There is a home invasion in progress.
Where? Insert your address. The heist of our most valuable home commodity is possibly taking place now. And the predator is none other than our new government administration doing what it does best — robbing "We the People" to make the wealthy richer. Roll over in your grave, Robin Hood.
It's true — our neighborhood has been cased. Our great Pacific Northwest has a lucrative power grid called the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) attached to every house and business. We paid for it with our rate charges and continue paying. It belongs to us and it is as personal as your morning coffee, TV news or cell phone.
In his 2018 fiscal year budget, Trump proposed grabbing and selling our regional power to support his increased military spending, huge tax gifts to major corporations and billionaire cronies, and a wall-building monument to himself. Our precious power commodity we use daily is potentially being ripped off.
Implications of this grand theft are ominous. Who would fence what is being stolen from us? Who could buy it? Great questions. With the current open door policy of Russia to the Oval Office, could a foreign investor purchase our valuable infrastructure? It may take some legal manipulation, but the Trump son-in-law is funding his real estate development by selling U.S. visas and whatever else to China — not exactly our best buddy. Or, how about selling to Trump Enterprises? Then he would have us in a chokehold, inching closer to the status of his idol, Vladimir Putin.
An additional concern is within the proposed transaction itself. The current value of the BPA power grid is $6.1 billion, but the proposal discounts it to $4.9 billion. Why? Big puzzle. Any seller with any sense knows better than to take a loss. Unless he didn't care (or need) to recoup his investment and at the same time give a huge unexplained windfall to the buyer. Perhaps the seller is trying for a clandestine, quick fire-sale deal. Something doesn't smell right here.
What exactly will this robber get away with? Our valuable energy that we ratepayers financed and that provides our light, heat, food and jobs, the vital basics of living. If your home, business, or the entity you work for fall within a 300,000-square-mile area, you are the targeted victim. For perspective, this includes the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and some of California — a huge chunk of real estate. The BPA provides 75 percent of Northwest energy and sells it to this vast area over a network of 15,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines.
Because it is a non-taxed publicly held entity, it supplies at-cost energy to its customers. At-cost is the operative phrase. The state of Washington has the second lowest commercial energy rate in the continental U.S., closely followed by Idaho and Oregon, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Compare this with Connecticut, who pays 17.77 cents per kWh of usage. If the system were operated by a for-profit money-hungry middleman, as Trump proposes, it would then be subject to federal taxes with a bottom line to not only recoup its investment, but to skim off a mandated profit. Ergo, higher rates.
Portland economist Robert McCcullough estimates rate increases between 26 percent and 44 percent. Yikes! When I contacted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) about their stance on the issue, a representative stated they were unaware of the proposed sale.
What? Another failure of the administration to fully vet its actions?
The FERC rep cautioned that we would want to oppose any such sale. Then they reminded me that Russia discounted and privatized all utilities and that led to their oligarchy of today. Funny Russia would be mentioned. Are we following Putin's admired lead?
This slick heist of our power has been attempted before and shot down. The difference is, this time it only involves the divesting of the vital transmission lines, not the entire BPA.
Transmission is the spinal cord of the entire Northwest power grid — earning one-fourth of total revenue and three-quarters of reserves — and ensures the entire kit and caboodle's financial viability. The BPA's 31 hydroelectric dams, nuclear, wind and solar power structure has been set up to keep its private and commercial at-cost rates the lowest in the nation. It provides systemic stability, funds necessary maintenance, guarantees service to remote areas, and provides for development required to keep pace with emerging technologies.
Executive director of the Public Power Council, Scott Corwin, in a recent news release stated that the result of the sale would, "be a transfer of value from the people of the northwest to the U.S. Treasury."
Robbery of our crown jewel is more like it.
A takeover like this would negatively affect BPA's credit rating. We must not overlook that it also maintains jurisdiction over many other resources of the Columbia River basin. Things that are vital to the region: flood control, river navigation and transportation, irrigation, regional water supply, wildlife resources, recreational opportunities, salinity management, and even funding for federal water projects. These crucial ancillary operations would jeopardize the natural resources with which we have been blessed if shifted to a third-party, for-profit entity, as proposed. Our BPA is the largest, but two other energy grids are under attack as well — the Southwest Power Administration and the Western Area Power Administration. At least four state governors, 21 senators, and many legislators from several states have voiced their strong opposition to the proposal. The Northwest Power and Conservation Council and the Columbia River People's Utility District oppose it. We, the people, need to support their opposition in every way possible.
You will be victimized in your own home and in broad daylight if this proposal passes. Be forewarned and prepared to respond with your voice.
We, the people, must speak out against such tyranny by our own government.
Hal Ritz lives in Scappoose.