Congressman Greg Walden

Representing the 2nd District of Oregon

Greg Walden receives national award for protection of Bonneville Power Administration, promotion of hydropower production

February 28, 2019
Press Release

Greg Walden receives national award for protection of Bonneville Power Administration, promotion of hydropower production

Scott Corwin (left), Executive Director of the Public Power Council in Oregon, presents Representative Greg Walden with American Public Power Association’s Public Service Award

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River) yesterday received the Public Service Award from the American Public Power Association (APPA) for his efforts to protect the Bonneville Power Association (BPA) promote hydropower production. The APPA Public Service Award recognizes a publicly elected or appointed official at the national or state level whose activities have furthered the objectives of public power.

Last year, following a proposal from the Trump Administration to privatize BPA, Walden raised his concerns in a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney in which expressed strong opposition to this proposal. Walden also secured a commitment from Secretary Perry to not privatize BPA during a hearing before the Energy and Commerce Committee. During the hearing, Walden said, “this idea of selling off electric transmission assets and abandoning cost-based rates has been roundly rejected by virtually every member of the Pacific Northwest Congressional delegation. It is the one idea -- bad idea -- that unites all of us in the Northwest. I’m afraid this move could do nothing but harm my constituents, drive up electricity costs,  and hurt consumers across the region.”

Walden has also secured important reforms into law to streamline hydropower permitting to help get projects completed to generate clean, baseload hydropower. These reforms include streamlining permits for hydropower projects on existing irrigation canals to encourage further development of these hydropower systems.

Hydropower plays an important role in the Pacific Northwest’s energy mix, generating 40% of the electricity in Oregon. Walden continues to call for innovative ways to tap into the abundance of hydropower in Oregon to use cleaner energy sources to provide electricity.

APPA President and CEO Sue Kelly said that Walden’s work on these issues demonstrates his leadership and deep understanding of the value of power administrations like BPA and hydropower production. “He truly understands the benefits of community ownership and local control and has been a champion of policies that help to preserve and advance public power.”

During a speech yesterday upon his acceptance of the Public Service Award, Walden outlined his priorities to improve the way we protect our environment, power our communities, and create jobs in America. A full transcript of Walden’s speech is included below:

Given that I live in the Pacific Northwest, I understand the importance of the Power Marketing Administrations, especially the Bonneville Power Administration, who provides power to my district. 

Last Congress, I joined my colleagues in the Pacific Northwest delegation to push back on the Administration’s proposal to privatize the Bonneville Power Administration.

I was proud to bring Energy Secretary Rick Perry to my district in eastern Oregon, where he heard first hand about the importance of Bonneville directly from power users in the region. Secretary Perry appeared before the Energy and Commerce Committee after his visit to my district, and made a commitment that the Administration would not sell off assets of the Bonneville Power Administration.

This was welcome news for power users across the Pacific Northwest who benefit from the Bonneville Power Administration and I was glad to receive this commitment from Secretary Perry. I will continue to work with Bonneville Power and the other PMAs to secure and strengthen their role in our electricity system.

During his visit to eastern Oregon, Secretary Perry also saw firsthand the importance low cost, carbon free hydropower to consumers in my district, something that was rather foreign to him as a Texan.  We have an abundance of hydropower in the Pacific Northwest, and I am proud of the work we have done in Congress alongside your organization to strengthen hydropower.

This renewable energy source generates 40% of the electricity in my state, and has great potential for growth nationwide. A Department of Energy report found that U.S. hydropower could increase by nearly 50 percent by 2050 with new technology and innovation that we have developed in Oregon.

In my district in central Oregon, there is a hydropower project that turns piped irrigation water into enough hydropower for 3,300 homes, and helps save water for farms and fish in the process -- all carbon-free. There is another project in the permitting process in southern Oregon, which uses closed-looped pump technology to draw water from a lake through a hydropower system before returning the water to the lake where it originated. This project will generate enough power for more than 600,000 homes.

In the last Congress, the Energy and Commerce Committee led the way in streamlining the permitting process to allow for the kind of innovative hydropower projects that I have just described. We passed bipartisan legislation into law that will promote hydropower and help America tap into this renewable energy source. I am committed to continuing that work in this new Congress.

This legislation was a product of multiple hearings we held at the Energy and Commerce Committee in the last Congress to boost renewable energy, help reduce our carbon emissions, and strengthen America’s electricity grid. I would like to briefly touch on those issues before I move into a discussion on what is on the agenda ahead for this Congress.

Last Congress, Energy and Commerce launched an important series of hearings -- called Powering America, aimed at examining our nation’s electricity system and electricity markets.
We held 12 hearings in the series, hearing from witnesses on energy storage -- the technologies behind it, the barriers to it, and the impacts of its use in terms of reliability and affordability of electricity. We had hearings on reliability, emerging technologies, consumer impacts, RTOs and ISOs, electricity infrastructure, and a host of other issues.  Our members now better understand the challenges presented by the roles of various fuel sources, the conflicts between state and federal jurisdiction, and the barriers to innovation and infrastructure. 

Our increasingly digitized and tech driven world presents unique challenges for our nation’s electric grid and power markets. As the way we generate, transmit and deliver electricity changes and evolves, utilities, and the customers they serve, are on the front lines dealing with issues of reliability, security, and resiliency.

I am hopeful that the Energy and Commerce Committee will continue to examine these issues within the electricity markets and the grid itself in this new Congress.

The electricity sector is a critical partner in addressing threats and vulnerabilities to our nation’s electric grid. These risks continue to emerge as new technologies -- especially digital technologies -- integrate within the electricity system.

In recent years, Congress has enhanced the ability of the electricity sector to address emerging cyber and physical threats.

As part of its DOE Modernization efforts in the last Congress, the Energy and Commerce Committee passed cybersecurity bills aimed at addressing these kinds of threats.

These cyber bills recognized the seriousness of this threat by updating DOE’s authorities to better position the Department to continue working with industry partners, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regarding electric grid and pipeline security and safety initiatives as they relate to resilience and reliability.

Our Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee also released a wide-ranging report in December that details core strategies to addressing and preventing cybersecurity incidents, including those that threaten our electric grid.

I know that this is a priority for your organization and it will continue to be a priority for me in Congress.

This work was part of a very productive, bipartisan two years for the Energy and Commerce Committee in the last Congress. I am hopeful that this bipartisan work will continue in this Congress, especially as Congress takes up the issue of climate change.

One thing we need to keep in mind as we seek to bring more renewables into our energy mix is the reliability of America’s power grid. While renewables like wind and solar are emissions-free and must be part of our overall strategy to modernize our power portfolio, we need to find innovative ways to store this power when the wind isn’t blowing, and the sun isn’t shining.

We should devote more resources to the work our national laboratories -- such as the Pacific Northwest National Lab in Washington state’s Tri-Cities -- are doing to develop grid-scale battery storage.

A first-of-its-kind battery storage project underway in my district will help make renewable sources like wind and solar more viable and Oregon’s electricity grid more reliable.

Portland General Electric has teamed up with NextEra on the Wheatridge Renewable Energy facility that combines wind and solar energy production with one the largest battery storage facilities in the country.

This project will help replace some of the baseload power lost from the phase out of a nearby coal-fired power plant.

Similarly, we should also be looking to bring nuclear energy into our power mix as well. Nuclear is baseload, emissions-free, and new nuclear energy technology is making this energy source safer and more efficient to use.

An Oregon company called NuScale is developing the first small-scale, modular nuclear power technology that is about the size of a railcar. In fact, the National Lab in Idaho is in discussions with a community in Utah to use this technology to transition away from coal and toward cleaner energy sources like nuclear.

One key issue we must address to realize nuclear power’s full potential is how to handle the waste produced from nuclear power generation. In the last Congress, the House overwhelmingly passed legislation we developed in the Energy and Commerce Committee to ensure nuclear waste will have a permanent storage location in Yucca Mountain, deep in the Nevada desert.

I’m going to continue my work to get this legislation across the finish line in this new Congress and am hopeful that we will have bipartisan support in this effort once again.

The innovation we are seeing with hydropower, battery storage, and nuclear power is something that we should encourage right here in America. We know that the worldwide energy demand is set to grow by about 27 percent by 2040, so we should act now to power up American energy innovation to help reduce global emissions in the coming years.

There is broad bipartisan agreement that prudent, practical steps should be taken to address current and future climate risks. I am committed to solutions that prioritize innovation, adaptation, and conservation.

I am concerned about proposals like the Green New Deal that are based on taxation and regulation, which will ultimately lead to economic stagnation.

The Energy and Commerce Committee is at the center of this national debate and I value the counsel of your organization as we work together to strengthen America’s economy, protect our environment, and modernize the way we power our communities.

Thank you again for the tremendous honor of this award and for allowing me to share a few words with you all today.