A contingent of Kansas electric cooperative leaders, the Government Relations team at Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., and I traveled to our nation’s capital in May to engage with our elected officials about key issues important to electric co-ops. The multi-day meetings were coordinated in conjunction with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s 2022 Legislative Conference.
The conference brings together electric co-ops from across the nation to meet with lawmakers and their staffs to discuss pressing legislative issues important to our rural communities.
The Kansas delegation met with Senators Jerry Moran and Roger Marshall, and the staffs of Representatives Sharice Davids, Ron Estes, Jake LaTurner and Tracey Mann. We addressed four key issues:
The Flexible Financing for Rural America Act (H.R. 2244/S. 978) — America’s electric co-ops use financing from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Electric Loan Program to support the delivery of affordable, reliable electric service. Most of these RUS loans cannot be refinanced to take advantage of current interest rates without paying a penalty. The co-ops believe this solution will allow an electric co-op with typical RUS debt to save millions of dollars over the life of their loans, and as a not-for-profit, member-owned business, the savings can be invested back in the areas the co-op serves in the form of lower electric rates and improved infrastructure.
Federal Infrastructure Funding — In 2021, Congress passed the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that contains dozens of programs of interest to electric co-ops. These programs could address some of the most important challenges facing co-ops and the communities they serve as they plan for the future, including broadband, physical and cybersecurity, grid resiliency and modernization, clean energy and electric vehicles.
Comparable Federal Tax Incentives — Electric co-ops are committed to meeting future energy needs, but can be handcuffed by the tax code and costs associated with implementing new technologies. Developing clean energy resources and innovative technologies requires significant capital expense. As not-for-profits electric co-ops pay state and local taxes, but most are exempt from federal income taxes which means they do not have access to the same federal tax incentives as for-profit businesses and are disadvantaged when implementing innovative technologies. We believe electric co-ops should have access to the same incentives as their for-profit industry peers to promote energy innovation while keeping costs affordable for their consumer-members.
Southwestern Power Administration Fund Establishment Act — SWPA is one of four Power Marketing Administrations acting as an agent for the U.S. Department of Energy. During the 2021 Congressional session, Kansas electric co-ops supported an amendment to the Biden Administration’s infrastructure bill to implement a self-financing funding model for SWPA. Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran offered the amendment, which benefits electric co-ops purchasing power from SWPA. Unfortunately, the amendment did not pass. On March 1, 2022, Sen. Moran introduced the amendment language as standalone legislation, S.3719 — the Southwestern Power Administration Fund Establishment Act. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Electric cooperative legislative advocacy is important to ensure co-op consumer-members are protected in legislation and regulation. We appreciate the time and willingness of our elected officials to listen to our concerns and work together for the benefit of our rural communities.