Opposition Mounts to PMA Sell-off

A trio of letters to Trump administration officials shows that solid opposition is mounting against a plan that would put the nation's power marketing administrations on the auction block. 

Opposition is mounting to a Trump administration proposal that would affect customers of the agencies that market federal hydropower. (Photo By: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

Opposition is mounting to a Trump administration proposal that would affect customers of the agencies that market federal hydropower. (Photo By: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

Letters signed by NRECA, a group of 21 U.S. senators, and 15 members of the House of Representatives all said the PMA sell-off plan is deeply flawed and could undermine reliable, affordable electric service in 34 states served by the power marketers.

Kirk Johnson, NRECA senior vice president, government relations, said the letters show a strong, unified approach toward defeating the proposal contained in the fiscal 2018 budget that President Trump released in May.

About 1,200 utilities in 34 states, including more than 600 co-ops, purchase cost-based power produced at federal hydropower projects from the PMAs.

"We are working with our allies on Capitol Hill to nip this misguided plan in the bud," Johnson said. "The response on behalf of co-ops and PMA customers has been very strong and we expect it to grow even stronger."

The plan would raise $5.5 billion by spinning off the transmission assets of Bonneville Power Administration, Western Area Power Administration and Southwestern Power Administration. A fourth PMA, Southeastern Power Administration, does not own transmission assets.

In a June 5 letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry, NRECA and the American Public Power Association dismissed the administration's contention that selling PMA transmission assets would improve economic efficiency.

"These arguments are merely a pretext for actions that would raise electricity costs for millions of people and businesses," according to the letter, signed by NRECA CEO Jim Matheson and APPA President and CEO Sue Kelly.

On Capitol Hill, a bipartisan missive signed by 21 senators from 14 states called the plan a "short-sighted proposal" to savage a program that more than pays its own way through extra benefits like flood control and irrigation.

"The sale of these PMA transmission assets would threaten the integration of these facilities with the PMA's power marketing responsibilities, raising rates and impairing grid reliability," the senators told Perry.

Also, a bipartisan group of 15 members of the Northwest congressional delegation said the sell-off plan could be catastrophic for rural communities where poles and wires might not be worth as much to would-be investors.

"Private companies are unlikely to give these communities the proper maintenance and attention they need to maintain complex transmission assets," the legislators wrote June 5 to Perry and budget director Mick Mulvaney.

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