More than 180 directors and employees from Tennessee’s electric cooperatives were in Nashville April 1 and 2 for the 2013 Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association Legislative Conference. Attendees met with their legislators on Capitol Hill to help them better understand electric cooperatives and the issues that impact them.
U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn also addressed the group, discussing in detail how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is overstepping its boundaries and stifling job creation. “The EPA audits businesses looking for ways to fine them,” said Blackburn. “Their attitude is not helpful, and that is not what the Federal government is supposed to do.”
Tennessee’s electric cooperatives maintain an active presence in Nashville and Washington, D.C., to be certain that the interests of co-op members are protected. “Electric cooperatives are not-for-profit, member-owned and -regulated and accountable to their communities. These are important distinctions that legislators must understand,” says David Callis, general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The decisions made by legislators can have enormous effects on our members’ electric bills, so our job is to inform and educate them on the impacts of proposed legislation.”
Most issues affecting co-ops this year revolve around local control. “We believe that our members are best served when local decisions are made by local board members elected to run the cooperative,” says Mike Knotts, director of government affairs with TECA. “We are concerned when legislation limits a board’s ability to act in the best interests of its members.”
“Educated and informed legislators are a key component of low-cost, reliable power in Tennessee,” says Knotts. “Co-op members make a powerful impression when they come to meet with their legislators.”
More than 90 legislative visits were made during the conference, and 63 house and senate members attended the co-ops’ legislative reception.