CEO’s Report: Important issues discussed at Legislative Rally

Our trip to Washington, D.C. for the American Public Power Association’s annual Legislative Rally proved to be a success. We had the opportunity to visit with several members of Congress and discussed several issues important to Heartland and our customers.

The Heartland group with U.S. Senator John Thune.

Goal: eliminate burdensome USDA loan and grant fees

Mark Gabriel, Russell Olson, Sue Kelly and Senator John Thune
Western Area Power Administration Administrator Mark Gabriel, Heartland CEO Russell Olson, APPA CEO Sue Kelly and Senator John Thune discussed public power during the Legislative Rally in Washington, D.C.

One of our main objectives at the Rally was to highlight economic development in our customer communities.

Heartland has long participated in USDA’s Rural Economic Development Loan & Grant Program in which we receive 0% loans to pass through to businesses or ultimate recipients in our customer communities. The recipient is responsible for re-paying Heartland and we are responsible for re-paying USDA.

However, because Heartland is not an RUS borrower, we are required to provide USDA with a Letter of Credit and are generally assessed a 1% fee by a local bank, which is passed on to the ultimate recipient.

This fee ultimately means what is supposed to be a 0% loan becomes a 1% loan. While this may not seem significant, rural projects typically have razor thin margins to begin with and that 1% could mean the difference between a project moving forward or not.

We had great discussion on this topic while in D.C. We visited with South Dakota delegation including Senator John Thune and Representative Kristi Noem, both agreeing to look into the matter and potentially address it in the next Farm Bill.

We will continue working on this issue and look forward to a satisfactory resolution. Economic development is an important part of our work and we want to do everything possible to ensure development continues throughout our customer base.

Critical discussions with public officials and delegation

Representative Kristi Noem
We met with South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem on the Capitol Steps.

During our trip we also met with delegation from Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska and were briefed by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. We also had the opportunity to meet with Francis Brooke from the Vice President’s office to discuss energy issues.

With the latest budget proposal released from the Trump Administration once again proposing to sell off the PMA assets, including those of Western Area Power Administration, it was imperative we share with the delegation the potential consequences of this federal action at the local level.

We were assured that although this proposal is brought up again and again, the probability of it going forward is slim. It was incredibly beneficial hearing from our newest board members, Bill Lewellen and Vern Hill, on this topic as they were able to bring the customer perspective to our legislators.

We also discussed legislation related to distributed generation which would modernize the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 and would allow more flexibility when it comes to current mandatory energy purchases from qualifying facilities.

Rally strengthens outreach efforts

The Legislative Rally continues to be an incredibly important event for Heartland and our customers. Each year we come away with valuable information and leave those representing us in Washington with a greater understanding of Heartland and the communities we serve.

Heartland board and staff members met with Minnesota’s newest senator, Tina Smith, during APPA’s Legislative Rally.