Washington Democratic U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray said this week they voiced their displeasure with the “lack of transparency in the selection process” for head of the Bonneville Power Administration during a Friday call with Department of Energy Deputy Secretary Mark Menezes.
The senators said they also emphasized to Menezes that they would not support candidates who “do not possess the necessary experience and knowledge of the Pacific Northwest’s hydropower system.”
In a press release, the senators said the call came “following a news report that the DOE was moving quickly to fill the current BPA administrator vacancy and considering an unqualified candidate, Gregory Zerzan, who is the current Principal Deputy Solicitor at U.S. Department of the Interior and a former lobbyist for Koch Industries.”
“BPA Administrator is one of the Pacific Northwest’s toughest jobs. The position requires a deep knowledge of our unique grid, strong relationships with regional stakeholders, and an understanding of how to balance the needs of hydropower, agriculture, and salmon. Now more than ever we need an Administrator that can hit the ground running and ensure our region continues to receive the affordable and reliable electricity supplies that have powered our economy for decades,” Cantwell said.
“I’ve worked for years to make sure that Bonneville Power Administration maintains the flexibility needed to provide quality, low-cost power to Washington state and the Pacific Northwest,” Murray said. “So I am not speaking lightly when I say that nominating Greg Zerzan would be disastrous for the BPA and the millions of families that rely on the affordable energy and power it provides. Unlike in years past, this consideration process has lacked transparency, and I strongly urge the Department of Energy to follow its historic precedent and nominate a candidate with the experience and independence required to successfully lead BPA and ensure it remains a valuable public asset.”
The BPA Administrator is not an appointed or political position, instead the Administrator is selected by DOE after review by a merit review board.
Typically, the Administrator has substantial prior experience at BPA and Northwest senators are consulted during the candidate interview and selection process.
During the Friday call, Menezes confirmed to the senators that the report that DOE is considering Zerzan, and three internal candidates, to fill the vacancy are true.
The senators voiced their displeasure with the fact that they had not been consulted on these candidates and urged the DOE not to move forward with someone who is unqualified and has no experience at BPA or any similar organization.
The senators said they also made clear that they would not support a political choice who posed a threat to the apolitical nature of the Administrator position and could lead to the privatization of BPA, something that the Senators have long opposed.
Zerzan grew up in Portland, Oregon, and attended both undergraduate and law school at Willamette University in Salem. Zerzan formerly was a Director at Koch Industries and served as Counsel to the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the U.S. House. In March 2019 Zerzan was appointed deputy solicitor at Interior.
In September, John Hairston, who spent the past five years in the Bonneville Power Administration front office, most recently as the chief operating officer, was named interim administrator and Chief Executive Officer by Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette.
He took over for Elliot Mainzer, who left the agency in August.
Last week President-Elect Joe Biden named Jennifer Granholm , who served two terms Michigan’s governor, as nominee for Secretary of Energy.
— CBB, Sept. 11, 2020, ENERGY SECRETARY TAPS HAIRSTON AS INTERIM CEO FOR BONNEVILLE POWER ADMINISTRATION https://www.cbbulletin.com/energy-secretary-taps-hairston-as-interim-ceo-for-bonneville-power-administration/
— CBB, August 6, 2020, BPA CEO MAINZER TO LEAVE AGENCY AT END OF MONTH, WILL BECOME NEW CEO OF CALIFORNIA INDEPENDENT SYSTEM OPERATOR https://www.cbbulletin.com/bpa-ceo-mainzer-to-leave-agency-at-end-of-month-will-become-new-ceo-of-california-independent-system-operator/