Former Bonneville Power Administration chief Peter Johnson says he's been invited to meet with President-elect George Bush's transition team to discuss the job of secretary of energy in the new administration.
Johnson said Wednesday that he will meet next Monday with Chase Untermeyer, the transition personnel director, and perhaps other members of the transition team including co-directors Craig Fuller and Robert Teeter.As Johnson prepared for his job interview, Republican senators from the West recommended to the transition team a list of four possible candidates for interior secretary.
Missing from that list was the name of Sen. Dan Evans, R-Wash., said congressional sources who asked not to be identified.
Those on the list were Rep. Barbara Vucanovich, R-Nev.; Richard Richards, a former head of the Republican National Committee from Utah; former Rep. John Rhodes, R-Ariz.; and Warren Morton, a former speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives.
The senators met Tuesday to discuss possible candidates for interior secretary, a post that has traditionally been held by a Westerner, said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for Sen. James McClure, R-Idaho.
McClure has given no indication whom he supports for interior secretary but is known not to be a booster of Evans.
McClure, a close personal friend of Bush, has been actively promoting Johnson for the energy post. Congressional sources, who asked not to be identified, have said Johnson is on the short list of those being considered.
Johnson has said he would be interested in the job. A McCall, Idaho, resident, Johnson stepped down as BPA administrator in 1986 after five years as head of the federal power marketing agency based in Portland, Ore.
"It's the first hint I've gotten that they are anxious to get acquainted," said Johnson, adding that in extending the invitation, Untermeyer didn't speculate on his chances of getting the appointment.
Johnson said Untermeyer indicated the interview was being held at the request of McClure, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
"Evidently they wanted to take the next step," said Johnson.
McClure has discussed Johnson as a possible secretary of energy with Bush and Bush's designated chief of staff, New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu.
As head of BPA, Johnson gained a reputation as a top-notch administrator who guided the agency through a financial minefield as the Washington Public Power Supply System began to unravel in the early 1980s.
BPA was essentially underwriting the cost of three of the supply system's five nuclear power projects. As a result of construction delays and mounting costs, BPA had been forced to raise its rates more than 500 percent in the five years before Johnson took over.
Johnson recommended that two of the plants be mothballed. He said he had an open mind about nuclear power, but the WPPSS plants had become a serious financial burden for BPA.
Also during Johnson's tenure at BPA, the agency was able to catch up on deferred payments to the federal treasury. Along with the Northwest Power Planning Council, it began developing a 20-year plan to ensure the region's energy needs were met.
Before being appointed BPA administrator, Johnson was a Boise businessman who during the 1970s headed Trus-Joist Corp., an international company that manufactures roof and floor structural systems.
Since leaving BPA, Johnson has led a mostly private life, writing an occasional newspaper column. The Harvard Business Review recently published an article he wrote about the management techniques he used at BPA.