Arkansas co-ops attend 2017 Legislative Conference
Representatives from Arkansas’ electric co-ops joined about 2,000 other co-op leaders in Washington for the annual National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s (NRECA) Legislative Conference on April 24-25.
While at the conference, co-op leaders discussed priority issues with members of Congress and their staff.
“Advocating for our members doesn’t stop at the edge of our service territories,” said Kirkley Thomas, vice president of governmental affairs for Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI). “It’s critical that our elected officials in Washington hear from us as they make decisions that impact our ability to continue that mission.”
About 120 representatives of Arkansas’ electric co-ops visited with members of the Arkansas congressional delegation, including Sen. Tom Cotton, Sen. John Boozman and U.S. Reps. Bruce Westerman, Steve Womack and Rick Crawford. U.S. Rep. French Hill was unable to attend and was represented by staff member Peter Comstock.
Among the issues discussed were:
- The Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Electric Loan Program: The co-ops asked lawmakers to continue to support this program, which provides affordable capital to electric co-ops for infrastructure development. NRECA stressed that the program has a track record of success and also reduces the federal deficit.
- Electric cooperative tax priorities: The co-ops asked lawmakers to support an extension of tax credits for geothermal heat pumps similar to what they did for wind and solar energy. Also, NRECA said congressional action is needed regarding nuclear production tax credits. Existing law creates inequities among nuclear project stakeholders, allowing for-profit entities to utilize tax credits but not nonprofit entities, such as the electric co-ops. The co-ops are also seeking tax credits to spur the commercial development of carbon capture and storage technology.
- Federal land management policies: Current federal land management policies make it difficult for co-ops to maintain rights-of-way on or near federal property. Reforms are necessary to help co-ops manage vegetation to ensure reliability. The co-ops asked lawmakers to support H.R. 1873, which includes those reforms.
Paragould High School wins EV Rally
Paragould High School took first place overall in the 2017 Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas Electric Vehicle (EV) Rally on May 10 at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds in Little Rock.
Hillcrest High School, last year’s first-place winner, took second place this year, and Fayetteville High School’s engineering team placed third overall. It was the 14th year for the program, which included more than 215 participants representing 17 schools.
“The EV Rally has grown each year, which reflects the growing interest in electric vehicle technology,” said Rob Roedel, manager of corporate communications for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas and coordinator of the EV Rally. “Our program enables students to obtain hands-on experience in technology that encourages critical thinking skills, teamwork and creativity.”
The participating schools are involved in the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas Electric Vehicle program that includes a curriculum that incorporates a variety of disciplines, including math, auto mechanics, physics, engineering, electronics and journalism. Students participated in competitions that tested the students’ abilities and their vehicles’ performance capacities.
The day-long event began with technical and safety inspections of the vehicles. Students then focused on an autocross competition and acceleration event. Next, the helmets were unstrapped as the students tested their academic knowledge in troubleshooting and quiz bowl competitions. The range event, which tests the distance a vehicle can run on a single charge, was canceled due to rain.
Participating schools included: Arkansas Tech Career Center; Arkansas Career Training Institute; Bryant High School; Cabot High School; Corning High School; Fayetteville High School – Agriculture; Fayetteville High School – Engineering; Hamburg High School; Hillcrest High School; Hellstern Middle School, Springdale; Mabelvale Middle School; Paragould High School; Prairie Grove High School; Ramay Junior High School, Fayetteville; Viola High School and Woodland Junior High School, Fayetteville.