Legislative Rally successful despite congressional recess

Dale Niezwaag    

Dale Niezwaag (far right), Basin Electric senior legislative representative, greets Eldon Boes,
a staff member for U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), during an April 30 Legislative Rally meeting
in Washington, D.C.

Congress is not in session? No problem.

Basin Electric Senior Legislative Representative Steve Tomac says it’s not all bad that the congressional delegations were on recess and in their home districts during the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association‘s annual Legislative Rally in Washington D.C.

“The good news is the staff that we did meet with were much more relaxed and had more time to visit with us,” Tomac says. “And that’s important because it’s the staff that really knows the issues and do the development work.”

Tomac says that among the key topics highlighted during the trip were Rural Utilities Service (RUS) funding, fly ash regulation, the Department of Energy’s classification of large capacity water heaters, and EPA greenhouse gas regulation. “We were able to spend much more quality time going in depth with our issues than normal.”

Basin Electric’s legislative team was also able to begin discussions on the 111(d) subsection of the Clean Air Act, which says new generation facilities cannot emit more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour. The cooperative is looking at what options it has in being proactive with the issue, Tomac says.

“We’re just in the foundation stage of trying to understand the issue well enough to pick this path or this page,” he says. “Most of the fleet from Basin Electric is relatively young, as compared to the rest of the United States.”

One of the other major issues discussed during the trip involved RUS funding coming under scrutiny, with a $2-billion budget drop in the air.

“This impacts our members quite significantly. If they can’t borrow from RUS to build distribution lines, that is going to put them in a bit of a box,” Tomac says.

Fellow Senior Legislative Representative Dale Niezwaag, as well as Mike Eggl, Basin Electric senior vice president of Communication and Administration, were among those who accompanied Tomac and spoke with representatives from North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Iowa and Minnesota during the trip.

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