June 2014

Earlier this month, I had a chance to join more than 2,500 co-op representatives at the 2014 National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. The meeting was about what we can do to make sure that this so-called “do-nothing” Congress does more, and does it for you, SEMO Electric Cooperative’s members.

Collectively, we worked together to get our positions heard on Capitol Hill. I was able to meet with Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Representative Jason Smith, R-Mo., and other members of Congress. I am pleased to report they support our fight against the EPA and support legislation to protect the co-op’s ability to deliver safe, reliable and affordable electricity to homes, businesses and farms in southeast Missouri.

One of the most important issues discussed on The Hill was getting members of Congress to sign House and Senate letters urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide at least 120 days for comments on proposed greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations for existing power plants.  The EPA is expected to release its proposal in June as part of the President’s Climate Action Plan. This first-ever existing plants GHG proposal will be far more complex than the EPA’s new plants proposal. Utilities will need more time to determine the impacts on power plants, grid reliability and consumer costs. Rep. Smith took the lead in seeking an extended deadline. Please let him know you appreciate his efforts!

Did you know three in four Americans are concerned that proposed EPA policies to eliminate coal-generated electricity will result in higher electricity costs and summer blackouts and brownouts? That’s the results of a new Harris poll.  Their concerns are not unfounded. Removing reliable and affordable coal generation from the energy mix forces America to rely more on fuels subject to volatile swings in price and supply. Many Americans reported higher electricity bills this winter, largely as the result of a cold spell when electricity prices in their regions tracked the price of natural gas and alternative fuels, used to generate their power. Fortunately, SEMO Electric member’s cost per energy unit did not change this winter. Usage increased dramatically, but the cost per kWh was the same as last winter because of our reliance on coal to generate electricity. Had stable and plentiful coal not have been part of the energy mix, those prices could have increased.

The poll also shows most Americans are concerned that the proposed EPA regulations will spawn electricity black-outs and brown-outs this summer. Heavy summer and winter usage alike can stress the nation's power grid and heighten the effects of a failure in any part of the system. Implementing regulations that shut down coal facilities will remove the most dependable source of electricity from that system.

It is important we realize the importance of coal in keeping our electric rates affordable and our electric grid reliable. I agree hydro, wind, solar and natural gas need to continue to be part of our energy portfolio. However, we can’t just stop using coal. Evidently, many agree. More than 515,000 comments about the EPA’s climate change agenda have been sent through NRECA’s grassroots effort on Action.coop and TellEPA.com. Locally, SEMO Electric’s members and friends have sent over three thousand comments to let the EPA know a possible rate increase of nearly 80% is not acceptable. Thank you. We must protect the co-op’s ability to deliver safe, reliable and affordable electricity to homes, businesses and farms in southeast Missouri.

Be smart. Act safe.

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