• In 1973, Paul Thomas Richards of Montana orginated and created the Pacific Northwest Planning Council to take back political and economic powers stolen and co-opted by the fossil fuels industry, nuclear power plant promoters, investor-owned utilities (I.O.U.s), and light metals industries.
Originally, as a crucial component of President Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal," the federal govenment committed itself to getting electricity to rural areas of the Pacific Northwest by building dams for electrical power that would be distributed by nonprofit consumer-owned cooperatives.
All "New Deal's" emphases on consumer-owned cooperatives obtaining very low cost hydro-power and selling it to rural people without profit had since been obliterated and Richards wanted to know why. Richards was curious how the region's largest corporations had stolen all of the meant-to-be-nonprofit electricity and how public power paid for by the public could rightfully be returned to the Citizens of the Pacific Northwest.
At the time, Richards served as Long-Range Planning Intern in the Washington State Legislature. During his work in Washington and Oregon, Richards noticed Citizens were completely excluded from closed-door planning by the Bonneville Power Administration(B.P.A.), a publicly-funded federal component of the U.S. Department of Interior.
In secret meetings with utilities, energy companies, and construction industries large enough to build nuclear and coal-fired power plants, the B.P.A. made massive commitments of public taxpayers' dollars to pay for PRIVATE Corporations' nuclear plants, coal-fired plants, and thousands of miles of costly high-voltage transmission lines to "wheel" new electricity thousands of miles to from Polluting Uglier-than-hell mine-mouth coal-fired power plants in Eastern Montana to Las Vegas and California.
In these secret meetings, the B.P.A. assumed leadership of coordinating Big Nuke and Big Power.
No one allowed inside the meetings. This public agency kept the public from knowing what was happening. When they emerged from "THE ROOM" the Big Wigs solutions drowned all attending: 14 hydro and six nuclear.
The Fossil Fuel Croporations and B.P.A. all agreed coal-fired power plants would have to be built far from the demand. Although quite inefficient, it's best to burn the coal in eastern Montana-that's where the Inidans are. Piss on 'em. The Department of Interior is the department under which the B.P.A. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (B.I.A.) is another department within the Department of Energy. And, a sign lights in Las Vegas because a young Cheyenne, just livin' and bein', died of lung cancer.
It was all illegal. Statutorily, the Bonneville Power Administration (B.P.A.) was restricted solely to the Columbia River Basin of the Pacific Northwest. B.P.A. had no legal standing whatsoever to do business in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, eastern Montana, and eastern Wyoming. It also had no authority to commit public taxpayers' resources to the most energy-inefficient electricity in the World, nuclear power, in what was the most prolific hydro-power region in North America.
The Pacific Northwest was now burdened by an insane, out-of-control agency subsidizing the most wealthy utilities and construction companies by paying all generating and transmitting costs, planning all of the private Corporations' future nuclear plants and coal-fired plants, and by extorting billions of dollars from the poor taxpayers for whom President Roosevelt created a region-wide network of locally-owned nonprofit electrical cooperatives. Added to that, ALL of B.P.A.'s bigggest plans were for geographical areas completely outside their federally-mandated jurisdiction (the Columbia River Basin). It was ugly. And, it was corrupt.
After he was elected in 1974, Rep. Richards initiated Montana’s official involvement in Pacific Northwest regional power planning. He questioned existing power planning solely by utilities that favored exponential growth in coal-fired and nuclear power plants; rejected energy conservation and alternative energy; and subsidized aluminum and magneseum corporations, which consumed a full one-third of all the Pacific Northwest’s electricity.
One of Rep. Richards's first orders of business was to stop the Libby Nuclear Plant and the Thompson Falls Nuclear Plant, both slated for Northwestern Montana's Clark Fork River. The Bonneville Power Administration ( B.P.A.) was illicitly beginning construction through two "dummy" fronts, which Rep. Richards exposed. Once Richards' in-depth investigation revealed the B.P.A.'s secret construction of two nuclear plants in Montana, people began to listen. Until then, no one would ever believe a federal agency would extend so far so illegally so secretly and so corruptly.
Rep. Richards personally lobbied four state governors and Prime Minister David Barrett of British Columbia; helped lobby through the new power planning council through four state legislatures; and then went to Washington, D.C. to lobby the Council through the United States Congress (see below).
Rep. Richards’ resolution, along with Richards’ visits to the governors of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington, helped create the Northwest Power Planning Council, which ended the “Corporate only” policy of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bonneville Power Administration.
For the first time; states, governors, legislatures. Indigenous Nations, and Citizens of the Pacific Northwest had a say in whether or not their communities would be graced by massive coal-fired and nuclear power plants.
After he voluntarily retired as a legislator, Richards lobbied in Washington, D.C., to help secure Congressional passage authorizing the the Pacific Northwest Power Planning Council.
Despite a Treaty specifically negotiated to promote international cooperation concerning the Columbia River; the United States Congress rudely dumped British Columbia's Prime Minister Barrett, within whose province the river orginates. My personal apologies to the gracious and kind Prime Minister and his constituents, including Indigenous Nations, who most certainly deserved equal seats at the table.
Rep. Richards' Pacific Northwest Power Planning Council has since been renamed the