North Carolina Co-ops Carry Local Priorities to Capitol Hill

More than 100 leaders representing 19 North Carolina electric cooperatives traveled to Washington, D.C., last week for the 2017 National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Legislative Conference. The group joined 2,000 others from electric co-ops across the country to meet with members of Congress and their staffs and advance key co-op issues.

North Carolina co-op leaders sat down with senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, as well as each representative from the state’s 13 congressional districts, to discuss issues important to their members.

“The North Carolina co-op delegation used the opportunity to educate members of Congress on key issues facing electric cooperative members, as well as the importance of key programs that allow us to provide safe, affordable and reliable power to the communities we serve,” said Jay Rouse, Director of Government Affairs for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “Visiting elected officials and sharing local cooperative experiences makes a big impact when it comes time for them to make decisions affecting the cooperative way of life.”

U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, Jr. (R-3) met with Edgecombe-Martin County Electric Membership Corporation, Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative, Jones-Onslow Electric Membership Corporation, Tideland Electric Membership Corporation and Tri-County Electric Membership Corporation.

Key issues, as framed by NRECA, included:

Rural Utilities Service (RUS) 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 (REDLG) Program at $85 million for fiscal year 2018. North Carolina electric co-ops are national leaders in the use of REDLG funds and have channeled more than $50 million in funds to communities to date.

Co-op Tax Priorities

Participants were asked to urge their representatives to sign on to H.R. 1090, the Technologies for Energy Security Act, which would extend tax credits for geothermal systems that expired at the end of 2016. Nuclear production tax credits are also a priority. 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.

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.

Endangered Species Reform

Several congressional leaders are developing legislation to reform the Endangered Species Act. Legislative Conference participants asked their elected officials to co-sponsor 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.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program Funding

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides critical home heating and cooling help to millions of vulnerable American families, the majority of which are served by electric cooperatives. Co-ops support an appropriation of at least $3.39 billion in fiscal year 2018 funding for the program.