Federal Legislative Update

Published by Bob Hance on Tuesday, May 28, 2024 in Electric Advocacy

We regularly meet with our elected officials and/or their staff to discuss issues critical to MEC and electric cooperatives nationwide. Last April, MEC board members and employees met with staff from the offices of U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, as well as staff from the offices of U.S. Reps. Lisa McClain, Dan Kildee, Bill Huizenga, and Tim Walberg.

Here's what we discussed:

Concerns with the EPA's Proposed Power Plant Rule

The EPA’s proposal intends to significantly limit greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 from existing coal and new natural gas plants and require them to adopt technologies to make them “cleaner.” While the intention behind this is good, the technologies—carbon capture/storage and co-firing with hydrogen—haven’t yet been “adequately demonstrated” as required by the Clean Air Act. This rule puts the cart before the horse and jeopardizes our ability to keep the lights on. We’re looking at coal plants shutting down prematurely and new natural gas being severely limited because meeting these requirements is simply unrealistic.

The transition to clean energy is an important step towards sustainability, but rushing this transition puts the nation at risk for rolling blackouts if electric supply can’t meet demand. If you haven’t seen my previous columns on this issue, please visit teammidwest.com/reliability to learn more.

Protecting USDA Funding

In 2022, Congress created a voluntary “New Era” grant and loan program to help electric cooperatives purchase and build new clean energy systems. Electric co-ops need this funding to help support the transition to clean energy, and we urged our representatives to protect the program.

Broadband Issues

We discussed broadband funding as it relates to the required federal standards for speed, meaning providers must deliver a specific speed to qualify for funding. The NRECA is pushing for a minimum of 100/100 Mbps, but we also suggested that the standard shift to requiring technology (like fiber) that can accommodate increased market demands for speed.

We also expressed concerns about providers potentially overstating their coverage and speed, thereby jeopardizing funding for others and leaving rural residents without access to service.

Farm Bill

Last fall, the five-year 2018 Farm Bill received a one-year extension as legislators continued to hash out the bill. Sen. Stabenow has been instrumental in several farm bills and is a fierce advocate for rural America. She is the Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. On May 1, she and House Agriculture Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson published outlines of competing versions of the 2024 Farm Bill.

When we met with the senator, her staff shared that she’s optimistic that a new bill will pass yet this year. However, others we met with aren’t quite so hopeful. While the bill has typically been bipartisan, nothing is typical in the current political climate in Washington. As I write this, we are still watching and waiting.

About The Author

Bob Hance

Bob Hance is the President/CEO of Midwest Energy & Communications.