More than 50 lawmakers voice opposition to PMA/TVA transmission asset sale proposal

More than 50 members of Congress last week sent a letter to House Budget Committee leaders expressing opposition to President Trump’s fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget request proposal to sell the transmission assets of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), Southwestern Power Administration (SWPA), and Western Area Power Administration (WAPA).

The lawmakers also voiced their opposition to the administration’s proposal to change all four of the Power Marketing Administrations’ rate structures -- including the Southeastern Power Administration (SEPA) -- from a cost-based structure to a market-based structure.

The letter was led by Representatives Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., Kurt Schrader D-Ore. and Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.

Gosar, Schrader, Newhouse and the other lawmakers noted federal power marketed by the PMAs benefits the U.S. Treasury as appropriations are repaid with interest by the customers that receive the power.  No costs are borne by taxpayers, they pointed out.

The Department of Energy’s budget request asserts that the proposal to change cost-based rates to market-based rates is a “commonsense shift that lessens the burden on the federal taxpayer,” the letter noted. “This is a misguided statement because no costs are currently being burdened on taxpayers,” the letter said.

“Improving our nation’s infrastructure is both a priority of this Administration and of Congress,” the bipartisan group of lawmakers also said in their April 16 letter to Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., Chairman of the House Committee on the Budget, and Rep. Steve Womack, R-Arkansas, Ranking Member on the House Committee on the Budget.

“However, the proposal to divest of the over 33,000 miles of transmission lines would undermine infrastructure goals and sideline investment that could otherwise be used on new projects,” the letter said. “Privatized versions of PMA transmission assets would not provide power at-cost, which would in turn result in higher prices for those that can least afford it.  Ultimately, divestiture of these assets will shift economic value from families and business in our states to investors.”    

These budget proposals “have been rejected by Congress repeatedly because they were neither economically viable nor politically popular. We want to ensure that our federal hydropower program is protected for future generations and ask that you reject these proposals in the President’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal,” the letter said.

In February, the American Public Power Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association said that they were disappointed to see that the FY 2021 budget request proposed to divest the transmission assets held by TVA, SWPA, WAPA and BPA.