Once again, the Trump administration has foolishly proposed selling off the electric transmission system of the Bonneville Power Administration.
To glean some wisdom from Aesop’s Fables, this would be akin to killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.
And this is exactly why U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, has taken the lead in protesting this shortsighted proposal. The Tri-City Herald reports that Newhouse is one of three leaders who drafted a bipartisan letter, signed by 62 members of Congress, opposing selling off the BPA system. It was sent last week to the House Committee on the Budget.
The letter said that any sale of assets to private entities is likely to result in attempts by new owners to charge substantially increased transmission rates for the same service to BPA customers,
Exactly. This is going to cost electricity ratepayers and federal taxpayers.
BPA is part of the U.S. Department of Energy, although it is self-funding. The agency essentially pays its own way by marketing the wholesale electric power.
However, since BPA is ultimately controlled by the government the rates it charges are carefully monitored and are generally consumer-friendly. Money spent on infrastructure by BPA and three other federal Power Marketing Administrations are repaid with interest to the U.S. Treasury from electric rates set to fully recover taxpayer investments, the letter said.
“None of these costs are shouldered by taxpayers,” the letter from Congress said. “The entire BPA transmission system has generated approximately $30 billion in payments to the treasury.”
The letter added that privatization of the electric system would be particularly harmful to rural residents, as rural systems would be less attractive to private investors. There could be widespread decreases in service or loss of access to an economical and stable power supply, the letter concluded.
Aside from the far higher rates for consumers, our greatest concern is that putting the high-voltage grid in the hands of private investors — perhaps foreign investors — would threaten national security.
The Trump administration has proposed the sell-off in its fiscal 2020 budget request to Congress just as it has since Donald Trump took office in 2017. Each effort to sell BPA assets is pitched as a debt-reduction move.
Like Aesop’s golden goose, when the transmission grid is gone it will stop producing revenue that supports the transmission of power throughout the Pacific Northwest and keeps electric rates among the nation’s lowest.
Congress, as it has done in the past two years, must reject this proposal to sell BPA assets.