Back in November, Orange County REMC brought back district meetings. We had these meetings in the past, and some cooperatives continue to have them.
A random group of members from each district was selected and asked to attend a meeting specific to their district. This format allowed us to discuss your thoughts, ideas and concerns about Orange County REMC.
One of the topics of discussion was the potential impacts certain legislation could have on our business and your electric bill. I want to outline what we know now because the elections are over. Plus, I want to highlight some of the local and federal initiatives that may be of interest to you — an owner of our co-op.
Starting at the national level, the Clean Power Plan has the biggest potential of impacting electricity rates in the future. You may remember that this plan was issued a stay by the U.S. Supreme Court back in the summer of 2016 and sent back to the Washington, D.C., Circuit court, where oral arguments were held in the fall.
Between the time the plan was stayed and the hearing of oral arguments, a vacancy occurred in the Supreme Court, leaving much speculation concerning the Supreme Court’s future decisions. Although there has not been an appointment to fill the vacancy, the recent election will no doubt impact who will be considered.
What we do know is who the president-elect wants to head up the Environmental Protection Agency. Scott Pruitt, attorney general of Oklahoma, has been appointed to the position and has publicly pushed back on the Clean Power Plan as it is currently written. Although much is yet to transpire, it appears likely the Clean Power Plan will be restructured to include a more all-of-the-above approach to future energy capacity.
On the state level, the first issue of note is updating to the language in the REMC Act. Language updates are focused around notifying and conducting business at our annual meetings and further defining what it means to be a member of a cooperative. The REMC Act also defines language surrounding the restrictions of borrowing federal dollars. It clarifies what projects those borrowings can be used for.
Another topic of note is the proposal to change the requirements of establishing easements and to explain what kinds of infrastructure can co-exist within the easements. This proposed legislation will reduce the risk of easement issues if electric cooperatives elect to provide services in the future other than electricity.
The big one, of course, that is seeing much interest around the entire state of Indiana, is high-speed internet. If laws can be amended to reduce the risk of litigation surrounding adding communications infrastructure to our existing infrastructure, i.e. poles, deployment of such services can be accelerated.
Much data has been gathered that shows hospitals, schools, economic development, and even home prices are all positively impacted with the presence of high-speed internet. High-speed internet shouldn’t just be a benefit to those who live in or near urban areas. High-speed internet capability should be a accessible to everyone, just like electricity.
Orange County REMC will keep you, the members, updated on the progress of these issues as they certainly have the ability to impact you. We will do that through frequent and pertinent communication.
As far as the district meetings mentioned earlier, if you did not receive an invitation or were unable to attend, we plan to conduct these meetings each fall, providing a great opportunity to discuss cooperative business and how it is important to you.
MATTHEW C. DEATON is general manager/CEO of Orange County REMC.