Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River near Cascade Locks, Oregon. (Rick Bowmer / AP file)

Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River near Cascade Locks, Oregon. (Rick Bowmer / AP file)

Trump’s Bonneville Power Administration selloff is in doubt

A group in Congress says it will fight any attempt to privatize the Northwest’s hydroelectric system.

EVERETT — The U.S. Department of Energy has signaled it could drop plans to sell off major parts of the Pacific Northwest’s hydroelectric system, a scenario that utilities and customers feared would push rates higher.

A bipartisan group in Congress has made it clear that it intends to stop any attempt to privatize the Bonneville Power Administration, an idea that President Donald Trump has floated in yearly budget proposals. The Snohomish County Public Utility District buys about 80 percent of its electricity from the BPA, which was created by the federal government in the 1930s.

“I have made it clear to the Trump Administration that it would be a huge mistake to sell off or privatize portions of the BPA,” U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said Thursday, in a statement. “The notion that we would go along with the administration’s proposal to enrich investors at the expense of families and businesses in our state is a complete non-starter.”

Washington’s other U.S. senator, Maria Cantwell, called access to cheap hydropower “the backbone of our economy for decades” and said selling the transmission infrastructure would be “a bad idea.”

On Thursday, a Senate committee approved an energy and water bill that would deny any money for divesting the federal government of Bonneville Power assets. It also applies to the three other power marketing administrations around the country. It passed 30-1 and is headed to the full Senate for a vote.

Unloading the Pacific Northwest’s major power purveyor is one of thousands of ideas in the annual budget the Trump administration released in February. The president and his allies have made a general push to privatize public infrastructure in a belief that free markets would perform more efficiently.

Washington’s congressional delegation, however, is united in disagreement. The Public Power Council, an industry group for Pacific Northwest utilities including the Snohomish County PUD, also strongly opposed the privatization push.

Washington’s four Republicans in Congress — U.S. Reps. Dave Reichert, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse — issued a joint statement Thursday that praised U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry for a change of heart.

“On behalf of the 12 million residents and businesses in the Pacific Northwest who rely on the clean, affordable hydropower generated from BPA, 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,” the release said.

The staffs of Murray and Cantwell reported being unaware of any such announcement from Perry.

A spokesman for McMorris Rodgers, who represents the Fifth Congressional District in Eastern Washington, said the secretary notified her office by phone earlier this week. Perry made a similar pledge when visiting eastern Oregon in April.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Jacob Akers in his replica Dude sweater from The Big Leboswki on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Dude, you’re knitting some bodacious ‘Big Lebowski’ sweaters

Jacob Akers, 29, a Costco shelf stocker, knits cardigans made famous by the 1998 cult classic guy flick.

Keith Wagoner
Senator becomes first GOP candidate for secretary of state

Sen. Keith Wagoner will challenge Democrat Steve Hobbs, who was appointed to the statewide post in November

Madison is one of three aging elementary schools that would be torn down and replaced if the Everett schools bond is passed next year. (Sue Misao / Herald file)
Everett school leaders have 2 big levies on February ballot

The district is asking voters to renew a levy for programs and operations, and to pass a $325 million capital and tech levy.

Reagan Dunn to take on U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier in 8th District

The Republican is challenging incumbent Democrat Kim Schrier in a district which could include a slice of Snohomish County.

Charges: Arlington-area shooting suspect had gun stash, bomb lab

A bomb squad spent two days detonating explosive material. Detectives also discovered an underground bunker full of guns.

A fatal crash prompted closure of West Mukilteo Boulevard between Forest Park and Dogwood Drive Friday afternoon. (Everett Police Department) 20211126
2 identified in deadly T-bone crash in Everett

Otila Retel Azanedo de Jones, 67, and William Jones, 85, died at the scene.

Two brother bear cubs, burned in a fire last summer, were recently reunited at PAWS in Lynnwood. (PAWS) 20211129
Bear cubs, burned in wildfires, reunited in viral video in Lynnwood

The brother cubs are being treated at PAWS Wildlife Center. They were injured in a wildfire near Lake Chelan.

A car breaks and waits for traffic to pass before turning onto 123rd Avenue on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021 in Lake Stevens, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Can roundabouts, lower speed limit make 84th Street NE safer?

Maybe, but transportation and disability advocates want design features to make crossing safe.

A traveler points to Bedal Campground on a map posted along the Mountain Loop Highway in June. (Sue Misao / Herald file)
Mountain Loop Highway to close for the winter

The 14-mile stretch of gravel road will shut down starting Friday. Snow has hit higher elevations.

Most Read