Wyden Says Bodman Promises
by William McCall, Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., says the Bush administration nominee for Energy Secretary has promised to oppose any effort to privatize the Bonneville Power Administration and its power supply for much of the West.
Samuel W. Bodman told Wyden he does not support the sale or privatization of the federal power marketing agency. Bodman made the statement at his confirmation hearing Wednesday before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in Washington, D.C.
"The future of the Bonneville Power Administration is the key to our states' energy future," Wyden said, adding, "This is good news."
The commitment by Bodman was also welcomed by Northwest tribes, a coalition of utilities and environmental groups, and the BPA chief, Steve Wright.
"I think it's certainly good news for Northwest ratepayers, and it's one less risk for us," Wright said Thursday.
Marc Krasnowsky, spokesman for the NW Energy Coalition in Seattle, agreed that ratepayers would suffer under privatization of Bonneville.
"They're administering the federal dam system, paid by federal tax dollars and created by federal tax dollars. I think to turn all that over to private companies simply shouldn't be on the table," said Krasnowsky, whose coalition represents more than 100 environmental, civic and service organizations, utilities and businesses in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and British Columbia.
Bonneville, based in Portland, supplies nearly half the electricity in the Pacific Northwest, most of it from a system of federal dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers.
Charles Hudson, spokesman for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, said that federal oversight is essential for the hydroelectric system, which also must be managed to sustain salmon runs.
"The tribes have no desire to undo the basic tenets of the Northwest Power Act," Hudson said, referring to the 1980 legislation by Congress that set policy for managing both power and fish conservation regionally.
"The BPA as an agency of the federal government has an obligation to work with us, whereas private industry does not," he said.
Wyden said he sought assurances from the Bush administration because a letter released in February 2003 contained a statement that suggested the White House would move Bonneville toward privatization.
At a hearing the following month, Wyden told White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels that privatization likely would damage the regional economy, prompting Daniels to assure the senator it would not happen.
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