Samuel W. Bodman's nomination as the new U.S. energy secretary might be cause for optimism in the Northwest. President Bush's choice has been known to expound on the importance...

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Samuel W. Bodman’s nomination as the new U.S. energy secretary might be cause for optimism in the Northwest.


President Bush’s choice has been known to expound on the importance of environmental stewardship. A chemical engineer by training, he has been an academic, a chemical-company CEO and deputy secretary in both the treasury and commerce departments.


The past four years of the administration’s energy policy have been discouraging for the Northwest on several fronts. Chief is the administration’s resistance to the fact that the Northwest electricity market is unique and deserves unique consideration. Also, the Energy Department’s attempts to unilaterally change the rules for Hanford nuclear cleanup has flouted years of productive relationship with state regulators.


So, here’s some advice on how nominee Bodman can do better:


• Remember the federal Columbia River hydropower system has nurtured industries reliant on lower-cost power. Hydropower is renewable, but the Bonneville Power Administration pays as much for endangered salmon programs as it does for operations. Hydro’s variability means management controls that work in other regions don’t work here.


• Do not believe the myth that federal taxpayers subsidize Northwest power. Northwest ratepayers bear the full cost of the dams, their maintenance and mitigation programs with payments to the U.S. Treasury, on time and with interest.


• Learn the lessons of Enron and California’s failed deregulation and how the administration’s failure to act hurt the Northwest.


• Respect the Northwest’s environmental ethic. We want conservation, energy-efficiency technology and alternative energy sources. We have wind farms and plans for more. The wind farm tax credit needs to be renewed for more than one year.


• Don’t be tempted to raid the sizable nuclear cleanup budget to pay for other things. The Hanford region did its duty for the nation’s nuclear defense through the Cold War. Now the federal government must keep its promise to clean up the mess.


• Accept U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s invitation to tour the Northwest and see why it’s unique.


Northwest leaders likely will continue to have differences of opinion with the new energy secretary, but Bodman can do some mending with better understanding.