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Trump's Budget Proposes Selling Off BPA Grid

By Courtney Flatt (OPB)
May 24, 2017 10:30 p.m.
President Trump's proposed budget includes a plan to sell off the Bonneville Power Administration's transmission assets.

President Trump's proposed budget includes a plan to sell off the Bonneville Power Administration's transmission assets.

Flickr Creative Commons: Kevin Dooley

One of President Trump’s ideas to generate revenue is not sitting well with some Northwest utilities. The proposed budget includes a plan to sell off publicly-owned transmission lines, like those owned by the Bonneville Power Administration.


The BPA operates about three-quarters of the high-voltage transmission systems in its territory, including Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

The Trump administration wants to privatize most of the BPA’s transmission assets. It’s a move that’s been considered off and on for about 30 years. In years past, Northwest congressional delegates have fought the idea.

The administration said selling the BPA transmission assets could save about $4.9 billion over a decade.

The BPA is a part of the Department of Energy. The budget proposal includes the sale of assets from two other federal power marketing administrations.


The administration said power lines, towers, substations and rights-of-way could be leased out to the private sector.

According to a fact sheet put out by the administration, “Leasing these assets will more efficiently allocate economic resources and help relieve long-term pressures on the Federal deficit related to future Federal capital investment.”

But the NW Energy Coalition said in a news release that divesting the BPA’s transmission assets would “fragment the Northwest’s energy system.”

Fred Heutte is a senior policy associate at the NW Energy Coalition.

“Because BPA is a self-supporting business and makes annual payments to the federal government to pay down its debt, any revenue from the sale of its transmission assets would be a one-time fix,” Heutte said in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said he would fight the “misguided attempt.” He said privatizing the BPA would increase costs for households and businesses.

“Public power customers in the Pacific Northwest have paid for the system and their investment should not be put up for sale,” Wyden said.

The BPA delivers power from 31 hydroelectric dams throughout the Columbia River Basin and the Columbia Generating Station, the region’s only nuclear power plant. It provides about 28 percent of the electric power used in the Northwest.