Schilling shares co-op message at EPA hearing

When Ken Schilling went to the Environmental Protection Agency’s field hearing on carbon dioxide rules on Friday, August 1, he took a message about the economic impact the rule could have on rural Ohioans.

He also heard testimony from others about what the rule would do to their future.

Ken Schilling testifies at the EPA’s Pittsburgh field hearing.

Ken Schilling testifies at the EPA’s Pittsburgh field hearing.

“It was a little more emotional than I expected,” said Schilling, the CEO and general manager at Washington Electric Cooperative in Marietta.”About 60 to 70 percent of the room were coal miners giving testimony about losing jobs, about losing benefits and about losing their pensions.

“It was more gut-wrenching for guys who were going to lose their livelihood.” Schilling’s testimony focused on the potential economic impact the rule would have on his members and electric cooperative members across the country, who tend to use more electricity than their urban counterparts.

Schilling testified that household incomes in his co-op’s Monroe County service territory are 27 percent below the state average and unemployment is at 11 percent.

“Given these real life statistics, you can readily understand that rural electric cooperative members pay a disproportionate price for energy regulatory policy which drives costs higher,” he said.

“People came up afterward to thank me,” Schilling said. “It was an excellent experience.”

Schilling’s testimony:

“My name is Ken Schilling and I am the general manager and CEO of Washington Electric Cooperative headquartered in Marietta, Ohio. I am speaking on behalf of the Ohio Rural Electric Cooperatives and its 25 member systems which serve the rural areas of Ohio.

“I am here today to testify against the EPA’s proposed rule to control greenhouse gas emissions from existing fossil-fueled power plants.
Rural electric cooperatives are a unique subset of the electric utility industry due to their rural service territories. In Ohio, electric cooperatives supply electricity to 40 percent of the geography of the state in order to reach just 8 percent of its population. My electric cooperative has an average residential consumer density of just four members per mile of line. Rural households have higher average monthly use as well, due to a combination of housing stock, exposure and appliance profiles (septic systems, pumped water, etc.)

“Rural per capita income in my Noble County territory is a full 27 percent lower than the state average. Unemployment in my Monroe County service area sits stubbornly at 11 percent, due in no small part to power plant closures in neighboring areas. Given these real life statistics, you can readily understand that rural electric cooperative members pay a disproportionate price for energy regulatory policy which drives costs higher.

“Our retail members tell us in survey after survey that they require affordable, reliable and environmentally responsible electricity, in that order. We and our wholesale power provider, Buckeye Power, Inc., have strived to fulfill that mission as we have assembled a portfolio of generation resources which includes coal, natural gas peaking plants, hydroelectric, wind, agricultural bio gas and landfill gas.

“Also, Buckeye Power and its member systems are recognized nationally as early and lasting leaders in demand side management. First instituted in 1973, the program has expanded over the years to control more than 114,000 water heaters, 9,000 home heating units and 8,300 air conditioning systems. This has served the members’ interests as it helped to control costs, improve efficiencies and delay the need to procure the next power plant.

“Ohio’s electric cooperatives are committed to a clean environment. Recently, Buckeye Power completed the installation of state of the art scrubber and NOx selective catalytic converter technologies on its’ coal-fired units. It did this well ahead of the statutory deadlines and now owns one of the cleanest coal fleets in the world. These improvements came at a high price as my members’ wholesale rates effectively doubled during a 10-year time frame! And now we are hit with yet another proposed rule, one that would require our coal plant operations be diminished in order to meet a new EPA established goal of a 30-percent reduction in CO2. This action only serves to dilute the investments we made in environmental technology and will force my members to pay twice for the replacement of that capacity!

“This rule is complex, 645 pages long with another 600 supporting technical documents referenced. While we are still digesting its implications, our early impact analysis suggests that our rural members could see retail rate increases of $40 to 50 per month! And for what? If the 30 percent CO2 reduction is achieved, it would diminish the rise of global temperature by a mere .018 degrees — through the year 2100! This is a lot of pain for no gain and is one of the reasons that the climate change issue stays anchored at the bottom of the list of Americans’ concerns.

“Make no mistake; my member’s top concern is affordability. Many are struggling now, and month after month our office staff is faced with tragic stories from those desperate to scrape enough cash together just to keep their electricity on. I have been working for a rural cooperative the past 37 years and for over for 19 years at Washington Electric Cooperative; I know that people want to pay their bills. But when incomes don’t rise, job opportunities disappear and the government proclaims a continuous barrage of new rules which have very little impact on the environment, people become desperate and angry.

“I know what havoc such a regulation is going to have on households in my area and I encourage you to withdraw this rule to evaluate more measures that are affordable, achievable and reasonable.

“Thank you very much.”