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2017 Legislative Objectives:

 

Climate Change

Climate change is a global issue. In an effort to avoid duplicative and costly regulations that can harm Washington's competitiveness, WRECA prefers a national effort as the best approach to limiting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

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Regulation

Washington electric co-ops as consumer-owned utilities are self-regulated and do not require government regulation. WRECA opposes any regulation of electric co-ops or mutual companies by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC).

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Small Utilities

WRECA seeks legislative and regulatory provisions that provide small utilities with exemptions or more simple compliance alternatives. Small utilities are defined as those with two percent or less of the state's total number of electric consumers as reported by the most recent data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

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Energy

The Legislature must consider the ramifications of its actions on the energy costs for Washington's families and businesses, and maximize the opportunities to utilize Washington's abundant, renewable natural resources.

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I-937 (Energy Independence Act)

Amend the state's RPS (RCW 19.285) to:

  • Repeal mandates to purchase power or credits that is not required to meet the utility's load,
  • Allow incremental power generated as a result of efficiency improvements at federal hydro facilities to count towards a utility's RPS requirements,
  • Provide greater renewable energy credit (REC) banking flexibility,
  • Allow conservation and energy efficiency achievements to count towards the utility's renewable energy requirements, and
  • Exempt "small utilities" as defined in RCW 19.29A without any increase in the renewable energy or conservation requirements.

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Bonneville Power Administration (BPA)

As consumer-owned utilities that have preference to federal power, WRECA members buy much or all of their power from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) as well as using the Bonneville transmission system to deliver that power. Issues impacting the agency weigh heavily on the cooperatives, their consumers, and their ability to enable job creation throughout Washington.

BPA Mission

  • The agency plays an integral role in the economic vitality of the Pacific Northwest.
  • By law, BPA's first mission is to deliver, at cost, the clean, renewable hydropower that is generated at
  • Federal dams to the region's not for profit, consumer-owned electric utilities.
  • BPA maintains the reliability of the electric grid and, within its statutory authority, helps advance
  • Energy efficiency and renewable generation, and protects regional fish and wildlife.

WRECA appreciates the Washington congressional delegation's support of BPA and its mission.

  • Since 2009, BPA's average power rates have increased over 30 percent, over twice the rate of inflation.
  • WRECA members are interested in BPA's "Focus 2028" initiative, but hope that it is more than a simple study or discussions and that it will lead to serious considerations of issues that put pressure on BPA rates.
    • Meeting fish and wildlife program obligations is a more cost-effective manner
    • More flexibility and efficient implementation of Energy Efficiency Program
    • Maximize borrowing authority by strategically investing in BPA transmission and the federal hydropower system
    • Reform BPA's budget process to address competitive rate realities.

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Columbia River Treaty

The Columbia River Treaty is an agreement between Canada and the United States guiding the development and operation of some water resources in the Columbia River Basin for flood control and power needs. The Treaty was first implemented in 1964. Either country may terminate some Treaty provisions on or after September 16, 2024 by providing a ten year advance notice. Some provisions terminate on that date without any action being taken.

  • We appreciate the Washington Delegation's support for the State Department -- with guidance from the Northwest congressional delegation and regional stakeholders – to expedite review of the Columbia River Treaty.
  • The Columbia River Treaty is grossly imbalanced, with Canada receiving ten times the benefits that Northwest interests receive from coordinated system operations.
  • The Treaty obligates the U. S. to send an estimated $250 to $350 million in clean hydropower benefits annually to Canada.
    • This cost is paid by ratepayers receiving power from BPA and impacts our power rates.
  • It is critical that ecosystem measures in the Treaty context are limited to issues truly international in scope.
    • Issues not directly related to cross-border coordination should be addressed in the appropriate domestic forum.

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Regulation of Electric Cooperative Poles

Electric co-op poles are designed and constructed for a specific purpose -- to carry electrical wires and related equipment. Because working on or near energized electrical lines and equipment is inherently hazardous, safety codes and regulations govern the way overhead lines and poles are designed, constructed, installed, and maintained in order to protect utility workers and the general public. These same safety rules specify the placement of other equipment on poles such as telecommunications or cable equipment. This is because any foreign attachment departs from the design and construction of the original overhead line and may introduce significant engineering and safety issues which must be considered. This includes reliability issues because the attachments increase wind and ice loading, making lines and poles more susceptible to breakdowns during extreme weather events. In some cases, the addition of foreign attachments may necessitate installation of taller or stronger poles or call for relocation of poles, increasing costs to the electric co-op members.

WRECA is concerned about draft legislation that will adversely impact electric cooperatives

  • Draft legislation before the House Energy and Commerce Committee would provide additional FCC regulation of attachments to electric co-op power poles.
  • Electric co-ops support the expansion of broadband capability in their communities with reasonable pole attachment rates and access procedures.
  • The proposal would adversely affect electric utility pole attachment regulations.
  • The proposal would subject co-ops to burdensome regulations and reporting requirements to the FCC for the first time.
  • WRECA urges Congress to drop all provision that would increase regulations on co-ops and maintain the federal pole attachment exemption for electric cooperatives.

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Federal Land Management Policies

Electric cooperative efforts to maintain grid reliability and ensure public safety include keeping power line rights-of-way clear of hazardous trees and vegetation, even along lines that cross federal lands to provide affordable electricity to rural Americans. Proactive rights-of-way upkeep that includes vegetation management to ensure reliable delivery of electricity is a uniform utility industry practice adopted by electric co-ops across the country.

However, outdated and inconsistent federal land management policies make it more difficult and costly for electric co-ops to get approval for rights-of-way management to prevent power outages, protect human life and limit impacts to natural resources on or near federal property. Federal reforms are needed to cut red tape and make it easier for electric co-ops to manage vegetation to limit downed power lines, prevent catastrophic fires and respond to emergencies.

  • WRECA urges Congress to pass HR 2358, "The Electricity Reliability and Protection Act".
  • HR 2358 includes reforms to streamline rights-of-way reviews and time limits for federal decision-makers to provide consistency, flexibility and accountability.
  • Would ensure that utilities cannot be held liable for damages if the government fails to allow them to manage vegetation on a right-of-way or adjacent area
  • Such reforms will make it easier for electric cooperatives to maintain safety and reliability by performing needed vegetation management to prevent threats to power lines and respond to emergencies.

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NOAA Supplemental BiOp

Hydropower from the Federal Columbia River Power System is a key economic driver for jobs in the Northwest. This efficient and renewable resource provides low-cost power without carbon emissions. Hydro provides over 60% of the region's electrical generation capacity, and it makes up almost 90% of the generation within the Bonneville Power Administration's resource portfolio. As such, it is the primary resource used to serve electricity to the millions of customers of publicly and cooperatively owned utilities in the Northwest with preference rights to federal power. The hydropower system in the Northwest also provides other key benefits that are part of our economy and way of life. These include provision of critical flood control, irrigation, navigation, and recreation.

We are pleased that the updated salmon plan continues to employ the best available science to protect listed species.

  • Hydropower provides low-cost power without carbon emissions.
  • Hydro provides over 60% of the region's electrical generation capacity, and it makes up almost 90% of the generation within the Bonneville Power Administration's resource portfolio.
  • WRECA members support cost-effective actions to protect and enhance fish and wildlife in the Columbia River Basin.
    • Since 1980, BPA customers have invested nearly $15 billion in Endangered Species Act and other statutory obligations to fish and wildlife.
    • About 30% of the power cost charged by BPA is attributable to fish and wildlife expenditures.
  • An estimated 2.27 million adult salmon and steelhead returned past Bonneville Dam in 2015.
    • The most recent 10-year average return for salmon and steelhead was 1.6 million.

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Oppose Proposals to Remove the Snake River Dams

  • Removal would result in a sharp increase in BPA's wholesale rates to Northwest utilities and a steep hike in families' and businesses' electric bills (12 to 15 percent). (Northwest Power and Conservation Council)
  • Together, the four Snake River dams produce 1,020 megawatts of reliable energy -- enough clean, carbon-free energy to power a city the size of Seattle.
    • Off-and-on resources like wind and solar simply cannot replace what the Snake River dams do for the Northwest.
    • The energy produced by the Snake River dams is critical to stabilizing the power grid, integrating wind and solar into the system, and dealing with power emergencies.
  • Dam removal advocates say they are concerned about global warming, however, common sense says the last thing you would do is remove this tremendous source of carbon-free, clean energy: hydropower.
    • Removing the Snake dams would add 4.4 million metric tons of CO2 to our skies each year. (Northwest Power and Conservation Council)
    • It would take two nuclear, three coal-fired, or six gas-fired power plants to replace the average annual power produced by the Snake River dams.
  • Survival through the dams for young salmon heading downstream to the ocean are high, and the highest survival rates are at the Snake dams -- 97.5 for Chinook percent, on average, and 99.5 for steelhead.

 

Fish Facts

A compilation of relevant facts regarding the BPA ratepayer-funded effort to aid salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake Rivers

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Endangered Species Act

WRECA supports congressional efforts to review, update and modernize the Endangered Species Act for the 21st Century.

Additionally, WRECA supports legislation similar to the modest effort from 2014 that would require greater transparency and reduce incentives for abuse of the ESA law by:

  • requiring data used by federal agencies for ESA listing decisions be made publicly available on the Internet;
  • requiring annual reporting and tracking of ESA litigation costs, including attorneys' fees;
  • requiring the federal government to disclose to affected states all data used prior to a listing or proposed ESA listing decision; and
  • capping hourly fees paid to attorneys that prevail in cases filed under ESA.

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Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Electric Loan Program

Washington's electric cooperatives support an FY 2018 RUS loan level of $5.5 B for FY 2018 with no language restricting how loans may be used. We also encourage Congress to fund the Guaranteed Underwriter Program at $1B and the REDL&G Program at $85M for FY 2018.

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