Key federal lawmakers should ensure that any emergency funding given to the Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) or hydropower generating agencies, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S Bureau of Reclamation to address the COVID-19 pandemic be explicitly defined as non-reimbursable in the enacting legislation, Joy Ditto, President and CEO of the American Public Power Association said in a March 23 letter.
The letter was sent to Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Reps. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and Kay Granger, R-Texas.
Shelby is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, while Leahy is Vice-Chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Lowey is Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, while Granger is Ranking Member on that committee.
In her letter to the lawmakers, Ditto noted that the PMAs provide millions of Americans served by public power and rural electric cooperative utilities with cost-based hydroelectric power produced at federal dams.
She also pointed out that PMA rates are set to cover all generation and transmission costs, as well as repayment, with interest, of the federal investment, as well as irrigation assistance, in these multi-purpose federal projects. “None of the costs are borne by taxpayers. For many decades, these partnerships have benefitted the federal government and public power and rural electric cooperative utilities, their retail customers, and their communities,” wrote Ditto.
“We appreciate the efforts to provide stimulus funds for the federal agencies during this emergency. Please recognize that, unless otherwise noted, additional funds that are provided to the PMAs, the Corps, and Reclamation’s hydropower programs may be recovered in rates by electric customers, which is likely an unintended outcome,” Ditto said in the letter.
If the PMAs must recover these additional expenditures in rates, “ultimate power customers will see rate increases at a time when many are facing the economic impacts of the coronavirus emergency, including reduced electricity load,” Ditto said.
“Therefore, please treat all emergency funds for the PMAs, the Corps, and Reclamation on par with funding for other federal agencies and explicitly stipulate that funds provided under the bill may not be recovered in rates from customers of the Federal Power Program.”
APPA has set up a webpage that provides information and resources for its members related to COVID-19 and updates on how this affects APPA programs and events.