Business & Real Estate

Newhouse opposes Trump plan to sell BPA transmission system

A central Washington congressman says a Trump administration plan to sell off the transmission system of the Bonneville Power Administration would lead to higher electricity bills.

The Tri-City Herald reports that Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Republican, was one of three leaders on a bipartisan letter to the House Committee on the Budget opposing changes to the BPA system. The letter sent Wednesday was signed by 62 members of Congress.

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, the letter said.

The Trump administration has proposed the sell-off in its fiscal 2020 budget request to Congress. It would be a one-time federal debt-reduction move.

BPA is part of the U.S. Department of Energy, but is self-funding. It markets wholesale electric power, mostly from federal dams and the Energy Northwest nuclear power plant near Richland.

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 said. "The entire BPA transmission system has generated approximately $30 billion in payments to the treasury."

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 said.

BPA operates and maintains about three-quarters of the high-voltage transmission in its service territory, which includes Idaho, Oregon, Washington and some small parts of other nearby states. Most electricity used in the Tri-Cities comes from the BPA.

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