Washington lawmakers join regional challenge to sale of NW electricity to California

Olympia, WA - Jan. 9, 2001 - While the state of Washington's energy supply is sure to be debated during

the just-opened 2001 legislative session, state Reps. Jim Buck, R-Joyce, and

Gary Chandler, R-Moses Lake and state Sen. Bob Morton, R-Orient, already are

working at the regional level to oppose the sale of Northwest electricity to


At the Jan. 5-6 meeting of the Legislative Council on River Governance - a

group of elected officials from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana - Buck

and Chandler helped pass a resolution urging governors and state

congressional delegations to protect Pacific Northwest power supplies.

Declines in river levels have reduced the region's hydroelectric generating

capacity. Even so, the U.S. Department of Energy has ordered the Bonneville

Power Administration and other Northwest power suppliers to sell electricity

to California.

Buck said the California crisis resulted from re-regulation, increasing

population, and tough environmental regulations that have curtailed

development of new power plants in the state. He noted that Gov. Gary Locke

has vetoed proposed tax incentives for companies wanting to build power

plants in Washington, or upgrade their facilities to produce more energy.

Chandler wonders how serious some Washington leaders are about ensuring a

stable energy supply for the state's homes and businesses. "I'm concerned

that it'll take a brownout on the west side of the Cascades to get their

attention," he said. "By then it may be too late."

The other members of Washington's delegation to the river governance

council, state Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Lacey, and Sen. Harriet Spanel,

D-Bellingham, chose not to attend the two-day meeting in Boise, noted

Chandler, co-chair of the House Agriculture and Ecology Committee.

"We met with legislators, both Republican and Democrat, from the other three

states. The common message we heard was the severe impact rising power rates

are having on each of the states. Businesses are being forced to either

temporarily close or shut down permanently. Hundreds of jobs have already

been lost.

"This clearly is not a partisan issue. It's an economic issue that affects

us all," said Chandler.

In a letter to Montana Sen. Tom Beck, Sens. Sid Snyder, D-Long Beach, and

Spanel claimed they were too busy preparing for the 2001 legislative session

to attend.

Chandler and Buck noted that Oregon and Idaho also started their legislative

session this week, and Montana's Legislature convened the first week of

January. "It's hard to believe it was more of a hardship for Washington

Democrats to attend than the other 24 legislators who made the trip,"

Chandler said. It was disappointing that the Washington members of the

Northwest Power Planning Council also were absent, yet the Oregon, Idaho and

Montana members of the power council were on hand to make presentations,

Morton added.

Buck, Chandler and Morton worry that sharing power to ease California's

electricity crunch may create a domino effect for Northwest consumers,

because Energy Secretary Bill Richardson's order included Seattle City Light

and Puget Sound Energy as well as the BPA.

"We need to build more power plants to meet future growth demands," said

Buck, who is chair of the House Republican Caucus. "To ensure an adequate

and affordable supply for future generations, I think the Legislature and

the governor need to take a fresh, serious look at a sales-tax exemption for

development of new power resources."

"The longer the region delays a unified approach to resolving our energy

deficit, the more likely that California will successfully siphon more of

our low-cost power away," said Morton, ranking Republican on the Senate

Environmental Quality, Energy and Water Resources Committee.

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