Prescot-Dunklin Cooperative sends representatives to Washington D.C.

Posted on June 20, 2015 13:29 pm CDT

Daily Dunklin Democrat

Laura Ford

The cost of electricity is important, especially in rural areas, and when those costs rise, it affects everyone. Most people immediately blame the electric companies for their high energy costs; however, they may need to look at Washington, D.C. 

Making sure that electric bills are affordable to consumers across the nation was the focus of the nearly 3,000 electric cooperative leaders who were in the nation's capital, May 4-6 for a legislative conference sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). Tim Davis, general manager, along with board directors, William "Bub" Foresythe and Delbert DePriest, of Pemiscot-Dunklin Electric Cooperative, Hayti, were part of the group of 62 rural electric leaders from Missouri that attended the meeting. 

According to Davis, more than 900 representatives from electric cooperatives across the nation were in D.C. as lobbyists. "It is important to be in on those legislative meetings, and Glenn English, the former CEO of NRECA, always had a great theory for going. If you don't go, you better be settling for your opponent's politics." 

Davis explained that for the coal generated power plants, attending legislative meetings to represent the people is important, especially when laws being discussed pertain to the cost of electricity; someone had to be there to defend them.

Three representatives went from Pemiscot-Dunklin Co-Op and three went from SEMO Co-Op. "Regardless of where you sit politically, Republican or Democrat, they are all sensitive to us because of what it will cost the rate payers," he said. "That has been a blessing. Both Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt have been very sensitive to us." He added that it is a shame that the electric co-ops have to spend the money to send representatives. "It's not that we want to do it, but we have to."

According to a news release on the legislative conference, Missouri's delegation met with not only Senator Blunt and the key staff of Senator McCaskill, but they also met with U.S. Representatives Sam Graves, Vicky Hartzler, Jason Smith, Billy Long, Blaine Luetkemeyer, Ann Wagner, Emanuel Cleaver and Lacy Clay. The cooperative leaders found a welcome reception and strong support from the entire Missouri leadership. 

In fact, Davis said that it was a good meeting and very well organized. "We have been represented very well by our politicians," said Davis. "In the Bootheel, we have a tendency to think we have been forgotten, but we haven't."

The night they arrived, they attended a Missouri reception, and the purpose of that was to update everyone on what legislation was being supported. On Monday, they met with senators who also let them know what legislation needed to be watched and supported in order to protect the rate payers, as well as what parts of bills were ridiculous. "They present the pros and cons of both sides," said Davis. "They aren't just condemning one side or the other."

During the session, Davis said that the most important bills they discussed were on the Coal Combustion Residuals (CCRs), and the water of the U.S., the latter which he believes is an overreach by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to control puddles, ponds and ditches. "That doesn't seem like much, but those will be subject to federal regulation if it goes through," said Davis. "That's ridiculous because they don't even hold water a lot."

There was a bill introduced by Ed Whitefield from Kentucky called the Rate Payer Protection Act. "This bill would delay any action until the court reviews all of the legal challenges," explained Davis. "That (bill) has been introduced, and it was one bill that we were hoping for, because if we have to start shutting down coal generation it is irreversible." Cooperatives are saying if the regulations are going to shut them down, at least wait until all the regulations are filed. Davis believes that is fair

They discussed legislation dealing with CCRs, which is coal ash. Davis explained that in previous years, regulations regarding the structural integrity of CCR storage was based on a 500 year seismic study. Now the EPA wants the plants to conduct 2,500 year studies. The cost to conduct studies of that nature will fall back on the plant, which ultimately will cost the consumer.

According to Davis, 60 percent of the coal ash is sold, bringing a small income. As a non-hazardous by product, however, it can be purchased and used to fill a landfill, as well as in products, such as shingles, dry wall, concrete and asphalt. "It's these vendors who want the coal ash for their businesses," said Davis. "They will have to do something different if they don't have it, so it helps to keep the costs down for the vender as well as the consumer." 

The bottom line is that it is important to keep up with what is going on D.C. "We try to provide our customers with the lowest rates possible," said Davis. "In order to do that, we have to keep a close eye on Washington because everything they do regarding energy, in the end, affects us and the rate payer."











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