East-Central Iowa REC co-sponsored a legislative reception on the evening of December 5 for legislators representing the greater Waterloo/Cedar Falls area. Other sponsors included Butler County REC, Grundy County REC, the Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber, and the Cedar Valley Manufacturers’ Association. The reception was held at Isle Casino Hotel in Waterloo. The hotel graciously donated the room and food for the event.
The reception is an annual event held in December before the start of the legislative session in January. It gives the sponsoring organizations an opportunity to meet informally with their elected officials and discuss their legislative priorities for the coming year. ECI REC was represented by Directors Steve Rau, Lloyd Bathen, and Jeff Elliott, along with CEO Harry Ruth and Manager of Operations and Engineering Steve Marlow.
Legislators attending the reception included Representatives Pat Grassley, Bob Kressig, Walt Rogers, and Representative-Elect Sandy Salmon, as well as Senator Bill Dotzler.
In his presentation on behalf of the three electric cooperatives, CEO Ruth explained, “Since electric cooperatives are owned by their local customers, our goal is to provide reliable, affordable electric power in a safe and environmentally responsible way.
“Electric cooperatives want to protect the local control that their members enjoy,” Ruth continued. “The one-size-fits-all solutions that are sometimes proposed in Des Moines are actually not a good fit for cooperative goals. Cooperatives prefer government incentives to government mandates.”
Ruth also stated that cooperatives will defend the Iowa Assigned Territory Law that has served the public interest since 1976.
Focus Remains on Stray Voltage Legislation for 2013
CEO Ruth also explained that Iowa’s electric cooperatives would again pursue legislation regarding stray voltage in dairy operations, which was introduced for the first time in 2012. Despite passing the Senate and the House Commerce Committee, it fell short of becoming law due to opposition from the Iowa Farm Bureau. “House leadership did not let it come to a vote on the floor despite having 80 plus representatives ready to vote for it,” said Ruth.
The legislation cooperatives are supporting calls on the state of Iowa to establish science-based methods of investigating and measuring neutral-to-earth, or stray, voltage. Stray voltage is low levels of voltage that can irritate dairy cows when they contact something metal. Humans cannot feel this low-level current. Stray voltage can be caused by conditions on the dairy farm, by the equipment of the electric utility, or both.
When a dairy operator believes there is a stray voltage problem, the best interests of the dairy operation and the electric utility are served by determining whether such a problem exists, and if it does, fixing it. “Unfortunately, some self-proclaimed experts get to the farmer first and convince him that the utility may not have his best interests at heart, and should not be allowed on the property. These experts convince the farmer that the solution is to sue the utility,” said Ruth.
“We think that is the wrong approach. Lawsuits are an expensive, arduous, and slow process. It can take years for such a lawsuit to come to trial. The legislation proposed by Iowa’s electric cooperatives would not prevent a farmer from exercising his right to sue, but it would give the utility the chance to conduct an investigation and propose a remedy first.”
Learn more about ECI’s legislative priorities at our Current Concerns page.