Representatives of Iowa’s electric cooperatives travel to Washington, D.C., this week to discuss a recent decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deny federal disaster aid, and potentially force Iowa’s electric cooperatives to repay millions in disaster aid previously awarded.
Steve Marlow, CEO of East-Central Iowa Rural Electric Cooperative, joined about 20 representatives from Iowa’s distribution cooperatives, generation and transmission cooperatives and the statewide cooperative organization, Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives, in taking concerns to the capitol. “FEMA’s decision to dramatically change the policy on awarding federal disaster aid to Iowa’s rural electric cooperatives is a betrayal of the public’s trust and jeopardizes the future of the cooperatives many member-consumers in rural Iowa depend upon,” said Marlow. “We look forward to meeting with representatives from Iowa’s congressional delegation in order to discuss the impact FEMA’s decision will have on thousands of their constituents and to ask for their assistance as we encourage FEMA to reverse its policy change.”
Following a late winter snow, ice and wind storm in April, a federally declared Major Disaster included Lyon, Osceola, Dickinson, Sioux and O’Brien counties. Three of Iowa’s electric cooperatives and two municipal utilities suffered damage.
In response to past disaster-related damage, FEMA has followed a policy by which visually observable criteria were used to determine if powerlines had been damaged beyond the point of repair. FEMA reversed this long-standing policy and denied disaster aid applications following the April storm.
For the first time in nation’s history, FEMA has stated that disaster aid could not be issued because the affected electric cooperatives did not conduct comprehensive laboratory testing on every mile of wire on an annual basis. This test is not performed as a matter of industry practice and is not required to meet any industry or engineering standard. Furthermore, it is not required by the Iowa Utilities Board, which regulates Iowa’s electric cooperatives and mandates them to submit reliability plans and inspection and maintenance plans.
“Our top priority is providing member-consumers in rural Iowa with reliable and affordable power. We hope FEMA will realize their decision is not in the best interest of Iowans and will work with us to find an alternative way forward,” added Marlow.