I have a few random thoughts as we pass the halfway point of the year, the Oregon Legislature wraps up and the U.S. Congress heats up.
- The Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association greatly appreciates the support of the Oregon Legislature this session, particularly those lawmakers who supported our efforts to convince Gov. Kate Brown to come to the negotiating table regarding her plan to spill more water over the dams for fish. The state of Oregon’s proposal could substantially raise rates for rural consumers, and we believe their voices should be heard. Gov. Brown has been outspoken about the importance of vibrant rural economies. We will know soon if her administration can back up those words. More than a half million rural Oregonians are counting on it.
- The U.S. Congress is debating landmark legislation (H.R. 1873) to establish better coordination with land management agencies and utilities when it comes to managing rights-of-way. The Electric Reliability and Forest Protection Act would give electric cooperatives more consistent procedures and a streamlined process to better manage rights-of-way across heavily forested areas. Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader has helped lead this effort in the U.S. House. This proposal has been an ORECA priority for the year. We appreciate the efforts to pass this commonsense legislation.
- ORECA has several high-profile meetings coming up in the second half of 2017: our midyear meeting, director education conference and annual meeting. The agendas will focus on upcoming political challenges and the challenges facing the amazing federal hydro system. ORECA also celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. We are going to spend some time honoring cooperative leaders who helped build our statewide organization.
- Speaking of history, thanks to the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation for the opportunity in June to debut my new book, “Poles, Wires and War: The Remarkable Untold Story of Rural Electrification and the Vietnam War.” CFC is a forward-looking organization, but also has a profound respect for the heritage of this amazing cooperative program. At CFC’s 2017 forum, I was honored to talk with several electric cooperative leaders who served in Vietnam during the war. Their stories deserve books of their own.