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Guest Editorial

Good news on Northwest energy costs

BY DOC HASTINGS

Protecting our dams, restoring common sense to the Endangered Species Act and working together to find other solutions to lower energy costs are priorities for the Northwest economy.

I've been working with the Bonneville Power Administration and my colleagues in Congress to help ensure that wholesale power rates in the Northwest are as low as possible. Most recently, Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon and I led a bipartisan group of lawmakers in urging the Bonneville Power Administration to adopt the lowest possible wholesale power rates in the next three-year rate period that starts this fall. Bonneville Power Administration's wholesale power rate is the amount they charge Northwest public utilities and contributes to the overall cost of power in our region.

The Bonneville Power Administration recently announced that it expects to cut power rates to its utility customers to $27.33 per megawatt hour - this is 10 percent lower than the draft rates proposed last year. This will help contribute to affordable power rates for Northwest families, farmers and job-creating businesses and it is great news for our regional economy.

In other Northwest power news, earlier this month I brought the House Water and Power Subcommittee to Pasco for a hearing on "Electricity Costs and Salmon: Finding a Balance." At the hearing, individuals from a variety of perspectives discussed the impacts of electric rate increases driven by escalating fish costs. The need for greater transparency and oversight over salmon spending and the ongoing litigation over federal dam operations was highlighted.

The federal dams on the Columbia-Snake River system have been the cornerstone of our region's economic development. Those dams are never going anywhere as long I have something to say about it. During the hearing, I had the opportunity to discuss the unelected, and I believe unaccountable, federal judge in Portland who appears determined to run the river system himself with little regard for the impacts of his decisions on this side of the mountains. As a result of Judge Redden's court orders, a steady drip of expensive fish measures of questionable value flows from his courtroom directly onto the backs of ratepayers and river users.

There are real consequences of this policy to those of us who pay the household electric bill, or have to manage the overhead costs of a small business, a farm, a school or a hospital. I am backing a plan that would shine a necessary light on the reality of the increasing costs of the Endangered Species Act placed on Northwest ratepayers. It's time to shift the focus more to accountability and ensuring no federal or ratepayer dollar spent on salmon is squandered.

Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) represents Central Washington's 4th Congressional District.

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