- The Trump administration has abandoned a plan to privatize federally owned electric utilities like the Bonneville Power Association and Western Area Power Administration, a group of Congressional Republicans announced last Thursday.
- The White House plan to sell off four federal power authorities, floated in its 2019 budget proposal, was opposed by electric co-op and municipal utility groups, as well as a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the utilities' service territories. The Department of Energy told media outlets it will not pursue the sales now unless directed by Congress.
- A key Congressional committee dealt another setback to Trump's budget plans last Thursday, advancing a spending bill that funds the Department of Energy's science research, which the White House sought to cut, at record levels.
The Trump budget plan to privatize federal power authorities was a long shot from the start. The White House, like past administrations, had seen Congress reject a similar proposal in its 2018 budget.
The plan targeted federal utilities stretching from the Pacific Northwest as far east as Florida — the Bonneville Power Association, Southeastern Power Administration, Southwestern Power Administration and the Western Area Power Administration.
Lawmakers from states served by these utilities opposed the plan and welcomed the White House's decision.
"We have voiced our strong opposition to this proposal and are grateful to Secretary Perry for continuing to study the impact a sell-off would have on our region and recognizing BPA’s unique and vital role in maintaining economic vitality for our Northwest communities," a group of four federal lawmakers from Washington wrote in a statement. "It’s a big relief to know that this harmful proposal will not be pursued."
In multiple Congressional hearings this year, lawmakers from areas served by federal power authorities pressed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to give up the privatization plan. Though it was written into his agency's funding request, Perry opted not to defend the proposal, instead saying he would follow Congress' lead on the power authorities — a point his press team reiterated last week.
DOE "will not pursue the sale of any PMA transmission assets unless directed by Congress," a spokesperson told the Washington Examiner.
Also last Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee advanced its energy and water spending bill for fiscal year 2019, again rejecting key White House priorities. The bill includes $6.7 billion for the DOE's Office of Science — $1.3 billion more than the administration requested — and would provide $375 million for the popular Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program that Trump sought to eliminate.
The spending bill now goes to the full Senate for approval.