2012 ACRE rankings

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National Breathing Policy

Shawn Taylor,  Executive Director of the Wyoming Rural Electric Association

Here’s an idea. Let’s regulate how much air we in the United States can breathe.  Then let’s gradually, or not, increase the cost for breathing until people decide not to breathe. Or better yet, let’s have people from other countries sell us and decide how much air we can breathe and at what cost. We’ll call it the “National Breathing Policy.”

OK, so that example is a bit extreme. But if you look at everything that oil and its refined products provide for our country in our everyday lives, it might not be that big of a stretch to think that we would be hard pressed to survive as the world’s only superpower without this natural resource.

The big oil derrick spewing “black gold” from the top, or an oil pump jack with its methodical motion pumping oil out of the ground, may be people’s initial visual when thinking about oil. In terms of utility, most folks probably immediately think of oil as a motor lubricant or as gasoline when refined.

I’m guessing that most people don’t think of the compact disk they use in their computer, or the detergent used to wash clothes or dishes, or maybe the petrochemicals (refined oil products) that go into making synthetic materials for clothing, bedding, outdoor recreation equipment, etc.

One only needs to take a close look at the vast uses of oil to appreciate what it means to our daily lives and realize that we need it, we have it, and that we shouldn’t have to import a majority of it from foreign countries, many of which are not friendly to the United States.

In 2008 Secretary of Energy Steven Chu remarked that Americans should “punitively pay at the pump in order to wean them [us] off of gasoline.” This is like  raising the price of the air we breathe so as to legislate or more appropriately regulate how we as citizens behave.

If the current administration had its way, we as a country would pay considerably more for oil, so that we would use less. This is similar to their approach to the use of coal. Make it more expensive, even prohibitively more expensive to use so that we would use less.

On its surface, using less of our natural resources isn’t a bad ingredient for an energy policy – as long as we can stay as productive as we are and historically have been.

But being forced or regulated into using a more expensive and less reliable substitute is counter-productive. And not allowing domestic production of oil or any of our abundant natural resources is equally counter-productive.

When I worked in D.C. for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, we continually invited members of Congress to travel to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to see first-hand what was being proposed for oil-and-gas development. We mainly focused on those members who time and again opposed drilling in ANWR, and we never got any takers.

In my opinion, it was because they didn’t want to see with their own eyes what could be done, and what has been done. That way, they could continue to tell their constituents, without having all the facts, that we shouldn’t develop this “pristine area.” This is our country’s current energy policy; don’t develop what we have, let’s import what others have.

Much like the past two resources we’ve highlighted in WREN (coal and natural gas), oil has played a pivotal role in Wyoming’s past by providing good-paying, stable jobs, revenue to the state coffers, and a source of energy across the country.  Unlike coal and natural gas however, oil production in Wyoming has been continually declining over the past few decades. However, new exploration and extraction technology (i.e. using CO2 for tertiary recovery) will help Wyoming continue to play a role in providing this vital domestic natural resource.

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General Assembly adjourns

On May 1, the 107th Tennessee General Assembly adjourned its second session and brought to a close legislative business for the year – it’s earliest finish since 1998. The TECA Bill Tracker is finalized, and available by clicking the links below.

A $31.5 B budget for the state government was approved, which is a a $400 M reduction over last year’s $31.9 B budget. Even with the reductions, state employees will receive a two-and-a-half percent increase in their base pay and there will be a 0.25% reduction in the state sales tax levied on food. The state’s inheritance tax will phased out over a six-year period, and the gift tax will be eliminated entirely. A great deal of attention was paid to Governor Haslam’s proposal to modernize the State’s employment policies, also known as civil service. Ultimately, after some contention over the issue, the Tennessee State Employee Association supported the measure and it passed by large, bi-partisan majorities.

Another successful initiative of the Governor was to alter the make-up of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority from four full-time directors to a traditional five-member Board of Directors who would serve part-time.  A new Executive Director, initially appointed by the Governor and subsequently appointed by the Board of Directors, will manage the day to day operations of the TRA.  The final version of the bill contains a requirement that TRA submit an annual report to the Governor comparing the rates of regulated and non-regulated utilities (including electric utilities).  While the comparison of electric rates is not germane to TRA, as they do not regulate cooperative or municipally-owned utilities, TECA staff will pay close attention to these reports to ensure accuracy and relevance of any information included.

Upon the conclusion of the session, all bills not passed by both chamber and signed by the Governor are now officially “dead.”  When newly elected Legislators return to Nashville in January 2013, all bills and resolutions must be filed anew.

Final TECA Bill Summary

Electric cooperative interests were well protected throughout the session, as the entirety of TECA’s legislative agenda was resolved satisfactorily.  The bills of greatest importance included:

Trespasser Liability (Sen. Brian Kelsey/Rep. Vance Dennis)
By codifying the common law that a property owner owes no duty of care to a trespasser, electric cooperatives will see an increase in its protection against liability from copper thieves and other criminal activities on cooperative property.

Board Meeting Access (Sen. Delores Gresham/Rep. Vance Dennis) – The general subcommittee of the House State and Local Government committee unanimously agreed with our position that access to electric cooperative board meetings is best determined by electric cooperative members, rather than the legislature.

Pole Attachments (Sen. Brian Kelsey and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey/Rep. Debra Maggart) – This perennial issue saw much more legislative attention, due to the co-sponsorship of Lt. Gov. Ramsey and several committee hearings that included testimony on the bill.  Ultimately, electric cooperative member-owners owe a debt of gratitude to the Lieutenant Governor and the members of the Senate Commerce Committee who failed to make a motion that would bring the bill to a vote. This is a very unusual event in the senate, and sent a strong message to the cable industry about the depth of support enjoyed by electric cooperatives in Tennessee.

 

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TECA takes on Cable

TECA’s David Callis responds to Cable’s presentation to Senate Commerce Committee during the 2012 Legislative Rally on March 13th.

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Pole attachment in commerce

Discussion in House Commerce regarding pole attachment compromise in 2009.

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Redistricting maps

In the first week of session, the primary focus of both the House and Senate has been on the 10-year reapportionment of legislative districts. While there was some debate over the composition of these districts, as well as several tweaks along the way, the plans were approved almost as originally presented.

An initial analysis of the new districts shows that the plan does not cause any tremendous impacts to Tennessee’s cooperatives, or any of our cooperatives’ strongest supporters. That said, a number of changes in representation among cooperatives will occur.  For example, the headquarters locations of seven or TECA’s members will now be located in a new Congressional District.  TECA staff is working to produce lists and/or maps of the districts that will be a part of each cooperative’s service area.  These will posted on the Members Only section of the website soon.

Tennessee State House Districts

Based on 2010 population

Tennessee State Senate Map

Based on 2010 population

 

 

 

 

 

US. Congressional Map

Based on 2010 population

2011 ACRE Year End Report

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