CO2 regulations targeted at LMRE annual meetingJuly 30, 2013
Markus Bryant, Lorain-Medina Rural Electric Cooperative General Manager, took aim at President Obama’s climate change initiative at the cooperative’s 77th annual meeting Tuesday, July 23, at the Lorain County Fairgrounds in Wellington.
Approximately 2,300 members and guests were in attendance with one of the highlights being the announcement of results from the cooperative’s first ever mail/electronic election.
In the only contested election, Roy Norris of Litchfield earned the cooperative’s district 6 seat over challenger Shane Metter, also of Litchfield. Norris will succeed Celia Kruggel, who retired after 12 years on the board.
Ken Diedrick of Carlisle Township and Richard Indoe of Harrisville Township ran unopposed and were re-elected to serve three-year terms in districts 3 and 9, respectively.
Voting by mail or online led to participation by more than three times the number of cooperative members when compared with recent years where voting only took place at the annual meeting.
During the business meeting, Bryant warned members about the harmful effects a recent policy speech by President Obama could have for cooperative members’ electric bills. Among the items in the President’s speech was a call for the EPA to issue rules reducing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted at existing coal-fired power plants, such as the Buckeye Power Cardinal Generating Station in Brilliant, OH, which supplies most of the power for Ohio’s 393,000 cooperative consumers. Over the past decade, more than $1 billion was invested in environmental controls at the cooperatives’ coal-fired facilities and today they are considered among the cleanest in the world.
Bryant said approximately 80 percent of Ohio’s electricity is generated from coal. Across America, about 40 to 50 percent of electricity is generated using coal.
“President Obama’s EPA directive could double or triple our wholesale power rates. And if these rules force more coal-fired power plants to close, then our electric grid reliability will be at risk,” Bryant said.
Bryant said northern Ohio has yet to fully recover from the 2008 recession and Buckeye’s wholesale rate increases have impacted cooperative members. “About 20 percent of our members do not pay their current bill on time. What do you think will happen if EPA carries out the President’s directive? It’s bad enough we have to feel the pain of high gasoline prices at the gas pump. If President Obama gets his way, then we’re going to feel the same kind of pain at the electric plug.
“All of us have a basic need for affordable energy. We believe President Obama’s ‘War on Coal’ is really a war on the poor, the elderly on fixed incomes and on working people struggling to pay their electric bills.”
Bryant said Lorain-Medina and other electric cooperatives across the country will be using every resource available to them to fight the president’s proposal.
“Most importantly, we will confront Congress on this issue,” he said.
Bryant urged members to stay informed and get involved by contacting their elected representatives and by joining ACRE Cooperative Owners for Political Action®, the political action committee for electric cooperative members.
“Folks, this is serious. When we ask for your help by joining Cooperative Owners, by writing letters or by making phone calls — we aren’t kidding around,” he said.
Diedrick, who currently serves as president of the LMRE Board of Trustees, thanked the cooperative members who currently are members of Cooperative Owners. Membership grew by 28 percent in the previous year to about 280 members. And for its strong Cooperative Owners participation, LMRE and its sister cooperative, North Central Electric Cooperative in Attica, were recognized jointly as the ACRE Cooperative of the Year by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. .
Diedrick urged more members to get involved to help LMRE fend off the coming regulations on carbon dioxide.
“(President Obama) couldn’t get Congress to pass his cap-and-trade scheme a few years ago, so now he wants to use his regulatory authority through the EPA to enact what amounts to a back door carbon tax,” Diedrick said.
“This is an attack on our Ohio power plants.”
Diedrick shared news on the cooperative’s improved service reliability, ranking it fifth among the 24 Ohio electric cooperatives.
“The average consumer was without power less than two hours in 2012. That’s an outstanding statistic,” Diedrick said. “That’s the lowest it has been in at least 15 years.”
Highlighting Treasurer Keith Lowe’s presentation was the report of capital credit refunds to members.
“We refunded a little more than $1 million in patronage capital credits in 2012 to approximately 19,000 members and former members,” Lowe said.
“Since 1983, we have refunded more than $17.6 million. We give money back when revenue exceeds costs. This is a practice unique to cooperatives.”
Kathy Fox also talked about returning money, this time, though, the funds were awarded as grants by the People Fund.
With 85 percent of Lorain-Medina’s members allowing their bills to be rounded up to the next dollar with the extra change going to the People Fund, about $6,400 a month is raised to help the community, Fox said.
“To date, the People Fund has awarded more than 450 grants and over $1 million to individuals and charitable organizations,” Fox said.
Bryant also recognized 10 Lorain-Medina employees for reaching service milestones.
Leading the way were Staking Engineer Kevin Conley, Line Foreman Chris Hannon and Line Foreman Joe Storrow who have been with the cooperative for 35 years.
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