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Legislative

What lawmakers decide in Washington, D.C., or Madison, can have a significant impact on your electric bill. REC is spending an increasing amount of time communicating with our elected officials to make sure they know who we are, what we stand for, and how specific legislation or government regulations will affect our member-consumers.

As a member of Riverland Energy Cooperative, you have the power to help influence what happens in state and federal government by contributing to a political action committee, ACRE®- Co-op Owners for Political Action (COPA), that support the campaigns of legislators who have proven they care about representing the interests of cooperative members. Candidates who receive support from ACRE®-COPA understand the importance of affordable electrification and how pending legislation could impact cooperative's ability to deliver on that promise.  ACRE®- COPA only supports candidates for State and Federal offices, regardless of political affiliation, who will speak for you and protect your interests and those of your fellow consumer/owners. 

We cannot use Cooperative funds to contribute to the campaigns of the elected officials who best represent our interests. Instead we encourage our members to support the political action committee. By joining ACRE® - COPA, you can join other electric cooperative activists – directors, managers, employees and member-owners – who take an active role in the political process to protect their co-op from harmful legislation and regulation, as well as to promote the value of co-op ownership to their legislators. The ACRE® - COPA program is an opportunity for you to raise your voice and participate in the political process.

It is very easy to enroll. Simply fill out this form (PDF).  We will include $2.08 per month on your monthly electric bill for your convenience. 

 

 

Legislative Update

Supreme Court Action

February 9, 2016: The Supreme Court ordered the EPA not to take any steps to carry out its rule Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources, more commonly known as the “Clean Power Plan.” The order issued in identical form in individual responses to five separate challenges will spare states and coal-fired power plants from having to begin planning for an expensive shift to energy sources that the government considers to be cleaner.

An appeals court is scheduled to hear the case in June. A decision in this case may come later this year or early 2017.

NRECA and Co-ops Fight EPA Carbon Rule in Court 

October 2015: NRECA and dozens of electric cooperatives are challenging the Clean Power Plan in federal court, citing the Environmental Protection Agency rule’s potential to shutter coal-based generation at a high financial cost to co-ops and their members.

“The final Clean Power Plan exceeds EPA’s legal authorities and will have a significant negative impact on consumer-owners of not-for-profit co-ops across the nation. We are asking the court to put the brakes on this rule and prevent this incredible over-reach from being implemented,” said Kirk Johnson, NRECA senior vice president for government relations.

“EPA’s rule provides no relief for electric cooperatives that have invested billions of dollars in power plant upgrades to meet increasingly stringent environmental regulations. Now, the Clean Power Plan will require many of these plants to shut down and force co-ops to build new generation or buy replacement power all at additional costs to members,” Johnson added.

NRECA is also asking the court to stay the EPA rule while it is under legal challenge “to prevent irreparable harm” to members.

The rule was published Oct. 23 in the Federal Register and will take effect Dec. 23. Publication launched a 60-day period to legally challenge the rule in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Numerous states and other industry groups and sectors also were expected to file suit against the Clean Power Plan.

The rule, finalized in August, requires existing fossil fuel-based power plants to achieve an overall carbon dioxide reduction of 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. EPA set emission budgets for each state to meet beginning in 2022.

States must submit compliance plans to EPA by September 2016 or qualify for a two-year extension. A federal plan for emission reductions will be installed where states fail to submit plans accepted by EPA.

“The Clean Power Plan is costly and risky,” said Johnson “It will force electricity price hikes on our nation’s most vulnerable citizens—those who can least afford to pay more each month—and jeopardize the reliable power supply on which the American economy depends.”

Source: Cathy Cash | ECT Staff Writer (published Oct. 26, 2015)

EPA's Clean Power Plan  (August 2015)

On Monday, August 3, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized its rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, dubbed the “Clean Power Plan.”

The rules are designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 32 percent below levels recorded in 2005. But given its complexity and far-reaching nature, it might as well be called the “National Energy Policy Regulation of 2015” because it will have significant consequences for how we generate, distribute and use electricity in this country for decades to come.

Each state has a different EPA assigned emission reduction target.  In general terms, the Midwest has relied more on coal generation than other parts of the country because coal was affordable, abundant, and in some cases the only viable base load option available.   Wisconsin has one of the more stringent reduction target; a 41 percent reduction of emissions by 2030.  (To put that in perspective, South Dakota faces the deepest cut at 48 percent).  While the proposed rule allows states to lower emissions by transitioning from plants fired by coal to plants fired by natural gas, the final rule is intended to push electric utilities to invest more quickly in renewable sources.  The states have until 2016 to submit their initial plan for achieving the targeted reductions with a final version due 2018.  If states fail to submit a plan, then they will be forced to use the federal model to achieve compliance.

Despite claims from the EPA, this rule will undoubtedly increase monthly electric bills. It’s not yet clear by how much, but the previous proposal had a national average increase of 10 percent in 2025, with some states seeing higher increases and other states seeing lower increases.

We’re fighting for you and have joined with co-ops from across the country in seeking legislative and legal remedies to protect your interests.

2015 NRECA Legislative Conference  (May 2015)
Representatives from REC were among nearly 70 Wisconsin electric cooperative delegates who visited our nation’s capital during the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Legislative Conference on May 3-5. Their mission—to engage in a conversation with lawmakers on important issues that affect our ability to deliver reliable and affordable electricity.

The legislative conference gives your co-op representatives the opportunity to engage in a conversation with lawmakers on important issues that affect our ability to deliver reliable and  affordable electricity. Issues addressed with members of the  House and Senate included the Ratepayer Protection Act,  Coal Combustion Residuals, and Waters of the United States (WOTUS).

Ratepayer Protection Act

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed “Clean Power Plan” will fundamentally change how electricity is generated, distributed and consumed in the United States. The plan proposes significant reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing power plants, and is based on section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act (a provision which has only rarely been used since the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments were adopted a generation ago). Co-ops are particularly concerned about this plan because it will result in the premature closing of existing power plants, even relatively new plants and those with significant debt remaining on them. In the case of co-ops, the member-owners will be left holding the bag for that debt, essentially being forced to pay twice for their electricity. This “stranded debt” is a top concern of electric cooperatives.

While EPA’s plan has a final deadline of 2030, the vast majority of the reductions (up to 90% in some cases) must be achieved by 2020, leaving little time for utilities to make the adjustments necessary. Co-ops will be forced to make irrevocable billion-dollar decisions in the next several years due to this impending “cliff.”

NRECA and electric cooperatives have joined governors, regulators, electric reliability organizations and others in filing extensive comments raising numerous concerns with the proposal. Even so, EPA plans to finalize the rule this summer and start the clock on deadlines for states to submit comprehensive plans. The rule, although not yet final, is already being litigated by some.

Your representatives asked Congress to support the Ratepayer Protection Act, which provides a legislative “safe harbor period” while the courts review the legal challenges to the rule. This will ensure that electric consumers are held harmless and electric cooperatives are not forced  to make irreversible decisions during the legal process, protecting co-ops from the harmful  results of potential stranded debt that will result from the EPA rule.

Coal Combustion Residuals Legislation

Coal Combustion Residuals (CCRs, commonly called coal ash) are by-products of burning coal for generating electricity. Coal ash is used beneficially in a variety of applications including the manufacture of concrete, drywall and other construction products. Coal ash has become an important part of the economy, with about 40 percent being recycled nationwide, a figure that jumps to 60 percent for Wisconsin. With approximately 1.5 million tons of coal combustion by-products produced in Wisconsin annually, Wisconsin’s utilities continue to be leaders in beneficial reuse. The constructive use of coal ash provides jobs, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, extends the life and durability of the nation’s roads and bridges and reduces disposal in landfills or surface impoundments. Combustion by-products are tested to ensure that safety and quality requirements are met before the  by-products are reused in construction or as fill.

On December 19, 2014, EPA issued a final regulation of coal ash, again determining that it be classified as nonhazardous. While the co-op supports EPA’s decision to regulate coal ash as nonhazardous, legislation is needed to prevent this questionfrom coming up for review every three years as stated in the current  law.

Your co-op representatives asked Congress to support the Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act. The bipartisan legislation would provide certainty for the regulated community, stabilize markets for reuse, and balance public health interests and the need for electric co-ops to deliver affordable, reliable electricity.

Waters of the United States (WOTUS)

The rule proposed by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to revise the definition of WOTUS under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) would dramatically expand the Corps’ and EPA’s regulatory reach by including isolated ponds, puddles, ditches and other areas that only rarely have water, dramatically expanding the land subject to federal regulation.

Several activities associated with electric co-ops providing electric service require federal Clean Water Act permits. The proposed rule would mean more activities would need permits, making electric transmission and distribution construction take longer and cost substantially more, with little or no increased protection for the nation’s waters.

Your co-op representatives asked Congress to have the EPA and Corps withdraw the rule and engage in a meaningful discussion with all stakeholders, including electric cooperatives and other small entities that provide essential services to rural communities.

The links below provide information about the position of NRECA and electric cooperatives on these important issues.


Congress Preserves Large Water Heater Production (April 2015)

Electric cooperatives across the country were relieved after Congress passed legislation April 21 that will enable them to continue using large capacity grid-enabled water heaters for energy and money-saving programs.  By a voice vote, the House sent S. 535 to President Obama, who is expected to sign it into law. The bill, authored by Senators Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., cleared the Senate March 27.  

“Electric co-ops across the country appreciate the incredible perseverance of Senators Portman, Shaheen and many others for their leadership in passing S. 535,” NRECA CEO Jo Ann Emerson said. “The bill helps save consumers money, promotes reliability of the grid and helps integrate renewable energy—truly a win-win-win piece of legislation.”

More than 250 co-ops in 35 states use large-capacity electric resistance water heaters to reduce demand by an estimated 500 megawatts and save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars each year.  Calling it an efficiency measure, the Department of Energy implemented regulations April 16 to ban the manufacture of water heaters of more than 55 gallons that can be controlled by smart meter technology.  Once enacted into law, the water heater provision in S. 535 will sustain access to these water heaters while manufacturers also produce appliances called for in the new efficiency regulations.

Source:  Cathy Cash | ECT Staff WriterPublished: April 21st, 2015

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