ILLINOIS
CURRENTS MARCH 2007
Information about
NEWS LEGISLATION TRENDS RESEARCH
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Daylight Savings Time Change
Ameren And ComEd Rate Increases Now In Effect
Co-ops Apply For FEMA Assistance After Ice Storms
Electric Co-ops Support Energy Independence
Rep. Jerry Weller Receives Electric Cooperative’s Public Service Award
College Grants For Illinois Middle Class
Wildlife Conservation Grants Funding For Illinois Landowners
March Temperatures Expected To Return To Seasonal Levels

Daylight Savings Time Change

As you may or may not know, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 changes the start and stop times for Daylight Savings Time (DST). Beginning in 2007, DST starts the second Sunday of March and ends the first Sunday of November. The real interesting part of this change is that Congress retains the right to revert Daylight Savings Time back to the 2005 time schedule after a “study” that is to be completed “not later than nine months after March 1, 2007.”

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Ameren And ComEd Rate Increases Now In Effect

In 1997, the Illinois General Assembly passed, and the Governor signed into law, the Electric Utility Deregulation law. That legislation greatly changed how the state’s investor-owned utilities (IOUs) are regulated. The 1997 deregulation law, among many other things, mandated rate reductions for residential customers of the IOUs, and then “froze” those resulting rates during a mandatory transition period. The mandatory transition period and rate freeze were extended several years ago, but came to an end on Jan. 1, 2007.

The full Illinois House failed to consider HB 2197, the Senate-passed mandatory three-year IOU rate increase phase-in legislation, prior to the end of the current legislative session. And, the Senate did not consider SB 1714, the House-passed legislation, which would have extended the IOU rate freeze for three years, by the deadline. This means that the new IOU rates, which took effect on Jan. 2, will stay in place. However, it is possible that the House may consider and possibly approve new legislation to freeze rates at their previous levels during the upcoming spring 2007 session.

Based on the results of the September power auctions, along with other factors, rate increases of approximately 40 to 55 percent are predicted for residential consumers of the Ameren utility companies beginning Jan. 2, 2007, and 22 to 24 percent are predicted for ComEd’s residential consumers.

As not-for-profit entities owned and controlled by the consumers themselves, electric cooperatives (and municipal systems) were treated differently than the IOUs under the 1997 deregulation law and are not subject to the same requirements.

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Co-ops Apply For FEMA Assistance After Ice Storms

In January, Governor Rod Blagojevich asked President Bush for federal assistance for 26 counties hit hard by the December ice storm. The Federal disaster declaration would help state and local governments, municipally-owned utilities and electric co‑ops with storm-related costs.

Eleven Illinois electric co-ops were hit by the winter ice storm and suffered an estimated total $8 million in damages. Overall the areas affected suffered an estimated $19.5 million in damages.

 “We’re still dealing with the effects of the ice storm that knocked out power for up to a week in many areas,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “In fact, in less than a year, communities across our state have dealt with tornadoes, thunderstorms, flooding and record snowfalls. I’m hoping the federal government takes all of this into account as they review our request.”

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Electric Co-ops Support Energy Independence

The National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (NRECA) supports President Bush’s commitment to reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign fuel and applauds his call for increased production of renewable, domestic energy.

 “As the President observed, technological advances and increased investment in research will foster greater efficiency across the energy industry. Electric cooperatives continue to integrate new, renewable energy and clean coal technologies into their generation portfolios and remain committed to helping achieve a national goal for the production of 25 percent of the nation’s energy supply from renewable sources by 2025,” says Glenn English, President/CEO of NRECA. “NRECA looks forward to working with the Administration, Congress and industry and environmental stakeholders to help stem America’s consumption of foreign fuel and develop a domestic, renewable, ag-based fuel industry.”

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Rep. Jerry Weller Receives Electric Cooperative’s Public Service Award

U.S. Representative Jerry Weller (R-11, Morris) received the 2006 Illinois Electric Cooperatives Public Service Award in Princeton on Monday, Jan. 8. The award was made in recognition of Weller’s dedicated public service to all citizens of the state of Illinois and for outstanding contributions to the rural electrification program.

Weller is now serving his seventh term representing the 11th District of Illinois. He currently serves on the very important Ways and Means Committee. With a degree in Agriculture from the University of Illinois, Weller has always been a strong advocate for rural Illinois.

Noland expressed his gratitude to Weller for his consistent and effective support. He said, “Congressman Weller has been a great supporter of the rural electric legislative program. He has been a leader on issues important to rural Illinois and to the members of our local not-for-profit electric cooperatives. He was instrumental in helping make clean renewable energy bond financing available to electric co-ops and municipal utilities. Like the electric co-ops of Illinois, he also strongly supports the increased production of ethanol and biodiesel.”

Weller said he will push for expanded use of ethanol and biodiesel in the new Congress. “I advocate increasing the amount of biofuels consumed to 25 billion gallons by the year 2025,” Weller said. “Increasing use of renewable fuel provides America with greater energy security and national security, because we are not relying on foreign sources of fuel. And it means more jobs for Illinois workers and higher prices for Illinois’ corn and soybean growers.”

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College Grants For Illinois Middle Class

MAP Plus (Illinois’ Monetary Award Program Plus) provides $500 grants to college sophomores, juniors and seniors from families with incomes below $200,000. The Fiscal Year 2007 budget also includes increased funding for the existing MAP program, which serves students from lower income families. In total, 225,000 students will benefit from the creation of MAP Plus and the additional funding for MAP.

The average annual cost of tuition and fees to attend a public university in Illinois is more than $7,000 (more than doubling in the past 10 years), and the average cost for private colleges is more than $20,000, according to Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) data. Even two-year community colleges in Illinois have experienced an 80 percent hike, and now average $2,465 in tuition and fees. Nationally, the average yearly cost in tuition and fees for public universities is $9,877, and $26,025 for private universities, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Funding for MAP Plus will come from restructuring or selling part of the student loan portfolio now held by ISAC. MAP Plus was inspired by the success of MAP, which has been providing assistance to college students from lower-income families since 1967. MAP Plus - like MAP - will be administered by ISAC, which also administers the Illinois Veterans Grant Program, Silas Purnell Illinois Incentive for Access Program, teacher scholarship programs and others.

For more information go to www.collegezone.com or phone 800‑899-ISAC (4722).

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Wildlife Conservation Grants Funding For Illinois Landowners

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is encouraging Illinois wildlife groups and individuals interested in wildlife conservation to apply for financial assistance for projects that protect and manage non-game species in Illinois through the State Wildlife Grant program. Groups and organizations submitting project grant proposals must do so by April 16, 2007.

Information on the pre-application for the State Wildlife Grant program is available on the IDNR Web site at: http://dnr.state.il.us/orc/wildliferesources/theplan/
swggrant/login.asp.

For more information on the State Wildlife Grant Program in Illinois, contact the IDNR Watershed Protection Section, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL 62702-1271, 217-785-5907,
e-mail: james.renn@illinois.gov.

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March Temperatures Expected To Return To Seasonal Levels

With the mild winter of 2006-2007 almost behind us, it is time to look ahead towards spring. The latest long-range climate models suggest that the current El Nino, which has been primarily responsible for keeping Illinois warmer than average the last three months, is holding steady in strength.

However, there are some indications that the spilt-flow jet stream pattern that has been dominate across North America during the winter may begin to break down and enter a period of transition.

The NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) is expected to become negative once again by later in the month, which traditionally allows more of an upper-level trough pattern to set-up across the eastern third of the country. This will allow an increase in frequency of cooler Canadian air masses to make their way across the region. With that being said, much of Illinois is expected to see temperatures average closer to normal during March with warmer weather still persisting across northern portions of the country.
Source: EJS Weather, Newton, Ill., go to www.ejsweather.com, or call 618-783-3040.

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