Impacts and Implications of the Pacific Northwest Power Bill

EMD-79-105: Published: Sep 4, 1979. Publicly Released: Sep 12, 1979.

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The impacts and implications of the Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act were examined. The act would change the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) from a marketer of federal hydropower to a regional utility with broad responsibilities for assuring adequate power supplies in the Pacific Northwest. The three areas of impact examined were: (1) whether the proposed legislation would expose regional power consumers to more rate increases from construction cost overruns on non-federal power plants backed by the BPA; (2) what impact the passage or failure of the legislation would have on BPA direct service industrial customers; and (3) whether the legislation would have a significant effect on runs of anadromous salmon and steelhead trout in the Columbia River system.

All three BPA nuclear power plants have experienced substantial delays and cost overruns. BPA has not provided adequate financial protection for regional consumers obligated to pay for the plants. Until recently, BPA management has not tried to play a major decisionmaking role in the construction projects and the efforts that have been made have been hindered by staffing weaknesses. Although the legislation would provide industry long-term contracts for very large quantities of power at substantially higher prices, whether the legislation passes or not, industrial customers will be facing higher power costs. However, even greatly increased power costs are unlikely to cause the industry to relocate. The upper river salmon and steelhead fisheries are in serious trouble. A major problem is the failure to adequately mitigate the adverse effects of dams constructed and operated by federal agencies and electric utilities. The dams have a great impact on the migration process which is critical to the already endangered species' survival. There is no formally organized body that exercises a comprehensive management function over water resource uses in the Columbia Basin, and fishery maintenance or enhancement is not an authorized purpose of the dams. Consequently, fishery officials must seek voluntary cooperation from BPA and dam operators.

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