CEO’s Report: Legislative Rally Recap

March 3, 2020

Legislative advocacy is just one of the many valuable services Heartland provides our customers. Recently, members of our staff and board of directors traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in American Public Power Association’s Legislative Rally.

While our trip to D.C. was brief, our meetings were meaningful. We were able to visit one-on-one with members of Congress who have a vested interest in the success of our customers.

Our first meeting was with Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska. Fischer resides near Valentine, our newest customer. Coming from a state solely served by public power, Fischer understands the value it provides.

Heartland met first with Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska (center,in glasses).
Heartland’s group met first with Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska (center,in glasses).

Next, we met with members of the House of Representatives from Minnesota, including Representatives Tom Emmer and Pete Stauber. We also met with Turner Bridgforth, a legislative assistant for Representative Jim Hagedorn who is currently battling cancer and wasn’t able to make our scheduled meeting.

Representative Tom Emmer (seated, second from right) provided a lot of insight on issues impacting rural Minnesota.
Representative Tom Emmer (seated, second from right) provided a lot of insight on issues impacting rural Minnesota.
We also talked about Minnesota public power with Representative Pete Stauber (fourth from left).
We also talked about Minnesota public power with Representative Pete Stauber (fourth from left).

We also had the pleasure of having dinner with South Dakota Senators Mike Rounds and John Thune. Thune also serves as Senate majority whip.

During each of our meetings, we covered three main points including cybersecurity, protecting the PMAs and PURPA reform.

Prioritizing Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is the duty and obligation of any organization. Public power utilities, like other businesses, rely on technology to deliver services and the entire system is only as strong as its weakest link.

Heartland has long been an advocate of cybersecurity in the electric utility industry and offers a comprehensive cybersecurity program to our customers to identify risk and offer solutions to ensure their information, as well as that of their customers, is protected.

At the federal level, Heartland supports H.R. 359 and S. 2095 which directs the Department of Energy to facilitate and encourage public-private partnerships in order to address an mitigate the physical security and cybersecurity risks of electric utilities.

PMA Protection

Each year the President releases a budget request and many times that request includes a proposal to divest the transmission assets held by three of the Power Marketing Administrations including Western Area Power Administration. The fiscal year 2021 budget request released by President Trump was no exception.

Heartland adamantly opposes any effort by the federal government to privatize PMA assets that have been paid for by electric customers.

The PMAs provide millions of Americans served by not-for-profit public power utilities with cost-based hydroelectric power produced at federal dams. Rates are set to cover all generation and transmission costs, as well as repayment, with interest, of the federal investment in these hydropower projects. None of these costs are borne by taxpayers.

We do not see a significant threat to this proposal. Congress has rejected these proposals in years past and we believe the lure of one-time money will not be favored over the current structure providing affordable power to millions. However, we will continue monitoring the issue and keep members of Congress informed on our position.

PURPA Reform

The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) was enacted following the energy crisis of the 1970s. The statute requires electric utilities to purchase electric energy from co-generation facilities and small power production facilities. Much has changed in the 42 years since enactment of PURPA, including development of organized wholesale electricity markets and adoption of policies to promote open access transmission policies.

Under PURPA, utilities are often forced to buy power from qualifying facilities they don’t need, often at rates higher than what can be obtained from the market. This obligation can impact long-term generation and capacity planning when utilities are unexpectedly required to purchase power not accounted for in their integrated resource plan.

Heartland supports FERC’s pending efforts to reform PURPA regulations to reflect the modern energy landscape. H.R 1502 and S. 1760 seek to reform PURPA, efforts Heartland endorses.

Overall, our discussions in Washington were well-received and we intend to serve as a resource to members of Congress as needed. The members we met with have a good understanding of what rural communities, like those Heartland serves, face and are willing to work together to ensure their success.

We look forward to continuing the conversations with those members and to continuing advocating on behalf of our customers.