ARLINGTON, Va. – The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association today expressed support for efforts to modernize the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
“Regulatory hurdles under NEPA have triggered reliability problems and forced electric co-ops and their communities to endure costly project delays,” said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson. “We support the spirit of NEPA, and these sensible modernizations are long overdue. The updated policy will ensure that environmental reviews and decisions involving multiple agencies are synchronized and efficient.”
“These reforms will provide electric co-ops much-needed clarity and certainty as they continue to diversify their energy portfolios and increase the resiliency of their systems. Both necessitate the modernization or construction of new electric transmission and distribution facilities,” Matheson said.
An example of the excessive delay caused by the existing NEPA process:
Copper Valley (AK) Electric Association: In 2007, the Copper Valley Electric Association elected to add more hydroelectric power to its portfolio. The project was expected to eliminate the use of 700,000 gallons of diesel fuel used for electricity generation each year. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a preliminary permit for the project in 2008, with a three-year deadline for submittal of a formal license application. Despite the co-op’s submission of a timely and complete license application in 2011, FERC did not meet project review milestones. The project did not receive final approvals until late 2013, a delay that cost the co-op millions of dollars—including the cost to purchase nearly a million gallons of diesel fuel. More than $700,000 was passed on to the co-op’s members due to these delays.
The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape. As local businesses built by the consumers they serve, electric cooperatives have meaningful ties to rural America and invest $12 billion annually in their communities.