March 09, 2006

Wyden, NW Senators Win Budget Provision to Protect BPA Customers from Rate Hike

Budget resolution now removes major hurdle for Northwest Delegationto pass legislation blocking harmful Administration proposal

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today won approval of language in the Senate's FY2007 budget resolution that is a critical step towards blocking an effort by the Bush Administration to force the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) to increase rates to consumers. The budget language, authored by Wyden along with U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and adopted by the Senate Budget Committee today, clears the way for the Energy Committee to pass legislation blocking the Administration from forcing Northwest ratepayers to pay more. Under the Senate Budget rules, the Northwest delegation would have to get a super-majority vote in order to block the Administration's proposal without this provision. With the adoption of the Wyden-Crapo-Murray amendment, a simple majority vote will now be enough to block the proposal. "Oregon power consumers have won a victory today against unnecessarily high energy rates," said Wyden. "The Administration's proposal to require BPA to make additional Treasury payments would be like requiring someone to pay more in loan fees just because they make more money. So, I am pleased that the Senate Budget Committee has acted to help save Oregonians hundreds of millions of dollars and opposed what amounts to government loan sharking by the Administration." BPA is the largest power wholesaler in the Pacific Northwest, supplying an estimated 45 percent of the region's power. The Administration proposal that was set back by Wyden's provision today would have forced Bonneville to pre-pay its debt ahead of the repayment schedule that both BPA and the Treasury Department had already agreed to, resulting in potential rate hikes of as much as one billion dollars for Northwest consumers over the next ten years. The proposal would also have robbed the Northwest of the lower-cost power that is a major economic driver for the region. The resolution approved by the Budget Committee today, which sets up the framework for annual Federal spending, now will be sent to the full Senate for its consideration.