Letter: WREA manager sees problems with bill

I am writing to express my concern with the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (HR 2454), which passed the U.S. House of Representatives by seven votes in late June and will be considered by the Senate in September.
While the bill’s goals to combat climate change and encourage investment in renewable energy may be laudable, the mechanics of the 1,428-page bill doesn’t work for our electric cooperative.
I am greatly concerned with the unrealistic timelines established in this legislation. HR 2454 calls for the United States to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and by more than 80 percent by 2050. This will be a huge challenge. Unlike other emissions from power plants, technologies to capture and store greenhouse gas emissions are not yet developed at a scale that would work for today’s electric generation fleet. Cooperatives are pursuing solutions. Our power supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, is already making investments in technologies that show promise to capture and store greenhouse gases. However, the U.S. Department of Energy has said such technology might not be commercially available until 2020 at the earliest. Any legislation must take into consideration the time it will take for technologies to develop; otherwise consumers could see significant increases in the cost of electricity.
We are also concerned with fairness. HR 2454 also establishes a flawed “cap and trade” scheme, under which utilities will receive allowances for greenhouse gas emissions. The bill doesn’t allocate enough allowances to our cooperatives. We will have to buy allowances from utilities that have been given more than they need. Our dollars will be sent to coastal states, like California and Massachusetts, and it won’t reduce greenhouse gas emission at all! We believe that this is unfair, counterproductive and puts our rural communities at an economic disadvantage.
In September, as the Senate considers HR 2454 and other climate legislation, there are remedies to address these issues. For instance, the Senate could put a cap on the price of what an allowance could trade for protecting consumers. It also could create timelines more in line with when technology will be available to capture and store greenhouse gasses. And it could make sure cooperatives receive the allowances they need.
Our senators are carefully considering what kind of climate change bill makes sense to them. They are home now for the August work period. It’s a great time to contact them and ask them to make sure any effort to control greenhouse gases should be done in ways that are not harmful to our cooperative’s electric customers, especially in these tough economic times.
Richard R. Welle,
general manager
White River Electric Assn. Inc.