Cantwell, Colleagues Oppose Proposal To Auction Off Federal Electric Transmission Assets

Senators challenge plan that creates uncertainty for consumers, unnecessary financial risk

March 23, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and a bipartisan group of senators wrote to Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Mick Mulvaney to oppose a provision in the President’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget that would auction off the transmission assets of the Department of Energy’s Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) and abandon cost-based rates.   

In the letter, the senators write, “There is a long, bipartisan tradition of opposing similar past proposals, including last year’s proposal that recommended selling off federal PMA transmission assets. Unfortunately, this year’s budget is broader in scope, potentially undermining reliable and affordable electric service in our states. We believe divesting over 33,000 circuit-miles of transmission – transmission that was built specifically to connect federal electric generation to load – will not improve our nation’s infrastructure. Instead, it will destabilize the balance sheets of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA), and the Southwestern Power Administration (SWPA).”

“Privatizing these assets will likely not result in incentivizing new transmission infrastructure that many of us support. Instead, it will simply shift economic value from families and businesses in our states to investors,” said the Senators.

The letter concludes stating, “Through the years, the PMAs adapted to changing market conditions, sometimes encouraged by congressional oversight and direction. There remains room for continued improvement, and moving forward, we want to work with the Administration to ensure federal electric transmission and power marketing continue to deliver value to consumers and the federal government’s balance sheet.”

The letter led by Sen. Cantwell was also signed by Sen. Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Sen. Bennet (D-Colo.), Sen. Boozman (R-Ark.), Sen. Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Sen. Crapo (R-Idaho), Sen. Daines (R-Mont.), Sen. Ernst (R-Iowa), Sen. Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sen. Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Sen. Heinrich (D-N.M.), Sen. Heller (R-Nev.); Sen. Hoeven (R-N.D.), Sen. Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sen. McCaskill (D-Mo.), Sen. Merkley (D-Ore.), Sen. Murray (D-Wash.), Sen. Risch (R-Idaho), Sen. Rounds (R-S.D.), Sen. Smith (D-Minn.), Sen. Tester (D-Mont.), and Sen. Wyden (D-Ore.).

The full letter to can be found here.