Serving You in Olympia and D.C.

Benton REA’s Troy Berglund, community development and member relations manager, in Olympia with City of West Richland Public Works Director Roscoe Slade, Senator Sharon Brown and West Richland Mayor Brent Gerry

Benton REA is active in the state legislature and U.S. Congress to ensure laws passed will benefit members and keep electricity affordable

The Washington State Legislature is in session, and Benton REA is working to protect the interests of its members. Troy Berglund, community development and member relations manager, recently visited Olympia where he met with local representatives and worked with the governor’s office. These are the current issues impacting Benton REA members.

Advancing Rural Broadband

The governor’s office drafted legislation to address the lack of broadband services in rural Washington (HB 1498 and SB 5511). This is timely as Benton REA is conducting a feasibility study to determine the viability of bringing broadband internet service to the area via Benton REA’s PowerNET.

Broadband, as defined by the Federal Communications Commission, must have a minimum upload speed of 25 Mbps, currently higher than what PowerNET is able to provide. This legislation brings the potential for Benton REA to access grant funding and bring faster internet speeds to our service area.

Clean Energy Standard Bill

Clean energy is a high priority for the governor, and given the makeup of the current legislature, it’s likely that a Clean Energy Standard Bill (HB 1211 and SB 5116) will pass this year. Therefore, Benton REA wishes to include provisions that protect Benton REA and its members from higher energy costs.

These include recognizing the clean, non-carbon emitting hydroelectricity and nuclear power generation in our state, ensuring reliability as a cornerstone and high priority and preventing additional regulatory oversight or reporting that burdens a utility and adds to the cost of providing electricity. Many of the provisions Benton REA has asked for are being included. Yet, we will continue to make sure Benton REA’s voice is heard on this issue.

Partnering with West Richland

Benton REA took advantage of time in Olympia to partner with the city of West Richland. Troy, Mayor Brent Gerry and Public Works Director Roscoe Slade discussed with legislators a high priority project for the city called the Well Number 10 Aquifer Storage and Recovery Project. Their goal was to secure funding for phases two and three of the fish-friendly project. This well withdraws Columbia River water during peak winter month flows rather than the critical low-flow summer months.

Governor’s Study to Breach the Dams

In response to the Southern Resident Orca Task Force, the governor has requested $750,000 in his budget to fund a study of the associated economic and social impacts, as well as mitigation costs, of the potential breaching of the Lower Snake River dams. Benton REA requested the removal of the $750,000 to fund the study, but also supports robust salmon recovery efforts. The study is a duplicate effort of federal agencies and should not rest on the backs of Washington taxpayers.

Federal Issues

Our hydropower system goes beyond our state legislature to the federal level. Benton REA is engaging our congressional delegation to protect the Lower Snake River dams and stop the trend of increasing wholesale power costs. There are several avenues your co-op is pursing to stop the upward trend of electric costs, including fish and wildlife expenses, project cost allocation, Columbia River Treaty renegotiations and secondary revenues and markets.

Benton REA is not alone in fighting for reasonable solutions to these issues. Electric cooperatives across the nation are working together to stand up for the best interests of their co-op members. We represent a small population in eastern Washington, but we are more powerful together. For questions about these or other legislative issues affecting Benton REA, contact us at 509-786-8265.

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