Yesterday, the House Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Congressman Doc Hastings, held an oversight hearing which examined bipartisan concerns that Energy Secretary Steven Chu's memorandum to the Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs), including the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), could significantly increase electricity rates on 40 million Americans. Through the Chu memo, the Obama Administration seems determined to pursue a Washington D.C.-knows-best mentality by imposing costly mandates at a time when American families can least afford them.
The hearing follows three congressional letters expressing concerns over the Administration's proposals: Pacific Northwest letter, 116 Member letter, and Senator Baucus's letter.
After the hearing, Chairman Hastings released the following statement:
"We heard one thing loud and clear: those representing power customers -- the small businesses, families, schools and large employers -- are deeply concerned and fear the directives in the Chu Memo will result in higher electricity prices for over 40 million Americans," said Chairman Hastings. "And despite bipartisan calls from the House and Senate for this Washington, DC-mandate to be set aside, the DOE witness repeatedly and very obviously dodged when asked if power rates could be driven up. All we were given is the cold comfort that DOE doesn't know if power rates will be forced higher because a committee of faceless federal bureaucrats are still trying to decide.
"I can assure the affected families and businesses threatened by these high power rates that the Committee won't sit idly by while Secretary Chu and DOE bureaucrats continue pushing this Washington, DC-mandate. We'll keep demanding transparency and straight answers from the Obama Administration."
While Secretary Chu, for the second time, refused to appear before the Committee to explain the effects of his memo, witnesses with on-the-ground experience testified about potentially devastating impacts to electricity and water rates, small businesses and agriculture.
Executive Director Scott Corwin of the Public Power Council, which is a trade association representing the consumer-owned electric utilities of the Pacific Northwest spoke about the unique regional relationships PMAs enjoy with ratepayers and noted "directives from outside the region rarely work as well as solutions crafted by regional parties with knowledge of the unique nature of each power system." Corwin warned that "Direction to pursue policy objectives that would impose costs on BPA ratepayers without offsetting benefits is a dangerous threat to the region."