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It’s time to get active in your local co-op

By Sharon Grace

It’s time to get active in your local co-op, if you want to keep your electricity rates down, and salmon and SRKWs alive.

The rural electric co-op’s campaign to do the Bonneville Power Administration’s dirty work is tiring.

Bonneville uses co-ops to campaign to keep the four lower Snake River dams up. The co-ops do this through disinformation they spread using their websites, their billing inserts, meetings, and local news sites, among other things.

These campaigns work against co-op members' interests by keeping rates higher than necessary, and keeping us in the dark. 

BPA says breaching the four lower Snake River dams may save up to 15% annually on electricity costs. The Northwest Energy Coalition says breaching may cost up to 2% more annually if the dams are breached. 

Meanwhile co-ops that are supposed to represent our interests, are crying wolf. They say breaching may cost us 50% more in utility rates. 

OPALCO, the San Juan Islands’ co-op, is an excellent example of a co-op that is out of control. OPALCO already has announced a rate increase of 6% for the next 5 years, or more than 30% in 5 years. Why this huge increase? Is this in part to pay the extravagant salaries it pays its director (more than $550K annually) and its highest paid employees (more than $200K annually)? The co-op in Bend, Oregon paid its director $750K annually. These salaries are ridiculous, especially given the fact that most co-ops belong to PNGC, which carries a lot of the load by negotiating rates with BPA and conducting other business for us, also often against our interests.


How do these local utilities’ high salaries get set? By surveying what other co-ops are paying. It’s a race to the top that is costing us lots of money throughout the PNW. For comparison, the CEO of the entire Bonneville Power Administration makes much less than the top manager of most local electric co-ops.

This chart in the CRSO EIS shows electricity costs decreasing with breaching. MO3 was the alternative that called for breaching the four lower Snake River dams.

The chart below shows OPALCO’s highest paid employees for 2020, the latest IRS Form 990 available. Almost certainly the pay is higher now. Everyone should check out their co-op’s Form 990 to see how much members are paying their leaders.

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