As a member of JOEMC you know that providing safe, affordable and reliable electricity is our top priority 365 days a year. Our employees are dedicated to this mission whether they work on a line crew or spend their time behind a desk. But it might surprise you to know just how much of the work we perform in the communities we serve can be greatly affected by what lawmakers and regulators are doing in Washington, D.C. That’s why co-ops all across the country join together in making sure our national leaders know what’s important to co-ops and their members.

We do this, in part, through our membership in the National Rural Electrification Association (NRECA). NRECA is the national service organization that represents the interests of the nation’s more than 900 electric cooperatives on Capitol Hill and before federal agencies. A few priorities for electric co-ops in the next couple of years include the following:

Strengthening Rural America: Electric co-ops built and improved the infrastructure to bring electricity to people living in rural America who were being left in the dark and left behind. Today, co-ops provide power to 42 million Americans in 47 states. We know that growing a vibrant economy is essential to America’s success and prosperity and the federal government can help. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has long been a partner in helping co-ops fund a wide variety of economic development activities and the co-ops will work to further strengthen our relationship with the USDA in 2018 and beyond. We are also aware that tens of millions of rural Americans continue to live without access to high-speed internet service. Bridging the digital divide continues to be a critical economic development issue for rural America and it’s a priority for co-ops in Washington.

Avoiding Regulatory Overreach: Electric co-ops strongly advocate for public policies that are driven by consumers’ interests and needs— not a “Washington knows best” mentality. Overreaching federal regulations can have a significant negative impact so we are asking Washington policymakers to revisit a number of federal rules that have hurt rural communities and threatened co-ops’ mission to provide affordable and reliable electricity. We’re also examining future rules and actions under major environmental laws, such as the Endangered Species Act and Clean Air Act, to ensure that they carefully balance the nation’s environmental and economic goals without imposing undue burdens on rural America.

Improving Infrastructure: One of the themes that ran through the most recent presidential campaign was the need to improve the nation’s infrastructure. Electric co-ops have been in the infrastructure development and improvement business for decades and hope to work with our nation’s leaders to continue this important progress. Co-ops continuously improve the cyber and physical security of our systems and have been leaders in developing and using smart grid technologies. Here again, a strong public-private partnership remains eessential, particularly in the area of cyber security. Electric cooperatives also support a wide range of research activities to help improve our nation’s future energy infrastructure. The U.S. Department of Energy and other agencies remain key partners in advancing this research, as well.

These are just a couple of co-ops’ priorities over the next couple of years. It isn’t an exhaustive list but hopefully it demonstrates that JOEMC and America’s electric cooperatives are working just as hard in Washington as we are here at home to keep the electricity flowing and improve the quality of life for you our consumer-members.