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Rural Missouri Magazine

Energy bill good for co-ops

by Barry Hart

by Barry Hart

As the ink from President Bush’s signature dried on the Energy Policy Act of 2005, electric cooperatives earned something they have sought for 70 years: national recognition that they are different from the rest of the electric utility industry.

Electric cooperatives worked closely with lawmakers as the new energy bill was shaped over nine years of hard work and long hours of debate. In recognition of this hard work and effort from electric cooperatives all over the United States, Glenn English, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, was asked to attend the signing of the bill in New Mexico by President Bush.

Throughout the process we developed and adjusted our legislative strategy to stop provisions that would harm you and your electric co-op.
As a result, the energy bill is significant as much for what it does not include as for what it does include.

Chief among these was a measure that would have required AECI, the cooperative generator of electricity for our state, to pay a crippling $126 million tax on the coal it uses for generation. I am proud to report to you that our senior senator from Missouri, Kit Bond, led the way to prevent you from paying the tax.

Another amendment would have required regulation of electric cooperatives by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Missouri’s legislature has always recognized that electric cooperative regulation is best done by their locally elected consumer board of directors. In the new law Congress and the president have now recognized what our state legislature has in the past.

Rep. Roy Blunt from Missouri’s 7th Congressional District served on the conference committee and took the lead in keeping the control of your cooperative back home here in Missouri and not in Washington D.C. In addition, Missouri’s 4th-District Rep. Ike Skelton helped us in conference by sending letters supporting electric cooperative provisions to ranking minority party members on the committee.

A major incentive to increase the potential development of renewable energy by electric cooperatives nationally stayed in place. Electric co-ops can now take advantage of Clean Renewable Energy Bonds.

In essence, these are interest-free loans used to finance qualified energy projects and are comparable to the Production Tax Credits that investor-owned utilities have long enjoyed.

Sen. Jim Talent took the lead in including provisions that assist in the development of ethanol and soy diesel fuels that could lead to more production facilities in Missouri and improve markets for corn and soybeans for our Missouri farmers.

As the Energy Policy Act of 2005 was shaped the nation’s electric co-ops turned time after time to the Missouri congressional delegation for support and were never disappointed. Virtually all of Missouri’s delegation offered help to make sure the legislation helped rural Missouri and your electric cooperative.

In addition to Sens. Bond and Talent, and Reps. Blunt and Skelton, a special thanks also goes to Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, Rep. Sam Graves, Rep. Kenny Hulshof and Rep. Todd Akin for their strong support of the final Energy Policy Act of 2005 that President Bush signed.

For electric cooperatives, this bill specifically addresses our needs, which will now be comparable to the treatment for other electric industry sectors. When you see these members of Missouri’s congressional delegation or their staffs, thank them for the leadership and support of the energy bill and their recognition that your cooperative is different.

Hart is executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.

E-mail Barry Hart

 

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Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives

Rural Missouri
2722 E. McCarty Street
P.O. Box 1645 • Jefferson City, Mo. 65102
573-659-3423

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