We packed a lot into the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association annual meeting last month. We had excellent presentations from energy experts, legislators, pollsters and even Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno.
Perhaps the most important item on our agenda was honoring three co-op leaders for careers of outstanding achievement: West Oregon Electric Cooperative former Director Robert VanNatta, Columbia Basin Electric Cooperative Manager Tommy Wolff and Umatilla Electric Cooperative Director Bryan Wolfe.
Nothing can tarnish these men’s legacies. It saddens me, however, that unless Congress passes the Revitalizing Underdeveloped Rural Areas and Lands Act this year, much of what they have toiled for will be at risk.
VanNatta helped build a co-op that serves one of the hardest places in the country to keep the lights on. Flooding and high winds are commonplace in Vernonia, and sometimes WOEC needs assistance. Unless Congress passes the RURAL Act, a co-op accepting Federal Emergency Management Agency funds may lose its tax-exempt status.
Wolff has spent the past few years spearheading an ambitious broadband project in the Columbia Basin to help bridge the gaping digital divide for his members. But unless Congress passes the RURAL Act, accepting broadband grants could also cost his co-op its tax-exempt status.
The U.S. Congress must act. As noted by our cover this month, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden will be in the room in the waning days of this session when a small group of legislators decides which tax measures will live or die. The entire Oregon U.S. House delegation has co-sponsored the RURAL Act, and we greatly appreciate their support.
We hope Sen. Wyden continues to support rural Oregon and the outstanding co-op leaders who have devoted their careers to this program. Let’s honor them by passing the RURAL Act now.