By editorial board • 

Just say no to adminstration’s Bonneville Power takeover try

Donald Trump has proven the most partisan president in modern American history.

When he musters bluff and bluster to demand unity, he isn’t offering to give ground if you are, in hopes of meeting you in the middle. He’s insisting you come around, even if it entails abandoning core beliefs.

But when he proposed this week to sell the Bonneville Power Administration’s Northwest power grid, and allow its new private owner to put it on a market-rate footing, he finally found a way to unite the region’s Democrats and Republicans in common cause. All 15 members of the Oregon and Washington congressional delegations, liberal and conservative alike, quickly locked arms in opposition.

After giving corporate America a trillion-dollar tax cut, privatizing the BPA power grid would be a way to soak up some of the resulting sea of red ink. And it would, of course, primarily punish a portion of the so-called Left Coast, which voted against him in landslide proportions.

Reliably Republican Idaho, which commands only four electoral votes, could be written off as collateral damage. Ditto with the wide open spaces of western Montana.

As The Seattle Times noted in response, “Because it is a public entity, (the BPA) does not require the rapacious profit margin that would inevitably flow from Trump’s wrongheaded privatization proposal. It is self-sustaining, dependent on energy sales and ratepayers for its budget. It does not depend on any federal appropriation. And it underpins an economy with industries that located here because of the lower cost power.”

Among those industries, of course, is McMinnville’s Cascade Steel Rolling Mills, one of the region’s largest and best-paying sources of family-wage jobs.
The mill consumes more cheap BPA power than the rest of the city combined. There’s no possibility it could sustain its local steelmaking operation on market-rate power.

Hawking the BPA grid to the highest bidder would devastate every corner of the Northwest economy. It would stand to double or triple power rates to local households in the bargain.

And for what? A small offset to a massive deficit the administration walked into with its eyes wide open? An unfair shot at a politically hostile portion of the country? A hollow blow struck for an ideological article of faith — that big government is inevitably bad, big business inevitably good?

We’ve been down this road before. It’s time to send a clear message to D.C.: Keep your hands off our grid and out of our pockets.


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