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
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
"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
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,
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.