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Oregon And Washington House Members Unanimously Oppose Trump's BPA Privatization Proposal

<p>Power lines from Bonneville Dam head in all directions in North Bonneville, Wash.</p>

Don Ryan

Power lines from Bonneville Dam head in all directions in North Bonneville, Wash.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers from Oregon and Washington agree on at least one thing: They oppose President Donald Trump’s proposal to sell off most of the region’s electrical grid.

All 15 House members from the two states signed a letter released Monday that opposes privatizing transmission lines owned by the Bonneville Power Administration. The federal agency transmits about 75 percent of the Pacific Northwest’s electricity and plays a key economic role in the region.

The legislators said Trump's proposal would "lead to a certain rate increase for consumers" and particularly hurt rural communities.

"All Northwest utilities and the customers they serve depend on BPA's grid to access affordable and reliable power," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Trump's budget director, Mick Mulvaney.

"Selling off BPA's transmission assets is bad public policy that undermines the President's economic objectives and betrays a lack of understanding of the Northwest."

Trump's proposed budget noted that most of the country's transmission grid is owned by for-profit investors and that ownership of transmission assets "is best carried out by the private sector." The budget also says the sale of the grid would generate revenue for taxpayers.

Bipartisan opposition to privatizing parts of the BPA is nothing new. In the 1980s, then-Sen. Mark O. Hatfield, R-Ore. and chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, said a Reagan proposal to privatize agency functions would pass "over my dead body." Similar proposals by President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush also failed to gain traction in Congress.

The BPA's service area also includes Idaho and and western Montana. Aides to Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., who gathered signatures for the letter, said they did not get a response from the Idaho and Montana lawmakers.

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Jeff Mapes is a senior political reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, Jeff covered state and national politics for The Oregonian for nearly 32 years. He has covered numerous presidential, congressional, gubernatorial and ballot measure campaigns, as well as many sessions of the Legislature, stretching back to 1985. Jeff graduated from San Jose State University with a B.A. in journalism.