Illinois Co-op Grassroots Leaders go to Washington, D.C.
AIEC and MJM Electric Cooperative Board Member Dennis Matthews talks with Illinois Senator Dick Durbin at the recent legislative conference.
This is an election year and with increasing gas prices and global warming concerns, energy is one of the critical political issues being discussed. Illinois electric cooperatives sent 95 representatives to meet with members of Congress and their staff on May 5-6 to discuss this critical issue. The co-ops’ grassroots leaders met with Sen. Dick Durbin, a staff representative from Sen. Barack Obama’s office and 16 other members of the Illinois delegation.
Speaking to the Illinois co-op leaders, Sen. Durbin discussed climate change challenges including his efforts to keep the FutureGen project alive.
Sen. Durbin understands how critical this issue is to Illinois. “He held a hearing on Wednesday after we left, and had Department of Energy Secretary Bodman there,” says Association of Illinois Electric Cooperative (AIEC) President/CEO Duane Noland. “We also met with key staff members from Sen. Obama’s office and congressional leaders in the 18th and 19th districts. We held breakfast meetings with Congressmen Ray LaHood and John Shimkus.”
Rep. Shimkus serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Noland says, “John Shimkus is passionate about energy issues. He understands the issue as well as anyone and is working hard to keep coal, nuclear and new renewable energy sources all in the energy supply mix. He realizes we have to develop new resources in order to control prices. His role on the Energy and Commerce committee makes him a key player for rural electric cooperatives.”
The co-op leaders met with retiring Congressmen, Ray LaHood and Jerry Weller, both former recipients of the Illinois Electric Cooperative Public Service Award.
The co-op leaders also met personally with Representatives Jerry Costello, Donald Manzullo, Peter Roskam, Tim Johnson and the newest member of the Illinois delegation Bill Foster, who was elected to seat held by former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. “In two short days we were able to meet personally with 10 of the 21 Illinois congressional delegation,” says Noland.
Noland says NRECA President/CEO Glenn English drilled home several times the need for new generation capacity to meet the growing demand for energy in our economy. “English said the Department of Energy forecasts that with our economic growth and increased use of electricity, we need a generating capacity increase of 30 percent by 2030. That means we need to start planning for 264,000 megawatts of new generation,” says Noland. “To put that in perspective that is roughly like adding four more California’s.”
Noland says that electric cooperatives want to be part of the solution in solving the green house gas emissions problem. “We also know that there has to be a balance and we need clean coal technology, natural gas, nuclear and renewable energy. Our Illinois delegation understands these issues.”
Noland believes there could be a vote on climate change legislation this year, but he says most people don’t believe it will pass at this time.
He says, “Following the presidential election they all feel that it will be a top agenda item for the new president, but it may take another year or two for the final votes to come through. They all understood that if we are not careful this legislation could have a phenomenal impact on our economy. They recognize that there could be a huge cost passed on to the consumer. They all believe we need to do something, but they realize that with the price of gasoline at more than $4 a gallon, plus our housing slump, that our economy can’t stand a big hit.”
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