Lawmakers in the Pacific Northwest said Friday that they fear the Obama administration will move to take control of the operations of Bonneville Power Administration after the agency was accused of discriminating against veterans in its hiring.
The agency, which sells power from 31 federal dams in the Columbia Basin, has been under fire since a report from the Energy Department’s inspector general earlier this year found that the BPA had discriminated against veterans who wanted jobs and then retaliated against whistleblowers.
In a show of unity, all 23 members of Congress representing Washington state, Idaho and Oregon signed a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, asking him to make sure the BPA remains independent.
"BPA decisions must be made in the Northwest for the benefit of the Northwest" they said in the letter.
While BPA officials report to the Energy Department, members of Congress noted that the agency has long been given the freedom to run its daily operations. But they worry that the Department of Energy will now be too aggressive in its oversight.
One lawmaker who signed the letter, Republican Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington state, said earlier that that the BPA provides millions of families and small businesses with energy and that it should not be subjected to "an open-ended takeover" by the Department of Energy.
And Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers of Washington state said the unfair hiring practiced must be addressed but added that "this does not necessitate a direct takeover" of the agency.
BPA spokesman Douglas Johnson said the agency is working with the Department of Energy "to fully address all the issues raised" by the inspector general's report.
And as those efforts proceed, he said, "BPA continues developing policies regionally, delivering services reliably to customers and performing its policy and operational functions."