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.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Assure that BPA contracting and oversight practices are strengthened, energy sources are developed only when judged necessary by a power planning body, and the most cost-effective and least capital-intensive energy sources are developed first. Consider amendments which limit BPA participation in constructing plants and the construction costs charged to customers. A regional power planning board should be established to develop demand forecasts, analyze costs of alternative means of balancing supply and demand, and develop a public involvement program. Assure electrical conservation, realistic pricing, and development of cost-effective system reserves. Consider authorizing BPA to reduce power to any industry not meeting efficiency standards; direct BPA to renegotiate contract provisions for power interruptions; and require BPA to report to the Secretary of Energy on the costs of means of providing system reserves. Rates for all large industrial customers should be uniform. Direct the Corps of Engineers, through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and the regional utilities to install equipment to reduce fish mortality; consolidate fishery responsibility into one council and direct it, the Corps, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the FERC to agree on stream flows; provide funds for the council to direct the release of water; and direct the Secretary of the Interior to report on needs to consolidate and improve effectiveness of fish and water management.


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