The Bonneville Power Administration’s transmission assets should not be for sale. It is essential the federal government retain control of the power infrastructure in the United States.   

Yet, despite assurances in May from the U.S. Department of Energy that plans to sell off transmissions assets from BPA and other federal agencies had been removed from consideration, the plan has resurfaced.

The (Vancouver, Wash. ) Columbian newspaper reported this week that the Trump administration is considering selling the federally owned transmission assets of BPA, Tennessee Valley Authority,  Southwestern Power Administration and Western Area Power Administration to “encourage a more efficient allocation of economic resources and mitigate unnecessary risk to taxpayers.”

“The Federal Government’s role in owning and operating transmission assets creates unnecessary risk for taxpayers and distorts private markets that are better equipped to carry out this function,” the plan reads. “Ownership of transmission assets is best carried out by the private sector, where there are appropriate market and regulatory incentives.”

That is absolute nonsense.

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.

In addition, BPA funds energy-conservation efforts and fish protection.

A privately controlled transmission system would be looking to make a profit for its investors. That means it would raise the price for wholesale power to utilities and those higher costs would, of course, be passed on to consumers. While fish protection is mandated, it likely wouldn’t be as high a priority for private owners.

BPA operates and maintains about 75 percent of the high-voltage transmission system in the Pacific Northwest, mostly in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.  

Selling BPA assets would be economically foolish as BPA generates revenue that pays for maintaining the high-voltage grid. That keeps costs down and thus results in lower energy rates for those living in the Pacific Northwest.  

Beyond that, maintaining control of the power grid is essential to our national security. If the power goes down, chaos follows. It is prudent to have control over power transmission in the hands of the federal government rather than private companies.

In late May, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and the three other Republicans in Congress from Washington state  issued a joint statement announcing the U.S. Department of Energy assured them it would not sell the BPA’s assets.

Now that it looks as if they have been double-crossed, they need to take swift action to get the Trump administration to, once again, abandon the idea of selling BPA assets — and stick to it.

Editorials are the opinion of the Union-Bulletin's Editorial Board. The board is composed of Brian Hunt, Rick Eskil, James Blethen and Alasdair Stewart