Northwest Power Planning Council:

Greater Public Oversight of Business Operations Would Enhance Accountability

RCED-96-226: Published: Aug 30, 1996. Publicly Released: Sep 6, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Pacific Northwest Electric Power and Conservation Planning Council's business practices, focusing on whether the: (1) Council's program activities are consistent with congressional direction; and (2) Council is exercising adequate oversight of its business operations.

GAO found that: (1) the Council's energy planning and wildlife efforts are consistent with the goals of the Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act; (2) the Council has prepared four long-range regional conservation and electric power plans to meet its conservation and electricity needs; (3) the Council has distributed various other publications on electricity, fish and wildlife, and related topics for public comment; (4) it is difficult to make long-range plans for the Northwest region's electricity market due to significantly lower electricity costs, and increasing deregulation and competition within the market; (5) the governors of four Northwest states have convened a comprehensive review of the Northwest energy system to determine how changing conditions within the electricity industry are affecting the Council's role in fish and wildlife conservation; (6) the Council has proposed improving the evaluation of its fish and wildlife mitigation efforts by requiring unproven mitigation measures to have a monitoring and evaluation component, making more frequent and formal reviews of its conservation and electric power plan, and tying funding for program measures to participation in monitoring and evaluation efforts; (7) oversight of the Council's business operations have shifted to the Council chairman and executive director and as a result Council members receive limited information concerning the Council's operating policies and procedures; and (8) the Council could improve its credibility by making its policies and decisions a matter of public record.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Council has fully embraced the recommendations. In September 1996, the Council, in a public session, amended its bylaws to reflect the recommendations to allow the public greater access (including review and comment) to the Council's business operations.

    Recommendation: Given the amount of expected change and uncertainty in the Council's main areas of focus--power and fish and wildlife--the potential exists for the Council members' attention to be similarly shifted away from administrative matters in the future. Therefore, the Council Chairman, working with all Council members, should develop a strategy to ensure that the public has: (1) access to existing policies; and (2) the ability to review and comment on new or revised policies.

    Agency Affected: Pacific Northwest Electric Power and Conservation Planning Council


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