"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

Money back, no guarantees

Has to be said that, over the years, the Northwest congressional delegation has been ace at protecting the Bonneville Power Administration, the federal agency probably most responsible for the low electric power rates in the region.

How will it do now in a case where an action of the BPA may shoot up power rates across much of the region by about a tenth?

The region’s six senators, three from each party, today shipped a joint letter to BPA Administrator Steven Wright on the situation and (a little more vaguely) their suggestion.

On May 3rd, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on a case regarding how utilities and their customers in our three states share in the economic benefits of the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) under the Northwest Power Act (NWPA). The court’s decision appears to cast a legal shadow on BPA’s authority to adopt the “Regional Dialogue” proposal and to enter into power supply contracts with its public agency customers next year as hoped. This week, seven Northwest investor-owned utilities announced residential ratepayers could see rate increases as much as 25 percent at a time when other energy costs, notably gasoline, are sky high.

We know BPA is trying to implement the court’s decision, and that it is difficult to navigate through these complex issues. However, everyone in the region has an interest in reaching a legally sustainable compromise that fulfills the public policy goals of the NWPA and allows BPA to enter into new power supply contracts with public agencies before the current contracts expire. This requires that all stakeholders – public and private utilities, BPA and consumers, states and public utility commissions – join together in good faith in an effort to negotiate a mutually agreeable and legally sustainable compromise. We believe that such a compromise is best forged in the region, and are pleased that BPA is committed to a regionally developed solution.

The point is reasonable; the specifics are less visible, at least in this letter. The evidence of success, or not, should be forthcoming soon.

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