Marion Denger Advocates for Cooperatives in Washington D.C.
Prairie Energy Cooperative board president Marion Denger, along with more than 35 representatives from dozens of Iowa’s not-for-profit electric cooperatives, recently returned from a successful trip to the nation’s capital. While in Washington, D.C., the advocates attended high-level briefings on key issues impacting the electric industry and met with Iowa’s Congressional Delegation to discuss priorities. While many issues were discussed, Iowa’s electric co-ops focused on the President’s budget proposal, the Farm Bill reauthorization, and geothermal tax credits.
The purpose of the trip, an annual gathering of electric cooperatives from across the country, is to ensure that elected officials are fully aware of the thoughts and concerns of their constituents who are served by rural electric cooperatives.
Iowa advocates met with Doug Hoelscher, Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Michael Catanzaro, Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Energy and Environmental Policy, at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to discuss the “first 100 days” of the Trump Administration which has included Executive Orders on regulations such as the Clean Power Plan and Waters of the U.S. Hoelscher, a native Iowan, discussed the Administration’s accomplishments since taking office and detailed some of the President’s budget proposals recently released in what is referred to as the “Skinny Budget”. While the impacts on programs varied, Hoelscher made clear to the RECs that the President is serious about the country’s debt and deficit problem. Catanzaro detailed the work of the Administration on environment and energy regulations and urged groups like the IAEC to continue to engage the Administration with ideas about how to reduce regulatory burdens that prevent the delivery of reliable and affordable energy to consumers.
In meetings with the Senate Agricultural Committee and USDA Rural Development officials, Iowa electric co-op advocates talked about the importance of the Rural Economic Development Loan & Grant program (REDL&G) and how these investments have improved the quality of life in the rural communities we serve.
Key issues were discussed with the staff of Iowa’s six Congressional offices. Information was provided on the following issues:
• Farm Bill Reauthorization: Iowa’s electric co-ops urged Congressional Delegation members to protect Title VI Rural Development Programs and reminded them about the pivotal role many of the Rural Development and Energy programs play in Iowa.
• REDL&G Funding at Risk: The Department of Agriculture’s budget proposes a 21 percent reduction for discretionary spending which would eliminate funding for the Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDL&G) program used by many Iowa electric cooperatives. We believe USDA programs like the REDL&G program need to be maintained, if not expanded, rather than eliminated. REDL&G is a program that excels at creating jobs and opportunity in rural Iowa.
• Rural Utilities Services (RUS) Investments in Secure, Reliable Infrastructure: Iowa’s electric co-ops serve 80% of the state’s land mass; RUS programs are a critical component for rural Iowans to maintain access to safe, reliable and affordable utilities.
• Geothermal Tax Credits: Many electric co-ops promote the use of ground-source (geothermal) heat pumps for heating and cooling, which is highly efficient and saves consumers money on their heating and cooling bills. In 2015, Congress extended and provided a phase down of tax credits for wind and solar technologies but the tax credit for geothermal heat pumps (along with small wind and combined heat and power property) was left out of the year-end package, despite being in the same section of the tax code. Iowa co-ops support extending and modifying tax incentives for geothermal energy sources so they are treated similarly to wind and solar technologies.
The advocacy fly-in was a valuable opportunity to connect with elected officials and share rural concerns. “I believe the staff of Iowa’s Congressional Delegation now have a better understanding of how legislation and regulations being discussed in Congress would affect the affordability and reliability of electricity in Iowa,” remarked Denger