Editorial: June 2015
Taking our message to Congress
Rural electric leaders from across the country attended the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) annual legislative conference in Washington, D.C. last month. Some 40 North Dakotans were among the 2,000 in attendance to seek support for public policy choices that strengthen the rural electric program and network of cooperatives.
The North Dakota REC leaders in attendance had full schedules.
Our team had visits with Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp and legislative staff from Rep. Kevin Cramer’s office (the House was in recess the week of our visit). Our congressional delegation consistently supports policy that supports the rural electric cooperative network.
For example, we extended our appreciation to Sen. Hoeven for his leadership to get legislation passed that preserves a co-op’s right to use large capacity, thermal storage water heaters in demand response programs. This measure was also supported by Sen. Heitkamp and Rep. Cramer. The measure passed the Senate in March and was approved by the House in late April.
The North Dakota delegates were also proud to have Sen. Heitkamp speak before the 2,000 assembled delegates about her support for rural America, the completion
of the Keystone Pipeline, and clean coal as in important fuel for our nation’s energy future.
Tony Clark, a commissioner on the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC) and a former member of the North Dakota Public Service Commission, spoke to our team about FERC’s role in setting protections for electric grid security. And Roger Johnson, former N.D. Ag Commissioner and now president of the National Farmers Union, provided agriculture’s views on measures before the Congress dealing with trade authority and trade agreements.
Two senior officials from the air-quality division of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spent nearly an hour with our team to hear North Dakota’s concerns about implementation of the Clean Power Plan (that proposes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing coal-fired power plants). Our input stressed that:
-Much more time is needed to implement such a plan;
-Costs could rise rapidly if the plan is not implemented properly; and
-There are serious concerns about grid reliability if too much base load generation is taken out of the market.
The North Dakota delegates also formed teams to visit with members of the congressional delegation from Connecticut. The teams were successful in getting to visit with four of the six offices. The teams used these opportunities to stress the importance of clean coal in our nation’s energy mix, and that North Dakota’s rural electric cooperatives have been industry leaders in developing the wind power industry in the state. In all, it was a successful conference. North Dakota’s importance as an energy state leader shown through loud and clear.