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Corn Belt Power and member-cooperatives advocate on Capitol Hill  

Corn Belt Power and member-cooperatives advocate on Capitol Hill

Rick Olesen, president and CEO, Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative, left; and Tresa Hussong, vice president of customer and corporate relations, Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative, right; speak with Senator Chuck Grassley and one of his staff members.

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    In early May, more than 40 Iowa electric cooperative representatives flew to Washington, D.C. to participate in the 2019 NRECA Legislative Conference. Together with more than 2,000 of their fellow cooperative representatives from across the nation, Iowa managers, directors, and employees spent three days sharing the electric cooperative story in Washington.

 Advocates heard speeches from high-ranking policymakers including several Members of Congress and Chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Neil Chatterjee. They also participated in breakout sessions in which NRECA staff gave policy briefings and tips on how to effectively advocate on Capitol Hill.

 In addition to NRECA-sponsored activities, advocates were able to lobby members of the Iowa Congressional Delegation and their staff including staff from the Executive Office of the President, and USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey. Issues discussed include protecting cooperatives’ not-for-profit status, rightsizing pension premiums, protecting Iowa’s power supply, and improving rural infrastructure and broadband access.

 The group was well received in every meeting, underscoring the continuing success of Iowa electric cooperatives’ advocacy efforts. Not only were advocates successful in sharing the cooperative point of view on important federal issues, but were also effective at maintaining and building relationships with Washington policymakers.

 Here are a list of outcomes from the trip as of late May:

  • Senator Ernst is now listed as a Co-sponsor of the RURAL Act (S.1032) that will secure our non-profit status
  • Congresswoman Axne is now listed as a Co-sponsor of the SECURE Act
  • Senator Ernst and Senator Grassley have officially signed onto the letter addressed to FERC that supports co-ops ability to make local decisions regarding distributed energy resources. This letter outlines the need to maintain local regulatory authority and amend FERC’s proposal that allows third-parties to aggregate distributed energy resources (DER), such as solar and battery panels, and sell electricity on the wholesale market. The score of Senators drafted the letter after recently hearing concerns from rural electric cooperatives that the rule could interfere with state and local authorities over distribution utilities.

 “The annual legislative conference is extremely important to Corn Belt Power and its members,” said Ryan Cornelius, vice president, corporate relations. “This gives us much needed one-on-one time with our legislators in Washington, D.C. and their staff. We are able to have open dialogue about real issues facing cooperative members back here at home. We appreciate our elected officials and their staff taking time out of their busy schedules to meet with us.” 

 Iowa’s electric cooperatives will return to Washington, D.C. in September.

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