This June 3, 2011, file photo shows the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River near Cascade Locks, Oregon. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

This June 3, 2011, file photo shows the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River near Cascade Locks, Oregon. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Trump wants Bonneville Power Administration sell-off

Snohomish PUD and others are opposing privatization of federal hydropower systems.

EVERETT — The White House wants to sell off the Bonneville Power Administration and other hydropower systems throughout the country, moves critics warn would push up electricity rates for consumers in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

The plan from President Donald Trump also would change the way Bonneville Power sets its rates.

The Snohomish County Public Utility District buys about 80 percent of its electricity from Bonneville Power, which was created by the federal government in the 1930s. It’s one of four power marketing administrations that deliver and sell hydro-electric power from federal dams to much of the country.

“Selling off BPA’s transmission system and abandoning cost-based rates would raise electricity rates and throw sand in the gears of the Northwest economy,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., in a statement. “Northwest consumers already cover the full costs, with interest, of building and operating our region’s hydropower system. I will be working with all my Pacific Northwest colleagues to once again stop this bad idea in its tracks.”

The issue is in the senator’s wheelhouse; Cantwell is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Unloading the Pacific Northwest’s major power purveyor is one of thousands of ideas in the annual budget the Trump administration released Monday. It’s part of a broader push by the president and his allies to privatize federal infrastructure in the name of free-market efficiency. The Tennessee Valley Authority, Southwestern Power Administration and Western Area Power Administration also are targeted for divestment.

Getting the federal government out of the power-transmission business, “would encourage a more efficient allocation of economic resources and mitigate risk to taxpayers,” the budget document contends. The administration also favors letting BPA and its counterparts charge market-based rates like for-profit utilities, “rather than being limited to cost-based rates.”

By privatizing BPA, the federal government could save nearly $5.2 billion by the end of 2028, the president’s budget estimates. Further savings are projected from rate changes.

An industry group for Pacific Northwest utilities, including the Snohomish County PUD, issued a statement opposing the privatization plan.

“The bottom line is this budget proposes to raise an extra $5 billion to $7 billion on the backs of Northwest electricity customers over the next 10 years without any added benefit,” Public Power Council executive director Scott Corwin said in a statement. “We are looking to the future, and are already working with BPA to modernize its transmission system and to take concerted action to address its cost of power.”

Charging market electricity rates could conflict with BPA’s statutes and interfere with long-term contracts already in place with local utilities, the group cautioned. Other concerns about divestment include neglect of rural areas and a less reliable power grid.

The president’s spending plan is only the first step in a long process. It’s now up to the House and Senate to pass their own versions of the federal budget. The 2019 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

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

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

Everett Fire Department and Everett Police on scene of a multiple vehicle collision with injuries in the 1400 block of 41st Street. (Photo provided by Everett Fire Department)
1 seriously injured in crash with box truck, semi truck in Everett

Police closed 41st Street between Rucker and Colby avenues on Wednesday afternoon, right before rush hour.

The Arlington Public Schools Administration Building is pictured on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
$2.5M deficit in Arlington schools could mean dozens of cut positions

The state funding model and inflation have led to Arlington’s money problems, school finance director Gina Zeutenhorst said Tuesday.

Lily Gladstone poses at the premiere of the Hulu miniseries "Under the Bridge" at the DGA Theatre, Monday, April 15, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Mountlake Terrace’s Lily Gladstone plays cop in Hulu’s ‘Under the Bridge’

The true-crime drama started streaming Wednesday. It’s Gladstone’s first part since her star turn in “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

Jesse L. Hartman (Photo provided by Everett Police Department)
Everett man who fled to Mexico given 22 years for fatal shooting

Jesse Hartman crashed into Wyatt Powell’s car and shot him to death. He fled but was arrested on the Mexican border.

Snow is visible along the top of Mount Pilchuck from bank of the Snohomish River on Wednesday, May 10, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Washington issues statewide drought declaration, including Snohomish County

Drought is declared when there is less than 75% of normal water supply and “there is the risk of undue hardship.”

Boeing Quality Engineer Sam Salehpour, right, takes his seat before testifying at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs - Subcommittee on Investigations hearing to examine Boeing's broken safety culture with Ed Pierson, and Joe Jacobsen, right, on Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
Everett Boeing whistleblower: ‘They are putting out defective airplanes’

Dual Senate hearings Wednesday examined allegations of major safety failures at the aircraft maker.

An Alaska Airline plane lands at Paine Field Saturday on January 23, 2021. (Kevin Clark/The Herald)
Alaska Airlines back in the air after all flights grounded for an hour

Alaska Airlines flights, including those from Paine Field, were grounded Wednesday morning. The FAA lifted the ban around 9 a.m.

A Mukilteo firefighter waves out of a fire truck. (Photo provided by Mukilteo Fire Department)
EMS levy lift would increase tax bill $200 for average Mukilteo house

A measure rejected by voters in 2023 is back. “We’re getting further and further behind as we go through the days,” Fire Chief Glen Albright said.

An emergency overdose kit with naloxone located next to an emergency defibrillator at Mountain View student housing at Everett Community College on Tuesday, March 5, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
To combat fentanyl, Snohomish County trickles out cash to recovery groups

The latest dispersal, $77,800 in total, is a wafer-thin slice of the state’s $1.1 billion in opioid lawsuit settlements.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.