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Rural Missouri Magazine

Our best game is yet to come

AMEC executive vice president Barry Hart
by Barry Hart

by Barry Hart

The baseball world recently turned its attention to Missouri as the All-Star game took place on the home field of the St. Louis Cardinals. For those of us laboring in the political trenches, the mid-season classic was a great opportunity to forget, just for a moment, the work being done on climate change legislation.

For the past year, I have been keeping you abreast of this legislation because it has the potential to dramatically increase the price you pay for electricity. If Joe Buck were calling the plays in Congress instead of in the broadcast booth, this is how he might summarize things to date:

It’s the bottom of the third inning in a game to decide who goes to the World Series. In the early innings, the U.S. House team had its best pitcher on the mound. But the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and its grassroots army made up of local co-op leaders, pinch hitting for the 42 million consumers they represent, got some base hits and eked out a few hard-earned runs and find themselves still in the game heading into the fourth inning. Now the action moves to the Senate, where the electric co-ops have their heavy hitters in the lineup. They’ll no doubt be swinging for the fences in an all-out attempt to even the score.

This baseball analogy is one our national leader, Glenn English, likes to use as he explains where we are today in a long legislative process that could see a climate change bill finally become law. English points out that creating new legislation is like a nine-inning baseball game and this bill may go into extra innings.

Electric co-op leaders knew we faced enormous odds in the House, where East- and West-Coast representatives far outnumber rural lawmakers. Some legislators sought to punish Midwest consumers by approving an unfair carbon credit allocation formula because of our reliance on low-cost electric generation from coal.

They thought we were too far out in right field to make any kind of play in the debate on this bill, but with some clutch hitting by the Agriculture Committee Chairman Colin Peterson and committee members from Missouri, Rep. Sam Graves and Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, they were wrong. We even got some coaching from Missouri’s Rep. Ike Skelton, chairman of the Armed Services Committee who worked with Peterson and other House members representing rural districts to get changes.

The biggest hits we got were more carbon credit allocations for electric co-op and municipal utilities and a concession that the carbon offset payment program be led by the Department of Agriculture instead of EPA.

Because there weren’t enough changes beneficial to Missouri in the House, Reps. Jo Ann Emerson, Roy Blunt, Sam Graves, Blaine Luetkemeyer and Todd Akin voted against it which sends a strong signal that changes are needed in the Senate.

The climate change bill that passed the House contained some hard-won compromises that will ease the pain for Missouri’s consumers, amounting to more than $3 billion from initial proposals. But there still are anti-consumer and anti-business provisions in the bill.

Now the debate moves to the Senate, and everyone agrees significant changes need to be made to protect rural America. In fact, many members of the House, including Skelton, have said they voted yes knowing the Senate would make changes beneficial to cooperatives and rural Missouri, and if those needed changes aren’t included in the final product, there is no guarantee they will vote for its passage.

As this measure is debated in the Senate, electric co-op members cannot sit in their seats eating peanuts and Cracker Jack. Comments from you need to keep flowing to support our “all stars,” Sens. Kit Bond and Claire McCaskill, who are committed to protecting consumers from the rate-shock potential of this legislation. Let’s make sure our voices are heard loud and clear just like they are when the Cardinals play the Cubs. Members of the House need to hear from you, too, because they will be called upon when compromise legislation is considered.

Please step up to the plate through the Our Energy, Our Future campaign either on your own at www.ourenergy.coop or at the annual meeting or other events your cooperative holds. We need to tell our legislators to keep climate change legislation fair, affordable and achievable. Don’t let us go down swinging in this effort to keep electricity affordable.

Hart is executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives.

E-mail Barry Hart

 

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