Co-op leaders meet with Illinois congressional delegation
Co-op leaders from across Illinois thanked Sen. Roland Burris for his support of climate change legislation that treats Illinois consumers fairly. Sen. Burris joined 13 other Senate Democrats in a call for fairness in climate change legislation. In a letter coordinated by Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, the group declared it’s essential for Congress to fairly distribute emissions allowances to all Americans, no matter where they live. “We are grateful to Sen. Burris for taking the stand that he did, and we look forward to continuing to work with him and Sen. Durbin toward achieving climate change legislation that is fair to co-op members,” said Duane Noland, President/CEO of the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives.
A delegation of 85 Illinois electric cooperative leaders met with Sen. Roland Burris, Sen. Richard Durbin and other Illinois Congressional representatives in Washington, D.C. May 3-5. They joined more than 2,500 co-op leaders from across the nation at the National Rural Electric Cooperatives 2010 Legislative Conference.
NRECA CEO Glenn English asked the local co-op leaders to spread across Capitol Hill on behalf of their members back home and ask Congress for policies that preserve the quality of life in rural America.
“This is not about fuel. This is not even about climate change,” English told participants at the conference. “This is about trying to make certain that those 42 million people served by electric cooperatives are going to continue to have affordable electric power and that their quality of life is going to be maintained and improved, as we go forward,” he said.
English asked the co-op leaders to persuade members of Congress to co-sponsor legislation that blocks or delays the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases from stationary sources under the Clean Air Act. That regulation is proceeding even as Congress remains deadlocked on legislation to address the issue. EPA regulation will drive up energy prices and English called the Clean Air Act the wrong tool for the job.
Other issues at the conference included support for the Rural Utilities Service, and legislation to expand co-ops’ role in energy efficiency by providing low interest loans to co-op members.
The Obama administration has proposed a $2.5 billion reduction in the Rural Utilities Service Electric Loan program for fiscal 2011, with restrictions on RUS loans for natural gas generation and environmental upgrades.
The Association of Illinois Electric Cooperative President/CEO Duane Noland said the Illinois delegation gained support from both House and Senate members for a measure that will help co-op members with energy efficiency upgrades through a low-interest loan program handled through the Rural Utilities Service and operated by co-ops.
“We urged our members of Congress to co-sponsor the Rural Energy Savings Program Act, H.R. 4785 and S. 3102, as a way of minimizing electric bills for our members and their rural constituents,” said Noland. During the meetings with co-op leaders both Sen. Roland Burris and Rep. Phil Hare promised they would cosponsor the legislation.
Noland said, “Everyone can agree on the need for increasing energy efficiency, but there is a lot of uncertainty about when and how the Senate will address climate change legislation. It could be next week, or it could be next year after the election. Right now we are hopeful they will pass some kind of legislation that will delay EPA regulation on green house gases until Congress does find a way to pass legislation that is fair, achievable and affordable.”
Noland, a former Illinois state senator, urged other Illinois citizens to join co-op leaders and get involved in the political process. “The political process is messy, but for democracy to truly work we need grassroots citizen involvement in the process.”
He said the electric co-ops have made it easy by creating a website — www.ourenergy.coop — where people can go to learn more and to send a message to their elected representatives. “This is an election year,” said Noland. “It’s time we all got involved and exercised our right to vote and participate in the process.”