Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

March 28, 2013

REC Day on the Hill at the Iowa State Capitol

By Mark Aeilts
Daily Iowegian

CENTERVILLE — Southern Iowa Electric Cooperative joined our sister cooperatives who are members of the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives for its 22nd annual REC Day on the Hill on Tuesday, March 19. Approximately 250 representatives including five from SIEC participated in this year’s event.

Each year the goal is to discuss issues that are important to our SIEC member-consumers. Topping these discussion items were pending stray voltage reform legislation and  rural economic development to create more jobs in Iowa.

The proposed Stray Voltage legislation is one of our many efforts to keep electric rates reasonable. The bill continues the Iowa Utilities Board role as referee but requires that rules be finalized regarding stray voltage. How do you play in any arena without a referee or rules?

Those opposed to this legislation include trial attorneys, Iowa Farm Bureau and other Ag groups who lobby for the rights of the one vs. the rights of the many. There is nothing in the proposed legislation inhibiting a plaintiff’s day in court.

In most cases, utilities work with the dairy farmer but currently the farmer doesn't have a legal obligation to even report a problem to the utility. Our goal is to attract more dairy farms to Iowa by providing a prompt solution environment and get the few dairy producers having these issues back to full production ASAP in a safe way.

Utilities wouldn't be unified in asking for this additional set of rules if the current environment wasn't broken with an average of $4 million per lawsuit. This legislation is good for Iowa as supported by the Iowa Association of Business & Industry. 

Now is the time to do what is right for the many co-op rate payers since Ag operations are exempt from electric inspections.

One method of educating the legislators was a variety of booths ranging from renewable energy and energy efficiency, to stray voltage and rural economic development.  

Southern Iowa Electric representatives met with Sens. Mark Chelgren and Ken Rozenboom and Reps. Mary Gaskill and Curt Hanson. We hope to follow-up with Rep. Larry Sheets in the near future.

REC Day on the Hill presented a unique opportunity for electric cooperatives to spend the day at the Capitol discussing the importance of the need for a science-based solution to stray voltage and other issues.

Mark Aeilts

Southern Iowa Electric Cooperatives