Rural Missouri - May 2017 - 5
H A RT TO H E A RT
Keeping the promise
by Barry Hart | email@example.com
n electric cooperative is not an easy thing
to operate. To be effective, our employees
must constantly look ahead at weather
trends, ﬁnancing, the economy and a host
of other complex issues that really require a crystal
ball. A few years ago that effort got even more complicated when the Environmental Protection Agency
announced it would regulate carbon dioxide emissions through the Clean Power Plan.
Suddenly, long-term plans to provide Americans with reliable electricity far into the future had
to be revised. EPA's actions brought tremendous
uncertainty to an industry that makes its decisions
decades - not years - in advance.
As one who actively watches what is going on
in Washington, D.C., I can tell you a big change
has taken place there in the months since President Trump took ofﬁce. Many rural people voted for
Trump because he promised to change how the federal government operates, turning away from a topdown philosophy where government told its people
what to do into a government that wants to partner
with its people.
That's the case at least at EPA, where a new
administrator, Scott Pruitt, seems to understand
that providing electricity requires a public/private
partnership and an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy that allows electric cooperatives to make sound
economic decisions when it comes to generating
electricity for members.
As Oklahoma's attorney general, Administrator Pruitt was one of several state AGs who sued
the federal government over EPA's use of the Clean
Power Plan to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.
In accepting the job as head of EPA, he said: "The
American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary
EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency
in a way that fosters both responsible protection of
the environment and freedom for American businesses."
That's a statement in line with what many electric cooperative members around the state have told
me, and it's the same message more than 300,000
Missouri electric co-op members sent to EPA during
the comment period on their proposed new regulations. These members believe protecting U.S. jobs
and the economy is just as important as protecting
The November election outcome in many ways
reﬂected the frustration rural people felt at a host
of government regulations that intruded deeply on
their efforts to earn a living. Farmers in particular felt the government was seriously overreaching
as they responded to EPA's Waters of the U.S., or
"The agency is making it impossible for farmers and ranchers to look at their land and know
what can be regulated," the American Farm Bureau
related in a position paper on issues affecting its
This rule was a classic case of overreach by the
federal government. It made virtually every low spot
where rainwater collected subject to federal oversight and created great confusion for those trying to
work the land.
Following the president's "Energy Independence
Executive Order," Pruitt reported that he would
be reviewing, and if appropriate, would revise or
rescind burdensome rules issued by the previous
administration. This includes the Clean Power Plan
and the WOTUS rule.
That doesn't mean our work and vigilance on
behalf of electric cooperative members will now end.
On the contrary, we will continue to ﬁght for a seat
at the table as the administrator begins a new rulemaking process.
I am encouraged to see the Trump Administration
understands the concerns of rural America and is
committed to bringing the change it wants. We look
forward to working with Administrator Pruitt and
other administration ofﬁcials as they try to ensure
Washington regulations don't harm the people who
can least afford it - our members - and help rural
communities keep and create jobs.
Hart is executive vice president of the Association
of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.
A sea change for our industry
by Jim Matheson | firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington, including recent meetings with White
House staff and administration leaders. I've met
ast month, I had the opportunity to accom- with Administrator Pruitt, Energy Secretary Rick
pany Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Envi- Perry and White House staff responsible for rural
ronmental Protection Agency, on a tour of issues to communicate our priorities and provide
Associated Electric Cooperative's Thomas speciﬁc policy recommendations.
Infrastructure is one area where this is vital.
Hill coal plant. The fact that any senior EPA ofﬁMuch of the infrastructure convercial would visit a coal facility to discuss
sation is dominated by the need to
regulatory issues with co-op leaders
rebuild roads and bridges. But the
and workers represents a sea change
infrastructure needs of rural America
for our industry.
are much more than that.
President Trump's signing of an
Here are three things Congress can
executive order to review the Clean
now do to advance America's rural
Power Plan earlier in April is the most
signiﬁcant signal of a sharp political
1. Support maintenance and enturn toward our position on this and
hancements to existing rural infraother regulatory issues. It is the result
structure. Maintaining and upgrading
of your relentless advocacy efforts
power lines and other infrastructure is
over four years, including more than
a massive undertaking. As policymak300,000 comments to EPA from Misers consider an infrastructure packsouri alone on the Clean Power Plan.
age, the Farm Bill, tax policy and othThe cooperative movement is powJim Matheson
er legislation, it is critical they support
ered by you. In 2016, our members in
Missouri and elsewhere put America's electric coop- the siting and construction of generation, transmiseratives in a stronger position to address the rapid sion and distribution infrastructure to meet rural
changes facing our industry. You lifted up the voice America's 21st century energy needs.
2. Ensure timely permitting decisions. Regulaof rural Americans through the Co-ops Vote civic
tory review timelines for infrastructure can stretch
NRECA continues to support your efforts in on for years. These bureaucratic delays strain exist-
ing infrastructure and electric co-op resources. In
2006, Associated Electric Cooperative started work
on a new 100-mile transmission line that was critical to ensuring reliable power. But because of the
bureaucratic maze, the project took six years to
complete and included more than $1 million in regulatory and non-construction expenses.
3. Prioritize rural broadband deployment. Broadband access is limited across much of the nation's
rural landscape. Electric cooperatives are partnering in the development of Smart Rural Communities, including developing broadband networks
that enhance economic diversity, education and
advanced health care.
An infrastructure package that focuses on the
needs of rural America will create jobs and expand
opportunity for all. It's time for Congress and the
administration to make that a reality.
In the months ahead, we will pursue an aggressive policy agenda that includes regulatory relief,
cyber and physical security, energy innovation and
investment in rural infrastructure. We'll support
that agenda with an advocacy strategy that forges
stronger connections between the messages we
deliver in Washington and the stories we share with
members, journalists and other stakeholders.
Matheson is chief executive ofﬁcer of the National
Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
MAY 2017 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP