The New York Times’ Kirk Johnson recently covered a subject essential to our way of life in Yamhill County – privatization of the electric grid. In an article and photo essay entitled “Down the Mighty Columbia River, Where a Power Struggle Looms” Johnson and photographer Chang W. Lee highlight the recent push in the Trump administration to sell off the Bonneville Power Authority to the highest bidder. The effort is part of the ongoing GOP project of deregulation in the name of “efficiency,” which has the net effect of wresting autonomy from taxpayers and fattening the wallets of private corporations.
Communities in Yamhill County purchase electricity from BPA, and so any long-term decision with respect to this massive power grid effects our lives directly. As a federal organization, the BPA is in principle responsive to the will of the taxpayer – what responsibilities would a private company have? In the words of Terry Oxley, a tugboat operator interviewed for the article, ““I guess I want more input…Who’s going to control it? Who’s going to have the say so? When are they going to release the water, the flood control, the spill patterns for the fish? It’s such a big deal, and it’s all intertwined.”
On our own turf, in the midst of a pension crisis, Oregonians face the prospect of our publicly held assets being sold to private interests – state lands and public education are at risk. It is prudent of us as citizens to make sure organizations like the BPA function efficiently, but it is incumbent upon us as Democrats to make sure public assets exist for the good of the many, not the few.