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Rural Missouri Magazine

The true grassroots

AMEC executive vice president Barry Hart
by Barry Hart

Many organizations boast of their grassroots when it comes to political involvement. But when one takes a closer look, it becomes apparent they should be talking about the grass tops instead of the roots. The nation’s electric co-ops are different, and the campaign to start a dialogue with elected officials on the climate change issue is one valid case in point.

Three years ago when we first brought this issue to your attention, virtually no one was talking about the effects such legislation could have on the electric bill of members at the end of the line. Congress seemed intent on passing something, anything, just to get the pressure off.

But leaders at the nation’s 900-plus electric cooperatives examined those early climate change bills with a fine-toothed comb and realized what they would do to senior citizens, farmers, small business owners and even our youth just getting a start on their own. We launched the Our Energy, Our Future campaign to help individual cooperative members connect with lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

This campaign was directed at the member, the true grassroots of our co-ops. We asked for your support signing letters and postcards and sending e-mails to Congress. The test of any successful grassroots campaign is the response from those asked to join in. And you did this by the millions.

Last year, it was my pleasure to be part of a group that traveled to Washington, D.C., to deliver those cards and letters to Sens. Kit Bond and Claire McCaskill. This month we will return, armed with another batch of cards still pouring in from concerned electric cooperative members around the state who want to make sure Congress, not the Environmental Protection Agency, makes our nation’s energy policy.

The EPA is acting on a Supreme Court decision that says it has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. However, congressional leaders say that act was never intended to regulate greenhouse gases and using it in this manner would result in a “glorious mess.”

While in Washington, we will thank U.S. Reps. Ike Skelton and Jo Ann Emerson for their leadership in cosponsoring legislation that will move this issue away from EPA and back to Congress where it belongs.

But our goal is to make sure your voices are heard on all issues being considered by Congress that affect the reliability and affordability of electricity. We will be armed with all those messages you sent to Congress. And those attending include electric cooperative directors elected by the members to represent their best interests. These people — humble citizens from all walks of life — carry tremendous clout in the halls of Congress because our elected officials know they represent the true grassroots.

As you know, family budgets are already strained by rising energy costs and the downturn in our economy, and climate change legislation that does not take consumer costs into account will place significant burdens on households all across Missouri.

Because electric co-ops are owned by consumers, we can’t sit on the sidelines of this battle. The more members who get involved now, the more ammunition your cooperative’s directors, management and employees will have to keep electricity affordable.

Electric co-ops nationwide are working hard to help Congress develop affordable, flexible and effective climate change legislation. We are seeking a common-sense approach that minimizes costs and ensures electric power remains affordable.

The battle has been long and it hasn’t been easy. But we are encouraged by the overwhelming support from the many members who have gotten involved in this issue. Many of you have signed cards and then stopped by the co-op asking for more.

Please keep those cards, letters and e-mails coming. For help, visit your local electric co-op or log on to www.ourenergy.coop today.

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

E-mail Barry Hart
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Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives

Rural Missouri
2722 E. McCarty Street
P.O. Box 1645 • Jefferson City, Mo. 65102
573-659-3423
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