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News from the Front #35:
Speech to the Oregon Public Power Association: the Moral Responsibilities of Public Power
The first part of this speech was my standard extemporaneous presentation, with an emphasis on using Government data to demonstrate that the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on spill and flow programs that do not work. The second part of the speech, reproduced below, focuses on the unique history and responsibility of public power interests, developments at BPA that threaten the constituents of public power, how public power officials have failed to protect the power system and their constituents, and what they ought to be doing about it.
You might think you've dodged a bullet because Gore chickened out on declaring that the Snake River dams must go. You're dreaming. The Administration has a new strategy: jack up the fish and wildlife costs so high, that you'll be paying California prices for electricity, and all that money can go to build the Salmon Recovery Empire.
Let me clue you into what the new biological opinion on hydropower operations really says: dams must achieve "no net loss" of salmon, without regard to benefits from hatcheries. You won't find that in the Endangered Species Act. With one stroke of a pen from an Imperial Salmon Official, sixty years of policy of mitigating dam losses with hatcheries is thrown out the window.
The Clinton/Gore strategy everywhere is to set environmental standards that are impossible to meet. The Corps of Engineers says you can't meet bogus Clean Water Act standards for the dams without spending billions of dollars to re-engineer them so they spill more water instead of generating power. And it's not just the dams, there are bogus standards for nearly every river and stream and lake in the Pacific Northwest. These standards are meant to make criminals of us all, so that the Federal government can control us all.
The truth is that the federal government has no business in the salmon business, except through treaties and interstate commerce in salmon. The federal government has no business invoking the Endangered Species Act to pretend that the salmon are endangered. They're not. "The salmon" are not in jeopardy at all. Some wild runs are in jeopardy because we want to pretend we can kill them and eat them and protect them, all at the same time, but they aren't "species" at all.
But all across the Pacific Northwest, the armies of the Imperial Forces are working to build resentment against the dams, by saying that we now have to screw all the landowners to prevent the hydrosystem from jeopardizing the continued existence of salmon.
Enough about salmon. Anyone with half a brain can see that the Salmon Recovery Empire is a complete and utter failure. Now I want to try and convince you that you all share a lot of responsibility for this mess, and that you all can and should do something about it.
Breach of the Federal Covenant with the Pacific Northwest
You all can be proud of your history, because district by district, your ancestors, and maybe even some of you, fought a tough fight to bring low-cost electricity to the Pacific Northwest. You and your ancestors did battle against the IOUs, who were not going to wire the rural Northwest until Hell froze over. You used to be radicals. And you and your ancestors brought about the greatest engineering achievement in American history short of landing on the moon: the Federal Columbia River Power System.
You fought to buy power at cost, and the Federal Government made a covenant with your ancestors to sell that power for the widest possible use, at the lowest possible rates. And the Federal Government made a covenant with the Pacific Northwest, which has been paying interest on these dams for decades, that the customers of the Pacific Northwest would get first crack at the power.
Well I'm here to tell you that the Federal government has broken its covenants with you and the Pacific Northwest, and Bonneville has broken all the laws that make up those covenants.
How? Well first of all, Bonneville now says it can charge market-based prices for power, like the "FPS Rate", instead of selling power at cost. And some of you all are paying those rates, instead of fighting them.
Why is that? Probably because your lawyers have told you that law is dead. If you want to sue BPA, you go to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. And you know what they say? The law is what BPA says the law is.
BPA can get away with nearly anything. They can even tell you that if you don't keep your mouth shut on sensitive issues in a rate case, they'll charge you a higher rate. That's what ALCOA and Vanalco found out last year.
And the United States courts say that if you have a contract with BPA, it's toilet paper. There isn't even any court that will even hear your breach of contract claims. That's what the City of Burbank found out this year.
And instead of power at cost, now we have Vice-President Gore's Fish Funding Principles, that say that when we're in the middle of a power crisis, we have to jack up the rates so we can waste more money on spill and flow augmentation, and build a dam removal fund and maybe even pass out "dividends" to BPA's environmentalist buddies.
BPA even admits that it overcharged you $325 million--the true number is higher. And instead of refunding the money, they say they will call it a fish cost contingency fund, and keep it to hand out to the fish nuts.
And what about the Preference to BPA power? That's dying too Back in 1995, as the fish nuts tightened their grip on BPA, all of a sudden BPA had too much power in the spring and not enough in the summer and fall. And in one of the great stealth moves of all time, BPA said that this power should be sold to the highest bidder. And Congress, which seems to be able to do nothing other than what BPA wants, changed the law, so that now BPA is selling the power to the highest bidder.
The Rise of the Dark Forces
How did everything get so screwed up? Well, right now the government is controlled by environmental fanatics. Al Gore is the perfect example. He says, and I quote: "We must make rescue of the environment the central organizing principle of human civilization". Not justice, not law, not the Constitution. This is the environment über alles.
Al Gore and his cronies will stop at nothing to scale back the impact of human beings on this planet. But you can't do that without moving people off the land. You can't do that without taking away their water. You can't do that without herding them into the Cities of the Nanny State.
To these Dark Forces, saving the environment justifies anything. It justifies lies, and secrecy, and destroying documents, and breaching contracts, and disobeying the law, and whatever else is necessary in the service of this "central organizing principle". I think to the people, it even justifies treason, because to them, the very concept of treason is old-fashioned; the concept of State sovereignty is old-fashioned. The concept of the United States is old-fashioned. They think we need a new global government to handle global environmental problems. They even say this openly, because no one seems to care.
And these Dark Forces are reaching further and further and further. They want the land. They want the water. They want the electricity. They want everything.
And one of the saddest things about all this is that every step of the way, as the fish fanatics dismantle our great hydropower system piece by piece, all the people from Portland and Salem and Olympia and Seattle and Boise and Helena, they all say well, we should just compromise, and not rock the boat. We should find a balanced strategy.
I say bullshit. The Federal Government already owns more than half of Oregon. How much more control do we need to achieve balance?
I say that appeasing the Dark Forces means that the Dark Forces win. Haven't you just seen what comes of making deals with the Dark Forces: you just made a deal, to keep your mouth shut in the rate case in exchange for no increase in rates, and the next day, "no deal"--the rates are going to go up anyway.
Now I also want to say that the Dark Forces have taken over some public power districts. I won't name any names in this room. Let's talk about the City of Seattle, for example. The Seattle City Council wants to rip out the dams that your constituents rely on. The Seattle City Council even sits on its hands when the National Marine Fisheries Service says it can't widen roads because, and I quote: "more roadways permit more growth, and that's something that's not in the best interest of fish". You can't be looking to these people for leadership on public power issues, because they are all pod people from the planet Gore.
Now up in the City of Seattle they have the Ballard Locks, and the Corps of Engineers says that the locks kill about a third of the salmon migrating through them. That's worse than all the Snake River Dams put together. And you know, four or five cities in Eastern Washington have now passed resolutions saying, hey, Seattle, why don't you take your own medicine and remove the Ballard Locks. Drain Lake Washington and restore lots of salmon habitat.
But you know that will never happen. Seattle wouldn't want to ruin the view for all those beautiful lakefront homes. Seattle likes things the way they are, in its own neighborhood. Seattle wants to tell rural Northwesterners what to do with their property, but as for Seattle property, well, gosh, we can't afford to make those kind of changes.
Now do you see why I call them the Dark Forces? This is the very face of evil: we demand, as a moral imperative, that you destroy your property, to serve our interest. But we won't pay you for it. And we won't live by the same rules we want you to live by.
Let me give you another example. Last Friday, the very same California politicians who have been beating the drum to remove the Snake River dams wrote to Energy Secretary Richardson, telling him to tell BPA to stop signing any more power sales contracts, so that we could all reconsider Regional Preference, and let California buy all the hydropower.
These are the same people who have turned California into a banana republic--banana stands for build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything. They won't let anybody build any power plants anywhere near anything in California, but they're happy to come up here and take your power. These people are evil.
Bruce Babbitt, when he was President of the League of Conservation Voters, summarized the plan of the Dark Forces, and I quote: "We must identify our enemies and drive them into oblivion". The Sierra Club has a more politically-correct version: "endless pressure, endlessly applied". I hope you understand that you and your constituents are the enemies that the Dark Forces are trying to drive into oblivion.
It's the policy of the Dark Forces to just shut down business and industry instead of building more power plants. California kept the lights on by closing almost 2,000 megawatts of industrial load. We did the same thing here in the Pacific Northwest, and we'll be doing more and more of it. Bonneville and the rest of the government are not lifting one stinking finger to expedite new power plants, because Dark Forces build things--they destroy them, usually by studying them to death. Is this sensible public policy? Of course not.
You know, yesterday the Northwest Power Planning Council issued a press release with six recommendations on how to "alleviate high electricity prices". And not one of them is the simple answer, and the only answer: "build more power plants". They're afraid to say that. The most they can say is that we should "evaluate options for encouraging the development of more power plants". Like maybe if we issue enough press releases we will somehow magically cause power plants to appear.
This Council is charged with stewardship of the hydrosystem, and there are dams sitting there with empty turbine bays that could be generating more clean, renewable power, and these bozos won't even mention this most obvious way to get new power plants online. Because you know what? The Dark Forces took over the Council long ago.
How far are you prepared to let these people go in destroying industry? Some of you may think it's just fine to toss the aluminum industry over the side, but how about food processors? How about cold storage? How about foundries? How about silicon chip plants? Is this sensible public policy? Of course not.
You pay for an army of power planners and analysts, who've planned their way into a power crisis. They paper over the lost jobs and broken dreams by calling them "conservation". Every day in the papers we read some moron declaring that conservation is the cheapest way to get more power. Is this sensible public policy? Of course not.
You are paying people in Washington D.C. to demand these RTOs that are going to manage transmission congestion by having swarms of speculators bidding up transmission rights instead of building new transmission lines. Is this sensible public policy? Of course not.
Again, Dark Forces don't build things. They just feed off them until they are rusted hulks, and then they move on to the next victim.
The Responsibility of Public Power
Every generation has a responsibility to pass along civilization to the next generation. We are always just one generation away from the Dark Ages. And in every generation, the Dark Forces are trying to dismantle the ideals that made this a great Nation. The Dark Forces would replace freedom with constraints. The Dark Forces would replace inalienable rights with unreviewable government powers. The Dark Forces would replace private property with what they call "the public interest". The Dark Forces would replace due process of law with the unseemly process of politics. And the Dark Forces would replace the truth with the myths that build their power.
Please make no mistake about it, whether you know it or not, you are in a war with these Dark Forces right now. It's not just a war about salmon and dams; it's a war about culture and ideals and freedom. And you are losing.
Someday, you will be judged on how you serve the constituents who trust you. Not by how you serve the rich ones who don't care how much they pay for power. You'll be judged by how you serve the poor ones, the ones who are struggling to make the payments on their trailer, maybe because they lost their jobs to the Great Owl Hoax.
Every time you pass on another bogus price increase from Bonneville without fighting it, you betray your constituents. Every time you print some sort of environmentalist propaganda from the Dark Forces, you betray your constituents. Every time you donate money to the Dark Forces, you betray your constituents. And every time you attempt to collaborate, or cooperate, or settle with these Dark Forces, you betray your constituents.
Please, please believe that you have the power to make a difference in this great war. You are not the little guy. You are Public Power. Look around the room here. You have cover most of the Pacific Northwest. You have buildings and meeting rooms in every county and every state. Your constituents can't afford to fight the Dark Forces by themselves. You are one of the few institutions that can.
When you put your collective mind to it, you can achieve great things. You are a sleeping giant. Wake up. You can be radicals again.
How many of you will make the effort to ensure that your local school district is teaching about the importance of hydropower? How many of you would make your employees available to teach classes on sensible protection of the environment? How many of you have made sure that your schools aren't turning your children into more pod people from the planet Gore?
How many of you would make the effort to put mailers in your monthly bills to raise public concern about the destruction of our power system? About the lies that are printed every week in the newspapers about salmon recovery? About the destruction of the Constitution, and our rights as against the Federal government?
How many of you are willing to work hard to elect people with common sense? It doesn't matter whether they are Democrats or Republicans or whatever. There are good people at the bottom of both parties. You've got to get people who are willing to call a spade a spade in every significant public office to start winning this war. I call it the Salmon Revolution.
Let's get a little radical here: how many of you would consider hold back payments to Bonneville, along with many other Districts, to protest Bonneville's gross waste of money?
Let's get even more radical here: how many of you are willing to tell the Federal government to take a hike, and turn the hydropower system over to the ratepayers of the Pacific Northwest who have paid for it over and over and over again. It's like you pay the mortgage, and then the bank shows up and wants to take away the house anyway.
I'm going to let you in on a little secret here. Remember when King Judy announced just after the rate case was finished that oops, prices are up now, so we have to start all over and raise the rates because otherwise we might violate Gore's Fish Funding Principles? You and the IOUs and the DSIs could have gotten together and said: "Bullshit. That's how rate cases work. You made your five-year forecasts, now live with them." And you could have made it stick.
And some of your advisors will acknowledge this, when I talk to them privately. But they don't think you're ready to hear that kind of radical talk. You just aren't hurting enough yet.
But you will be. Good times don't last forever. It won't be long before your constituents are going to be paying so much for electricity that they will be mad as hell, and they will be mad at you, and they will have good reason to be.
But they will still look to you, their leaders, to save them. And you can. And you will.
The rural Northwest is going to remain a beacon of light no matter how far the Dark Forces advance in the great corrupt cities. You and your constituents are going to keep American ideals alive in the age of Gore, and God bless you for it.
I'll help you everyway I can. I'll come talk to people until they shut me down, and believe me, they're trying. I put everything I know in my book and in my website, where you can read the book for free. This speech is even on the website. Because I think I have a sacred responsibility to fight the Dark Forces. And I think you do too.
Thank you and God bless you.
© James Buchal, October 12, 2000
You have permission to reprint this article, and are encouraged to do so. The sooner people figure out what's going on, the quicker we'll have more fish in the rivers.
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