Keeping coal combustion residuals classified as non-hazardous, maintaining Rural Utilities Service financing and preserving the Power Marketing Administrations topped the list of concerns Iowa’s electric co-op representatives shared with staff members from Iowa’s congressional delegation April 30 through May 2 in Washington, D.C.
More than 2,000 electric co-op representatives from across the country visited Capitol Hill as part of an annual grassroots advocacy event coordinated by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. This year, Congress was on recess during the annual rally, so co-op delegations met with legislative staff members to discuss the issues.
Through their staff members, Iowa’s legislators were asked to keep coal combustion residuals — also known as coal ash — classified as non-hazardous waste. Nationally, more than 40 percent of coal combustion residuals are recycled and put to beneficial use. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new federal regulations governing the disposal of coal combustion residuals and is weighing whether waste should be classified as a hazardous or non-hazardous.
If coal ash is classified as hazardous waste, co-ops across the country are concerned they will no longer be able to recycle the product into concrete, wallboard and even items such as bowling balls and piano keys. Hazardous treatment of coal ash will also create significant compliance costs at coal-based power plants.
Co-ops also requested that legislators sign a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu urging him not to move forward with implementing a new rate design for hydropower sold by the Power Marketing Administrations. Secretary Chu advocates directing the Power Marketing Administrations to use revenue from this new rate to research renewable energy, energy efficiency and electric vehicles.
Corn Belt Power has a long-term power purchase contract with the Western Area Power Administration to purchase hydropower. Co-op representatives explained that they are concerned that this new rate design will increase costs and unfairly burden co-op members with paying for programs that benefit others.
In addition to meeting with legislative staff members, Iowa’s electric co-op representatives also spent about an hour with Jonathan Adelstein, administrator of the Rural Utilities Service. The delegation informed Adelstein of electric co-ops’ efforts to maintain the $6.1 billion funding for the RUS Electric Loan Program, which is critical for providing capital to maintain electric infrastructure. Co-ops are also requesting that Congress allow RUS loan funds to be used for baseload generation, including environmental improvements to existing coal plants.
Additionally, the Iowa co-op delegation met with a team of representatives at the U.S. Department of Energy, hearing presentations on nuclear energy development, energy efficiency and natural gas supplies.