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Rural Missouri Magazine

Losing control

Frank Stork
by Frank Stork

by Frank Stork

A few weeks ago I made a trip to our nation’s capital to visit members of the United States Congress. We were working on energy and environmental legislation that will affect every consumer in the nation.

I found there to be a strong push by some in the Congress to transfer operational control of our state’s high-voltage transmission system to the federal government. They would transfer our local control to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) headquartered in Washington, D.C.

As we ponder that, we can’t help but recall the recent mad rush in Congress to deregulate and restructure the entire electric utility industry.

The drafters of those plans promoted them with vigor as something good for the consumer. Because Enron and others of their ilk were required to get legislative approval state by state, they were stopped in Missouri. In some states, legislators who rushed to approve deregulation schemes are now backing out as fast as they can.

One of the sad results of the first rush to deregulation was the recent revelation that electricity prices in the far West were manipulated to stiff consumers and make a few people rich. Almost every week we read of another scoundrel involved in that mega-watt rip-off being hauled off to jail.

We consumers should be skeptical of plans the U. S. Congress has to change our electric power supply system. Huge financial investments have been made in our Missouri system to ensure reliability and low cost. Our integrated system allows us to bring electric power into our state at critical times. We can also export power when it benefits Missouri consumers. We can do that today because we have some degree of local control.

If we look at who in Congress is moving to transfer our electric power benefits to other states, we find it to be members from other states! Some are doing it because of the mess they find themselves in. For example, a state legislature in our region acted to deregulate and restructure their state’s electric utility system.

To make it work, they now find they need to load more people into their “boat.” Because our Missouri state legislators wisely decided against deregulation, an attempt is being made to force us into that boat through federal legislation.

Some tell us they are doing that so when their deregulation boat sails into rough waters, or sinks, the resulting financial damage will by shared by more people.

We are doing our best to see that this ill-conceived and poorly timed legislation is stopped in the House Commerce Committee. At this writing, the odds of accomplishing that are not very good.

We will keep you up to date on this important subject through future issues of Rural Missouri. We may be asking you to communicate with your elected officials in Washington, D.C., to express your interest and concerns. We will wait until the time is right to do that.

Stork was executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and a member of Three Rivers Electric Co-op.

 

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Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives

Rural Missouri
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