Leaders say rural broadband needed for jobs
At a House Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development field hearing hosted at the University of Illinois at Springfield by Committee Chairman Tim Johnson, R-Ill., leaders discussed the urgent need for expansion of rural broadband infrastructure.
Johnson said, “The Internet is supposed to be a great equalizer to break down the traditional barriers of distance. It drives economic growth. Improving rural broadband is one piece of arresting the decline in rural America.”
Subcommittee Ranking Member Jim Costa, D-Calif., said that as Congress considers reauthorizing the 2012 farm bill, they would carefully consider the suggestions made at the hearing. Costa said, “As we look at the RUS rural telephone loan and loan guarantee program, the broadband loan program, ways to increase local control and challenges of startup businesses, Congress should strive to achieve a “level playing field.”
Several co-op leaders testified before the hearing. Les Fowler, Government Affairs Manager for McDonough Telephone Cooperative, said that the Universal Service Fund and intercarrier compensation are crucial in deploying communications in rural areas. It’s critical to maintain broadband loan programs and other communications programs at RUS, said Fowler.
Also testifying that the promise of the “smart grid” can’t happen without broadband communications was Jay Bartlett, CEO of Prairie Power, Inc. Prairie Power is an Illinois generation and transmission cooperative that serves an area just slightly smaller than the combined area of New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island, yet it serves Illinois co-op members that equal slightly less than the population of Springfield, Ill. Bartlett helped build a fiber optic network in Springfield while working for the municipal utility there, and he understands both the huge economic benefit and the financial difficulty in building broadband infrastructure in sparsely populated areas served by co-ops.
It is just common sense that building rural broadband infrastructure will be expensive, says Bartlett. But equally clear is the need. He said, “There is no room for failure in the endeavor of keeping rural America economically stable. Telecommunications systems needed for our communities to thrive have not materialized. So, we have elected to go it on our own.”
Purple Paint Law
Senate Bill 1914, dubbed the Purple Paint Law, allows landowners or lessees to use purple paint to mark trees or posts on their property to serve as a “no trespassing” notice. The law does not include real property in municipalities with populations exceeding 2,000,000 residents. Until January 1, 2013, landowners must still continue to properly convey “no trespassing” notices, in addition to the purple paint. For more information, visit the Illinois Department of Natural Resources www.dnr.illinois.gov/hunting/Pages/PublicAct97-0477.aspx.
Illinois co-ops back copper theft bill
Property used by utilities would be off-limits for Illinois scrap dealers, under a copper theft bill making its way through the state legislature with co-op support.
Sellers would have to show written authorization to sell copper that is “associated with use by governments, utilities, or railroads” under the measure introduced Sept. 29.
The bill would also require dealers to record all transactions, eliminating the state’s existing $100 threshold. Cash payments would be eliminated, with sellers being paid by check three business days after a transaction. And anyone with a felony drug conviction would be banned from selling metal for 10 years.
While much of the onus would be on recyclers, the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Mike Unes, stressed that they are not being singled out.
“The intent of this is not to hurt them. The intent is to hurt the criminal and deter the criminal from stealing,” Unes said.
Tazewell County Sheriff Robert Huston said that so far this year, his office has dealt with more than three dozen cases of metal theft. Huston said if the proposed law had been on the books two years ago, “our job would have been much easier, and these crimes may have been prevented by reducing the incentive for the criminals to commit them.”
Co-ops in the state have been victimized by copper thieves, so the bill has the backing of the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives.
“The electric co-ops of Illinois sincerely appreciate Rep. Unes for sponsoring this bill,” said Duane Noland, president/CEO of the statewide.
“Almost all of the Illinois electric cooperatives have been impacted by this epidemic of copper theft,” Noland said. Just two weeks ago, EnerStar Power in Paris, Ill., was broken into.
“Approximately $3,000 in salvaged copper wire was stolen,” Noland said. “To add insult to the break-in, the thieves used a co-op truck to haul the wire a few miles from the office where they abandoned the truck.”
“In addition to the cost and safety issues,” Noland added, “now that copper thieves are breaking into co-op property, there is a new security concern.”
Source: Electric Co-op Today, Michael W. Kahn
Defense Department speeds clean energy move
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is accelerating clean energy innovations to reduce risks to the military, enhance energy security, and save money, according to a report released September 21 by The Pew Charitable Trusts. DOD’s clean energy investments increased 300 percent to $1.2 billion between 2006 and 2009.
DOD’s priorities for energy efficiency and renewable energy sources have been driven by recent experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, where fuel shipments account for 80 percent of all supply convoys. The report finds that DOD’s major energy challenges include risks associated with transporting liquid fuels to the battlefield, growing oil price volatility, the impact of fuel dependence on operational effectiveness, and compliance with federal energy policies.
The Pew report documents how DOD is helping accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technologies in three key areas: vehicle efficiency, advanced biofuels, and energy efficiency and renewable energy at bases. DOD spending to harness clean energy technologies for air, land, and sea vehicles is projected to grow to $2.25 billion annually by 2015.
The branches of the military are also embracing the use of advanced biofuels. For example, the Air Force intends to use biofuels for 50 percent of its domestic aviation needs by 2016, and the department is speeding up research and testing of biofuels. And, DOD is looking to improve energy efficiency in its more than 500,000 buildings and structures at 500 major installations around the world.
Tree killing beetle found in southern Illinois
A destructive pest that feasts on ash trees has been confirmed in two new Illinois counties. The emerald ash borer (EAB) recently was discovered just north of Salem in Marion County and at the Green Creek Rest Area on Interstate 57 in Effingham County. The beetle now has been confirmed in 20 counties in Illinois, with the latest detections being the first time the insect has been located in southern Illinois.
The emerald ash borer is a small, metallic-green beetle native to Asia. Its larvae burrow into the bark of ash trees, causing the trees to starve and eventually die.
EAB is a sneaky traveler, which is why it is important that everyone, even in those counties not currently inside the quarantine zone, put the quarantine guidelines into practice by keeping all firewood and untreated wood products from movement outside of its county of origin, said Warren Goetsch, Illinois Department of Agriculture Bureau Chief of Environmental Programs.
The emerald ash borer is difficult to detect, especially in newly-infested trees. Citizens should watch for metallic-green beetles about half the diameter of a penny on or near ash trees that are showing signs of disease or stress.
Since the emerald ash borer was first confirmed in the Midwest in the summer of 2002, more than 25 million ash trees have been felled by the beetle. Anyone who suspects a tree has been infested is urged to contact either their county Extension office or village forester. For more information, visit www.IllinoisEAB.com.