by Frank Stork
A few weeks ago I
made a trip to our nations 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 states 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 cant 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 states electric
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.