NW lawmakers warn Energy Department from taking control of BPA

By:  The Seattle Times – Kyung M. Song
Source: The Seattle Times

The troubled culture inside the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) that lead the U.S. Energy Department to impose new oversight should not be a prelude to a federal takeover of energy policies in the Northwest.

That’s the message in a letter sent Friday to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz signed by all 23 congressional lawmakers from Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

A scathing report released last month by Energy Department investigators found a culture of intimidation and nepotism inside the BPA, a federal agency that operates regional transmissions lines and sells hydropower from federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

BPA human resources managers, the report said, widely flouted federal rules for preferential hiring for veterans and stacked candidate screening in favor of hand-picked applicants.

But the lawmakers warned the Energy Department not to use the hiring discrimination as an excuse to take control of BPA. The agency is financed by ratepayers and thus independent of annual appropriations by Congress.

“BPA decisions must be made in the Northwest for the benefit of the Northwest. While DOE deserves credit for uncovering BPA’s violation of veterans’ preference and other federal hiring rules, on many BPA matters DOE simply has neither the expertise nor the resources to effectively manage the day-to-day operations,” the members wrote.

Signatories were led by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Others included Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, as well as all 10 House members from Washington.