Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Warns the Energy Department that Decisions Affecting Northwest Energy Supplies Must be Made in the Northwest
Washington, D.C. - The Idaho Congressional Delegation, including Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Representatives Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador, along with every lawmaker representing Oregon and Washington, urged the U.S. Energy Department (DOE) to maintain an independent Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) that puts Northwest power users first, in a bipartisan letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz sent today.
"Bonneville Power plays a critical role in supplying power to the Northwestern part of the country," said Crapo. "I commend the Department of Energy for their work in cleaning up the unethical and inappropriate activities that were occurring at the BPA, but in the interest of Idaho, and the rest of the region, DOE must not become a permanent fixture of the BPA."
"The Energy Department did the right thing in uncovering BPA's hiring practices that were in violation of federal law," said Risch. "However, DOE should be restrained in their involvement and recognize the need for BPA to maintain regional autonomy."
Led by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., the 23 members emphasized the importance of correcting discrimination against hiring veterans that occurred at BPA. But that discrimination cannot become an excuse for DOE to take control over Northwest energy policy, they said.
"BPA decisions must be made in the Northwest for the benefit of the Northwest. While DOE deserves credit for uncovering BPA's violation of veterans' preference and other federal hiring rules, on many BPA matters DOE simply has neither the expertise nor the resources to effectively manage the day-to-day operations," the members wrote.
The delegation asked Moniz to publically state that the recent decision by DOE to impose new oversight of Bonneville's legal and hiring decisions will not become a Trojan horse to dictate policy decisions from Washington, D.C.
"We respectfully request that you and Deputy Secretary Poneman clarify that it is not your intent to extend DOE headquarters day- to-day oversight of BPA beyond that necessary to remedy the acknowledged failures of the BPA personnel system," they wrote.
The members formally asked the Energy Department to provide monthly reports to the Northwest Congressional delegation about its oversight of BPA, as long as the increased DOE oversight is in place. They also asked DOE to provide an end date for the oversight process.
The members asked Moniz to explain how it will address veteran hiring discrimination cases, as well as how long it will take to resolve the illegal hiring practices.
The Bonneville Power Administration is a crucial engine of the Northwest economy. It controls 65 percent of the region's power generating capacity in the region (an average of 10.7 gigawatts), and half of the baseload power. It controls about 15,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines, which is nearly 80 percent of the regional total. It generates clean, renewable power, in the Northwest, for the Northwest, creating a strategic advantage for the region.
A copy of the letter is attached.
The full list of signatories is below:
U.S. Senate: Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon.
U.S. House: Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Washington, Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Washington, Rep. Denny Heck, D-Washington, Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler, R-Washington, Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Washington, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Washington, Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Washington, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington, Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Washington, Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Washington, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon.