Some 2,100 electric cooperative leaders advanced key co-op issues to members of Congress and their staffs at Capitol Hill meetings during the 2017 NRECA Legislative Conference, held April 23-25 in Washington, D.C.
Here’s a rundown of the key “asks” for co-ops:
SUPPORT THE RUS ELECTRIC LOAN PROGRAM
Legislative Conference participants asked their U.S. senators to sign a letter authored by Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., on behalf of the Rural Utilities Service Electric Loan Program. For fiscal 2018, NRECA supports a $5.5 billion loan level for electric loans, with no language restrictions on use of the money. Co-ops also are encouraging Congress to fund the Guaranteed Underwriter Program at $1 billion and the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program at $85 million for fiscal 2018.
SUPPORT CO-OP TAX PRIORITIES
Participants were asked to urge their representatives to sign on to H.R. 1090, the Technologies for Energy Security Act. Introduced by Reps. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., and Mike Thompson, D-Calif., the bill would extend tax credits for geothermal systems that expired at the end of 2016. Also a priority is nuclear production tax credits. S. 666, authored by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and H.R. 1551, sponsored by Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., would provide more equitable treatment of not-for-profits, like electric cooperatives, with a stake in nuclear power. Finally, co-ops support legislation to spur commercial deployment of carbon capture and storage technology. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., are developing a CCS technology tax credit bills.
SUPPORT IMPROVED LAND MANAGEMENT
Co-ops support reform of land management policies that have long hindered them as they seek to manage their rights of way on or near federal property. At the Legislative Conference, participants asked their representatives to cosponsor H.R. 1873, the Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act. Introduced by Reps. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., and Kurt Schrader, D-Colo., it would streamline the rights-of-way review process and reduce the risk of co-op liability.
SUPPORT ENDANGERED SPECIES REFORM
Several congressional leaders are developing legislation to reform the Endangered Species Act. Legislative Conference participants asked their elected officials to cosponsor the legislation when it is introduced. Co-ops believe reform of the 1973 law is necessary because it impacts their ability to site and maintain power lines. Co-ops support efforts to make the law more efficient, effective and less costly.
Steven Johnson is a staff writer at NRECA.