Senate Gives BPA Additional Borrowing Authorityby Lynn Francisco
NW Fishletter, January 31, 2003
It took more than two years, but the Bonneville Power Administration finally won an increase in its borrowing authority. The Senate last week added $700 million to BPA's borrowing authority through an amendment to the omnibus spending bill.
The budget measure, which funds the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year 2003, now goes to a House-Senate conference committee, where supporters say it has a good chance of approval. President Bush last year included an identical boost to BPA borrowing authority in the administration budget, which should carry considerable weight in the House.
Bonneville began the quest two years ago, seeking to increase its borrowing authority by $2 billion. Last year, the request was lowered to $1.3 billion, but still failed. BPA argued that the additional authority was essential to upgrade its aging transmission system, as well as to make other improvements.
Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) negotiated the deal that cleared the way for the amendment, which was supported by the entire Northwest Senate delegation. A key selling point was Bonneville's promise not to use the additional authority until 2004, or possibly 2005, when the agency expects it will reach the limit on its ability to finance improvements and new facilities.
Craig told his Senate colleagues that "reliable and readily available power is essential to the economy of the Pacific Northwest.
"The BPA currently owns and operates 75 percent of the high-voltage power transmission in the Northwest and is now being forced to operate way beyond its limits. New power generation is critically needed in the region, and the additional borrowing authority provided by this bill to upgrade transmission services will go a long way to make that happen," Craig said.
BPA's quest was also aided by a joint statement from the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Renewable Northwest Project, the Alliance to Save Energy and the American Wind Association.
"Our support reflects BPA's strong regional leadership in integrating new renewable capacity in the Northwest grid and in opening its transmission investment process to demand-side and other alternatives to conventional large-scale powerlines," said the statement, which was prompted in part by a blast at BPA from Taxpayers for Common Sense.
The fiscally conservative group called BPA "a case study in fiscal mismanagement," that "has repeatedly failed to uphold federal laws and treaties to protect salmon."
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