Harvey Unites Co-ops, Industry, DOE

An overhead view shows the storm recovery efforts that NRECA and member co-ops are engaged in. (Photo By: San Patricio Electric Co-op)
An overhead view shows the storm recovery efforts that NRECA and member co-ops are engaged in. (Photo By: San Patricio Electric Co-op)

NRECA and member cooperatives have a direct line into the Department of Energy and other key federal agencies when it comes to recovery from the historic Hurricane Harvey.

Through the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC), NRECA and other electric power industry groups, including the American Public Power Association and Edison Electric Institute, are in close contact on a daily basis with DOE to make requests for help and report restoration progress.

The ESCC serves as the principal liaison between the federal government and electric power industry. Its mission is to coordinate efforts to prepare for and respond to national-level disasters and threats to critical infrastructure.

The council includes electric utility CEOs and trade association leaders as well as senior administration officials from the White House, relevant Cabinet agencies, federal law enforcement and national security organizations.

Duane Highley, CEO and president of Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. and Arkansas Electric Cooperatives is a co-chairman of the council. NRECA CEO Jim Matheson serves on the ESCC steering committee.

Texas co-op CEOs briefed Energy Secretary Rick Perry when the former Texas governor joined ESCC teleconferences with his department over the weekend after the Category 4 hurricane hit the Gulf Coast.

In addition to afternoon ESCC coordination calls, the trade associations hold a daily morning briefing with senior DOE officials in that agency’s Emergency Response Function 12 group. The ESF-12 group is the primary liaison group with Federal Emergency Management Administration, the Department of Transportation and other federal agencies.

“We are in touch with DOE and key federal emergency officials at all times, especially when a catastrophic storm of such magnitude of Harvey hits,” said Martha Duggan, NRECA senior director for regulatory affairs.

“During these calls, electric co-ops have a direct opportunity to tell the department what is needed, where and when in terms of post-Harvey aid,” she said.

Electric co-ops test their emergency responsiveness all year in various exercises and stay connected in real disaster preparation through their commitment to mutual aid.

Harvey at one time knocked out 22,000 meters served by Sam Houston EC, based in Livingston. The co-op participated in a DOE-sponsored exercise in May involving a simulated “Hurricane Azalea” that made landfall in Houston and took out all of its 74,000 meters.

Cathy Cash is a staff writer at NRECA.

Read and view all of our Hurricane Harvey coverage.