 billion in borrowing authority.
Trump's Bonneville Power Administration Selloff is In Doubt by Noah Haglund, Herald Net, 5/25/18
Trump's Budget on BPA Goes from Bad to Worse by Scott Corwin, The Oregonian, 2/19/18
Trump Wants Bonneville Power Administration Sell-off by Noah Haglund, Herald Net, 2/18/18
Trump Budget Proposes Selling Off Bonneville Power Transmission Lines (Again) by Courtney Flatt, Oregon Public Broadcasting, 2/13/18
Trump Budget Goes After Bonneville Power Administration Again by Pete Danko, Portland Business Journal, 2/12/18
Wyden on Energy Department Nominee -- Selling Off Bonneville Power is a Nonstarter by Staff, My Central Oregon, 6/6/17
BPA Grid Sale Tied to Fantasy Budget by Editorial Board, Spokesman-Review, 6/7/17
21 U.S. Senators Blast Trump Proposal to Sell BPA Power Grid by Staff, Seattle Times, 6/8/17
Northwest Lawmakers Oppose Selling BPA Transmission Lines by Dameon Pesanti, The Columbian, 6/6/17
Politicians Oppose Privatization of Bonneville Power Administration by News Sources, KOBI 5, 6/5/17
NW Lawmakers Urge President Trump: Don't Sell Off BPA Assets by News Sources, KTVZ, 6/5/17
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