March 16, 2005

Wyden Will Not Block Energy Department Nominee

Assurances from Senate Energy Chairman, Wyden Budget LanguageReduce Threat to NW Ratepayers from BPA Privatization Scheme

Washington, DC U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today announced that he will not block the confirmation of Jeffrey Clay Sell to become Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy. Wyden threatened to halt Sells confirmation because of the Administrations plans to privatize the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). Today Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) assured Wyden that he will work to block the market rate proposal if it reappears in any form. In addition, Wyden worked with his Northwest colleagues to include language in the Senate budget resolution that would prevent the privatization plan from moving forward legislatively.Chairman Domenicis commitment today takes off the table this costly market rate scheme that would wreak economic havoc on our region, said Wyden. He made clear that he would oppose this proposal in any form and that commitment effectively ends any chance of privatization going forward.Wyden and his fellow Northwest Senators on the Budget and Energy Committees have worked together to vigorously oppose the market-rate proposal, which would have inflicted billions of dollars in new power costs onto Northwest ratepayers. In addition to seeking an Administration reversal on the proposed privatization scheme, last week Wyden worked with his northwest colleagues to defeat the proposal legislatively, Wyden and his colleagues also worked include language in the Senates FY 2006 Budget resolution blocking the market rate scheme. The budget language, coauthored by Wyden and U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and agreed to by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, (R-N.H.), explicitly states that there should be no additional income in the Federal budget from market rates at BPA and other Federal power marketing authorities (PMAs).Privatizing BPA would destroy a major economic driver for the Northwest: the lower-cost power that attracts economic investment to the region. But the Presidents FY2006 budget proposed to change BPAs current cost-based power rates to a market-based rate, increasing bills for Northwest consumers by 20 percent each year until the market rate is reached. Such a switch is clearly a move toward privatization; once rates rise to market levels, the taxpayer and ratepayer benefits of keeping the power agency publicly held will be eliminated.