Rural Missouri Magazine

A lot at stake in 2009

AMEC executive vice president Barry Hart
by Barry Hart

by Barry Hart

A new president, new governor, new members of Congress, 43 new state legislators, a shaky economy, climate change legislation. There’s a lot at stake for electric cooperative members in the federal and state legislative arena in 2009.

Fortunately, there’s a dedicated group of people looking out for your interests in our state capital and Washington, D.C. This year our attention will be focused on getting to know our newly elected officials and telling them why the electric co-op model works so well for rural America.

We’ll be looking for a seat at the table when President Barack Obama and Gov. Jay Nixon craft new energy policy. At this date, we don’t know the direction these measures will take.

We can make a few assumptions, however. There’s no question we will see Congress work to pass some form of climate change legislation. When lawmakers last looked at this issue, there were real concerns they would rush to pass something without considering the consequences.

Some of the bills being considered last summer could have doubled electric bills for electric cooperative members. Thanks to a tremendous grassroots movement called “Our Energy, Our Future,” that damaging legislation failed and electric co-ops now are a part of the discussion on Capitol Hill. Those who represent your interests in Washington, D.C., will work to make sure whatever finally passes will allow you to continue receiving affordable and reliable electricity.

We in Missouri consider ourselves fortunate to have elected officials who do their work with the best interests of their constituents in mind. When we explain our position on the issues, they understand and assure us they share our concerns about the welfare of rural people.

Our two U.S. senators, Kit Bond and Claire McCaskill, are evaluating the climate change proposals and are concerned about the effects they may have on our economy, jobs and rural electric cooperative members. During the last debate, Sen. McCaskill sent a letter signed by 10 senators to Senate leadership expressing those concerns. We are fortunate that Claire has the respect of our new president. Our national leader, Glenn English, has met with key leaders of President Obama’s incoming energy team to give them your views as they move in a new direction.

Our new Gov. Jay Nixon is no stranger to Missouri’s electric cooperatives. When he was a state senator, he worked to end costly power line duplication to the benefit of co-op members. As attorney general, he sided with electric cooperatives in fighting a merger of satellite TV companies that would have raised costs for rural people.

Gov. Nixon laid out his thoughts on the state’s energy future in a speech at the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives annual meeting. He stressed that the state needs affordable energy from all sources — wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, clean coal, natural gas and nuclear. He thanked electric co-ops for leading the way on development of wind power, and he pledged to help electric co-ops continue to embrace renewable energy while searching for ways to bring green manufacturing jobs to Missouri.

We look forward to working with our elected officials to meet the challenges of providing electricity in rural areas, knowing there is a strong grassroots behind us. We will be calling on all of you again in the not-too-distant future to send a message to Congress that affordable electricity is critical for the future of rural America and the quality of life we enjoy.

If you haven’t done so yet, let’s keep the ball rolling by sending an e-mail at to ensure that when our leaders vote on legislation that could affect your electric bills, your concerns are foremost in their minds.

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

E-mail Barry Hart


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