Supreme Court short-circuits Clean Power Plan

Last December, I let you know that America’s electric cooperatives were filing suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asking a federal court to prevent a rule called the Clean Power Plan from taking effect. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) and 39 generation and transmission co-ops asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to intervene and recognize the lack of legal authority behind the EPA’s regulation. Tennessee’s electric cooperatives were part of this effort.

The Court of Appeals denied our request for a stay. But on Feb. 9, the Supreme Court took the unusual step of blocking the EPA’s landmark carbon rule for power plants, throwing into doubt whether President Barack Obama’s signature climate-change initiative will survive a legal battle before the high court.

The decision read, in part, “The application for a stay submitted to The Chief Justice and by him referred to the Court is granted. The Environmental Protection Agency’s ‘Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units,’ 80 Fed. Reg. 64,662 (October 23, 2015), is stayed pending disposition of the applicants’ petitions for review in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.”

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is very pleased with this decision halting implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. If this stay had not been granted, cooperatives across the nation would have been forced to take costly and irreversible steps to comply with the rule.

From its inception, we have believed this rule is unneeded regulatory overreach. Our initial step was to provide real-life concerns about the impacts of the proposed rule. More than 1 million Americans joined our push, agreeing that the EPA’s actions jeopardize rural America’s supply of safe, affordable and reliable electricity.

These regulatory hurdles make it increasingly difficult to deliver power to you. We are committed to a cleaner energy future. But the Clean Power Plan goes far beyond what the Clean Air Act authorizes the EPA to do and could seriously challenge our nation’s electric system. We continue to believe this is a huge overreach of EPA’s legal authority.

Low rates and reliable power must be part of our clean-energy future. This decision opens the door to find real solutions that effectively balance environmental and economic concerns. Cooperative members hardest hit by new regulations will be those who can least afford to pay more to keep the lights on — those living on fixed incomes or in poverty.

What’s next?

The decision does not address the merits of the lawsuit. The ruling from the highest court in the land puts the rule on hold until the case is argued in court. The stay is no guarantee that the rule will eventually be struck down, but the development is a bad omen for EPA’s chances. It does indicate that the court believes the states, utilities and coal companies have raised serious questions.

It also means that the deadlines imposed by the EPA will have to be revised. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals put the case on a fast track: Oral arguments are scheduled for this June, and that court’s decision could come in late summer or fall. Depending on the result, a Supreme Court appeal could come in early 2017.

As developments proceed, we’ll keep you informed.

The Super Bowl only has one winner

So, the postgame conversation with my 8-year-old son went something like this:

Me: Why are you crying?
Son: The Panthers lost the Super Bowl. (sobbing)
Me: I’m sorry. But it’s just a game, you know.
Son: But the Panthers lost the Super Bowl. (sobbing louder)
Me: You’re not even a fan of either team. Wasn’t it fun to watch the game?
Son: No!
Me: When you play sports, do you win every game?
Son: How come every team I cheer for always loses? (crestfallen, his head falls into hands)

I live a lot of my life through the eyes of my four young sons. In this instance, a one-day infatuation with a football team ended up in sheer devastation for this sweet young boy. But this lesson is one of the many reasons we encourage our sons to play sports. The idea that “you don’t win them all” is much better taught on the baseball diamond or the basketball court than in a court of law.

In the world of politics, where I spend most of my professional life, that can be a tough pill to swallow. For instance, our nation is engaged in the process of selecting the next president of the United States. With more than 100 primary elections involving a dozen candidates and then the general election pitting one candidate from each party against each other, it is safe to say that we will be inundated with voices telling us who should be our next president. And yet, at the end of all the elections, there will only be one person to hold the highest office in the land.

Closer to home, one of your electric cooperative’s most dedicated champions in Congress, Stephen Fincher, has announced that he will not seek re-election. He is coming home to Frog Jump to run the family farm. While I am personally sad to see him leave public service, I’m heartened to know that his priorities are sound and he has truly put his family first. He will be missed in Congress, but he was just one man. And of the many people who will seek to assume the office he holds, only one will prevail.

But the founders of our nation didn’t rest power with just one man, did they? We are not a monarchy, where one person “wins” and everyone else loses. The real genius of our system of government is that your local, state and federal governments are made up of many individuals whose responsibility is to represent the many more people in their towns, districts or states. Further, our representative republic relies on the willingness of public servants to recognize that they won’t win every battle they undertake and, therefore, need to prioritize their efforts and work with others to get anything at all accomplished.

As someone whose job is to guide people through the complicated process of lawmaking, these are great reminders. Your local co-op has to take all these things into consideration as it works with elected officials in Nashville and Washington, D.C., to promote public policy goals. When we disagree with a particular stance taken by a particular lawmaker, it is important to remember that another decision will come very soon. And we sure hope that lawmaker will agree with us the next time.

The Super Bowl gave me a great teaching moment with my son. But, like much we do as parents, it was just as much a lesson for me. Thanks, William. I love you, buddy.

Broadband Expansion Act

Below is information for co-ops regarding the Broadband Expansion Act.


Talking Points

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives support The Broadband Expansion Act (SB 2512/HB 2408).

Almost one in three rural Tennesseans served by an electric cooperative does not have access to wired broadband that meets modern standards. This places a burden on rural communities to remain competitive and seriously impacts commerce, healthcare and education.

The Broadband Expansion Act removes legal barriers that currently prevent electric cooperatives from providing broadband access. Electric cooperatives in Tennessee serve 71 percent of the state’s landmass, including a majority of areas that lack access to high-speed Internet.

Electric cooperatives are private, not-for-profit, member-owned businesses that exist to serve rural and suburban Tennessee. Tennessee’s cooperatives were created to bring electricity to rural and suburban Tennessee, an act that created opportunity for generations of Tennesseans and changed the landscape of our state. Co-ops are uniquely positioned to provide real solutions to Tennessee’s need for broadband access.

The Broadband Expansion Act was introduced on Monday, Feb. 22, by Rep. Art Swann.

It will be considered by the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23.

 


Co-op Statement

[Co-op name] today announces its support of The Broadband Expansion Act (SB 2512/HB 2408).

“We are well aware of the need for broadband in our service area,” says [name, title] with [co-op]. “We have been prevented by Tennessee state law from providing broadband access to our members, but the Broadband Expansion Act opens the door for new solutions. We are excited about the opportunities this presents to our members and the communities we serve.”

Access to wired broadband that meets modern standards is unavailable to almost one in three Tennesseans served by an electric cooperative. The Broadband Expansion Act removes legal barriers that currently prevent the state’s not-for-profit, member-owned electric cooperatives from providing broadband access.

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TECA Statement

NASHVILLE, Feb. 23, 2016 – Tennessee’s electric cooperatives today announce their support of The Broadband Expansion Act (SB 2512/HB 2408).

“Limited access to high-speed Internet has had a profound impact on rural and suburban Tennessee. New solutions are needed to provide these communities with the opportunities that lie just around the corner or right down the street,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Co-ops have a legacy of expanding services beyond the city limits. A generation ago, the issue was power; today it is broadband.”

Access to wired broadband that meets modern standards is unavailable to almost one in three Tennesseans served by an electric cooperative. The Broadband Expansion Act removes legal barriers that currently prevent the state’s not-for-profit, member-owned electric cooperatives from providing broadband access.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communication support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

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Contact:
Trent Scott | Director of Corporate Strategy | tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519

 

 

FPU-sponsored coat drive nets community generosity

“We are overwhelmed by the generosity of this community,” says Fayetteville Public Utilities CEO and General Manager Britt Dye referring to the results of the FPU-sponsored coat drive.

FPU’s Coat Drive netted 462 coats and jackets of all sizes being donated to two local charity organizations who will assist with distribution to those in need: Hands of Mercy Outreach Center and Clothe Our Kids.

“At FPU we have interaction with many people on a daily basis,” says FPU CEO and General Manager Britt Dye. “On occasion, we learn about their financial hardships and how it hinders them from paying their bills and providing for their families’ basic needs. With this in mind, we felt led to organize the coat donation drive this year.”

“These two charity organizations operate on the generosity of those who give,” says Dye, “and we appreciate everyone for what they were able to donate.”

FPU and David West Partner to Benefit Good Sam

For many years, Fayetteville Public Utilities has sponsored a community-wide food drive, Harvest of Hope, which benefits the Good Samaritan Association of Lincoln County by helping stock their shelves for the following year. This year’s donations have exceeded those of years past, and one reason for the increase in donations is due to an FPU employee’s idea to bring hope to other families in the local community. The employee just wanted to bless others, because there is no greater feeling in the world than to bless someone else.

The FPU employee wanted had a goal of donating 1,000 cans of food to the Good Samaritan Association of Lincoln County. When he mentioned the idea about donating 1,000 cans to fellow employees, the idea took flight. FPU employees rallied and enlisted additional help from David West, manager of Gerald’s Foodland in Fayetteville, TN, and he was more than happy to assist. West was able to secure a lower purchase price for the canned food items for the employees and was generous enough to donate close to a third of those canned items. Between the employees of FPU and West’s donations, the overwhelming total donation of cans resulting from the partnership came to 2,280.

At the end of FPU’s 2015 food drive, 3,834 items have been donated to the local food bank.

Co-ops Vote

(NEW ORLEANS) — The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) today launched a major initiative to enhance voter engagement. The goal of the “Co-ops Vote” campaign is to boost voter turnout in areas served by cooperatives by encouraging electric co-op employees and their consumer members to exercise one of their most basic rights—the right to vote.

“America’s electric cooperatives are leaders in the communities they serve throughout the country with a powerful sense of their civic duty,” said NRECA Interim CEO Jeffrey Connor. “Co-ops Vote focuses elected leaders on the people who are most invested in the success of their own communities.  With 42 million members across the nation, electric co-ops are a powerful voice on national issues that have a local impact.  We want to be sure that voice is always heard, especially on Election Day.”

Working in collaboration with states and local co-ops, this non-partisan campaign will educate and engage all voters on important issues, such as ensuring continued access to reliable electricity, promoting co-ops’ development of innovative renewable energy solutions, and expanding broadband coverage throughout rural America.

Co-ops Vote will provide a wide variety of tools to its more than 900, not-for-profit members to help educate and engage employees and communities, including voter registration information, candidate information and a campaign video. Co-ops are urged to take simple steps, such as encouraging employees to register to vote, hosting voter registration drives at co-op offices, and partnering with local civic groups to plan voter registration efforts.

For more information, visit www.vote.coop and follow #CoopsVote.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association is the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.