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114th Congress Ends with Co-op Wins

Chris Meyers

Your local electric cooperative works closely with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) in Washington D.C., to shape federal policies that help electric cooperatives achieve their goal of providing affordable, reliable, and safe electric power to you, the member-owner. Electric co-ops are “hands on” in the legislative and agency rule making processes. The combined efforts of all 900-plus electric co-ops across the nation are very powerful.

At the end of the 114th U.S. Congress, co-ops were successful in addressing several areas of con-cern while others are yet unresolved and left to be picked up again in the next Congress.
In the final hours, well after midnight, the Senate passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act. This broad bill was championed by Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe and contained two important provisions for co-ops.

The first provision brought certainty in the enforcement of coal ash disposal. Coal ash is a non-hazardous material, but there are rules to be followed for safe disposal. Much of it is repurposed as an additive in concrete used to build highways and bridges. The enforcement of EPA rules on proper disposal of coal ash was given specifically to state agencies. Clarifying enforcement responsibilities reduces uncertainty and most likely avoids expensive litigation. The second important provision was the elimination of easement renewal fees for the electric cooperatives on Corps of Engineers’ property. The original easements signed by both parties are at the end of their initial 50-year term. The powerlines within those easements have long served the Corps and other members and will continue to do so long into the future. Resolving this contentious issue will save Oklahoma co-op members hundreds of thousands of dollars.

These two important wins directly affect costs. When it comes to federal legislation it’s a team effort. We are thankful for our U.S. senators and congressmen who support us in our constant battle to maintain affordable, reliable and safe electric power