Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Cantwell leads the way in protecting the NW

The Bush administration continues to snub state and local governments across the nation, choosing to ignore regional concerns and breaking its own promises. For instance, we learned yesterday that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was blindsided by President Bush's disclosure of new details about a foiled 2002 terrorist plan to destroy the city's tallest building.

This week, we also learned that the Bush administration is pursuing a plan to reverse a decades-old Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) policy of using revenue from surplus power sales to lower electricity rates for consumers in the Pacific Northwest.

Senator Maria Cantwell is leading the way in opposing the administration's plan to screw the Pacific Northwest:
In a letter to the president’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB)—the agency in charge of the president’s budget proposal—the senators called for the immediate cessation of efforts to circumvent Congress and implement the ill-advised plan.

“This backdoor rate hike would cost jobs, weigh our economy down, and hurt working families throughout the Northwest,” said Cantwell, a member of the Senate Energy Committee. “Just a week after the president said lower energy prices are the key to moving our economy forward, he’s proposing a nearly $1 billion rate hike that our economy simply cannot afford.”

In their letter to OMB, Senators Maria Cantwell, Larry Craig (R-ID), Patty Murray (D-WA), Conrad Burns (R-MT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Gordon Smith (R-OR) called on the president to abandon the plan, which they said would undermine decades of regionally-based decision-making on issues critical to the Northwest economy.

“We ask that you immediately cease efforts to administratively implement this plan,” the senators wrote. “Northwest ratepayers continue to recover from high power costs resulting from the Western energy crisis, which increased regional wholesale electricity rates by 46 percent. …The latest OMB proposal [sets] a dangerous precedent of unwarranted, administrative micromanagement when it comes to decisions that must be based on Northwest consensus.”

Currently, BPA has the authority to sell surplus power to customers both inside and outside the Northwest. BPA then uses the revenue from these surplus power sales to lower electricity rates throughout the region. About 70 percent of the electricity consumed in the State of Washington is BPA power.

The proposal included in the administration’s Fiscal Year 2007 budget would prevent certain surplus sale revenues from being used to lower power prices for BPA customers, and could raise Northwest power rates by an estimated $924 million over the next 10 years — depending on the amount of surplus power BPA sells and the market price of power.
NPI applauds Senator Cantwell for leading the way in protecting the Pacific Northwest from getting shafted by the Bush administration's poorly devised policies.

Last year, the regional Congressional delegation was successful in stopping a similar proposal in the budget that would have directed the Bonneville Power Administration to abandon its historic system of cost-based rates—costing the Northwest more than 13,000 jobs.

A preliminary analysis estimated that this plan would lead to a loss of 1,120 jobs.

After the defeat of the 2005 proposal, Bush's Energy Secretary, Samuel Bodman, promised not to attempt to implment similiar proposals without the approval of Congress. But it's clear that the Bush administration doesn't care about keeping its promises - or listening to regional concerns. The Bush team is good at stealing elections and deceiving the public, but they aren't good at governing.

Today, Senator Cantwell launched an online petition that gives Washingtonians the ability to let Bush know their opinion on the backdoor rate hike he has proposed in his budget. To sign the petition, please visit Cantwell's Senate website.

And yesterday, Senator Cantwell and Representative Jay Inslee of Washington's 1st Congressional District commended Governor Christine Gregoire's decision to join other western states in a legal challenge to the administration's attempts to trash the Roadless Rule.

Washington State's national forests alone have some two million acres of roadless areas which have been protected under the Roadless Rule:
"Instead of protecting our most pristine public lands for the economic, environmental, and recreational benefits they provide, this administration is intent on opening up tens of millions of acres to road-building, logging, and mining," said Cantwell, a member of the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

"It’s wrong to push roads through untouched forests against the wishes of a majority of Washingtonians. We need to strike a responsible balance and preserve America’s last wild lands for the collective enjoyment of current and future generations."

"The day will come when Congress stands up for our national forests," added Inslee, who sits on the House Resources Committee.

"Meantime, we have to depend on the judicial system to stop the administration from damaging our forests by selling out to special interests. I’m appreciative the governor has joined the fight to protect the many places—like the Kettle River Range, Dark Divide and Lena Lake—that are the heirlooms of all families in Washington state."
Senator Maria Cantwell continues to work hard to protect the people and the environment of the Pacific Northwest from the Bush administration's misguided policies - and we are extremely appreciative of her efforts.

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