Members of electric cooperatives around the nation are flooding the Environmental Protection Agency with messages with a similar theme: “Don’t raise our rates.”
The Take Action Network campaign, launched recently by Jo Ann Emerson, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, aims to fight regulations pending at EPA she says would cripple the affordable and reliable supply of electricity for cooperatives.
The proposed regulations would make it impossible to generate electricity using coal, the fuel source for 80 percent of the electricity used by Missourians, including those served by electric cooperatives, municipals and investor-owned utilities.
It would also raise rates, impacting families, small businesses and farms struggling to make ends meet. Intercounty says it would also hamper efforts to attract new jobs to the state. Gov. Jay Nixon often cites low electric rates as one of Missouri’s key assets for job creation.
“Electric cooperatives in Missouri serve some of the most economically disadvantaged members of our society,” said Barry Hart, CEO of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. “Our latest survey shows that half of our members are seniors 55 years old or older, with 35 percent over the age of 65. One third of these senior members earn less than $25,000 a year, and one third are retired and living on a fixed income. On the other end of the spectrum, those younger members just getting started with families and careers also earn less than $25,000 a year.
“These are the people least able to afford a rate increase of the magnitude we see coming if the proposed rules from EPA are enacted. “
Already, more than 13,000 emails have been sent to EPA officials. Of these, 3,570 are from Missouri, the most of any state. Emerson hopes electric cooperative members will send one million messages by March.
Electric cooperatives rely heavily on coal because it is the lowest-cost source of generation and has been since the late 1970s when Congress banned the use of natural gas for electric generation. When these units were built, they were equipped with the best available technology for emission reduction, and since 1994, more than $1.1 billion more was spent to reduce emissions.
Last year, more than 10 percent of members’ electricity came from renewable resources, both hydropower and wind. Electric cooperatives led the way in bringing wind power to Missouri, and today purchase electricity from 5 — soon to be 6 — wind farms. In addition, an energy-efficiency program is helping members use electricity more efficiently.
“We invested in these resources because of our concern for doing the right thing and not because a regulation required it,” Hart says. “We would like to see EPA follow these common sense approaches instead of regulations that would ban the most affordable fuel for power generation.”
Consumers can send their own message at www.action.coop or can contact any electric cooperative for help.