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Economic and dam related articles

Energy Costs Pinch Ag

by Carie L. Call
Capital Press - June 28, 2002

HERMISTON, Ore. -- Bonneville Power Administration is considering raising its rates again this year, and local farmers and business people plan to fight the effort.

Suzanne Sullivan's voice was breaking as she told Stephen Wright, CEO of BPA, that if she has to pay increased rates, she will no longer be able to run her farm.

Wright told the 25 farmers and business people who attended a mid-June meeting at the Umatilla Electric Cooperative that because BPA bough power when the rates were high and is selling it when there is less demand, BPA is losing money. Other factors add to BPA's financial dilemma, including a medium water year for the dams to use to generate power and the cost of BPA's past dealings with Enron, Wright said.

Raising rates is one of several options BPA could take to meet its financial obligations, which include a hefty yearly payment to the federal government for use of the dams, Wright said. Its exact course is unknown.

Sullivan owns Emerald Farms in Pasco and is a first generation farmer who also runs a manufacturing facility. Sullivan said she can't afford to keep her business going if power prices continue to rise.

Last year's power price hike and the taxes that went along with it amounted to a "horrific amount of money. I have to draw a line in the sand. I can either fight for these properties or walk away," Sullivan said.

Irrigators Pinched
The Columbia Snake River Irrigators Association of Kennewick presented a formal memo to Wright. It was written by Tom Mackay and Darryll Olsen.

"The buck -- or the lack thereof -- stops with us," the memo read. "The current market, refuses to allow us to increase product prices to compensate for any increased operating costs."

Kim Puzey, director of the Port of Umatilla, said he would like to see BPA go into the red and ask for federal assistance instead of passing on costs to customers.

"Help us stand with you. The voices of the people you are hearing today say they can accept the pain of increases collectively, but they cannot accept the pain individually."

Wright said he would take these comments back to BPA and decide how to best proceed.

Carie L. Call, for the Capital Press
Energy Costs Pinch Ag
Capital Press - June 28, 2002

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