Written in Ink

Polluter by Proxy

A favorite ploy by anti-union activists is that union dues are sometimes used to aid political campaigns. A similar situation has been occurring with monies paid to rural electric cooperatives, utilities often guaranteed no competition by law, with the NRECA's campaign against the Obama administration's EPA proposal.

Considered a moderate Republican, Jo Ann Emerson was elected to Congress from Missouri to complete her late husband's term and was reelected seven times before resigning to become president of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, a service organization for over 900 rural electric cooperatives serving more than 42 million customers in 47 states and the parent of the Touchstone Energy brand.

Under President Obama's "Climate Action Plan", states are expected to reduce their carbon emissions from the power sector 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. The Environmental Protection Agency is leaving it up to the individual states how to achieve this goal, though they do have some specific recommendations such as carbon capture, increasing renewable sources, more energy efficient building codes and demand-side incentives. On their website, the agency has an interactive map which shows the amount of reduction for each state and some of their recommendations, plus there's a map showing the power plants which would be affected.


The NRECA has been waging a campaign against this change, arguing that they feel power costs would increase too much and would be hard on their customers. They also say that the increased costs would stifle job growth. The organization bats around figures such as the plan has 1600 pages and they claim it could increase wholesale power costs for first-generation plants by seventy to eighty percent, if it doesn't just eliminate coal as a power source.

To fight the regulation, the group has launched website where one can send a complaint to the EPA Administrator and they have developed ads, such as the one below.

Some local cooperatives aren't as vocal as others. If you look around, you'll see that some say they are not expecting a major impact because they don't get as much from coal, but others are screaming bloody murder at every turn, using every means at their disposal and I don't know that any have asked their customers owners how they feel.


Of course there is the option of going to the annual meeting and making an argument, but usually one needs to be on the agenda and some electric cooperatives are very protective of their agendas with lots of hoops, plus the annual meetings are often so sparsely attended, the coops give free food, door prizes and other entertainment and some still go years without enough in attendance for a vote. It would be difficult for a group opposed to the board's position without an organized effort and right now, there is no national group taking the lead.

Because rural electric cooperatives are owned by their members, though they've never been asked and its not a stance many might take, through the NRECA, Touchstone and their local cooperative board, it's like the member-owners oppose the environmental regulations because through their dues, they're involuntarily supporting the continuation of the status quo.

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