Community Engagement

Bavaria, Buffalo, and the uninvited guest-Florence

In September, I went back out on the road after a quiet August. The week of September 10 found me first in Leavenworth, Washington for a meeting of the Large Public Power Council CEOs. Our host was Chelan County Public Utility District, high up in the Cascades. On the way to the meeting, we stopped in the town of Leavenworth, a picture postcard Bavarian-themed spot, with mountains all around.  If you don’t believe me, check out this website for “Everything Bavarian”! Apparently, the town decided to “go Bavarian” back in the 1960s as a tourism draw, and it has definitely paid off—the streets and parking lots were jammed.

Delia Patterson, our General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Communications, and I did this road trip together, flying to Seattle and driving up to Leavenworth. Being from Western Missouri, when I think of Leavenworth, I think of the city in Kansas with the federal prison! But the Bavarian Leavenworth put me in the mood for a bratwurst and sauerkraut, which I was able to get at King Ludwig’s restaurant and beer hall (Delia went for the more conservative burger).

One of the speakers at the meeting was Jim Robb, the new CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. He described himself as a WYSIWYG guy (what you see is what you get) and his agenda for NERC sounds right on the money to me: improving the NERC standards by cutting back on those that are administrative/bureaucratic in nature and concentrating on those that truly support reliability; improving the Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center (E-ISAC) that the industry relies on for threat information; and providing unbiased technical reports that can help support sound policy-making for our industry. It was great to get to hear his take on the challenges facing the industry in the reliability realm.

From Washington, I went on to Buffalo, New York, for the annual meeting of the Municipal Electric Utilities Association of New York State (MEUA). Tony Modafferi and his staff put on this meeting, which was held at the Adams Mark Hotel downtown. It was very informative to hear the presentations by MEUA’s consultants about ongoing dockets and issues at the New York Public Service Commission and the New York Legislature. We also got to hear from staff from the New York Power Authority, which provides power supply and transmission services to MEUA members. NYPA has a number of programs to support the MEUA members, including economic development power supply options and an electric vehicle program. At this meeting, I finally got to meet in person someone from NYPA who I had heard on many conference calls last fall and winter dealing with power restoration in Puerto Rico: Joe Kessler. NYPA played a key role in Puerto Rico’s restoration, and it was great to finally have a face to put with the name!

While I was there, I saw a shiny new bucket truck from the Village of Arcade in the circle drive in front of the hotel.

 bucket truck

I later found out the backstory—the Arcade Electric Department’s garage suffered a fire last October, and the village had to borrow bucket trucks from nearby public power utilities until its own could be replaced. It was a great example of mutual assistance among public power towns in upstate New York. The village’s Superintendent, Larry Kilburn, was also serving as MEUA’s President this past year, so he clearly had a lot on his plate during his presidency! At the meeting, he passed the gavel to incoming President Owen McIntee of Spencerport.

I wished I could have stayed for the entire MEUA meeting, as it looked like Tony and his staff had put together a great agenda. But I had to leave early because of an uninvited guest—Hurricane Florence. Looking at the weather report, I realized that I might not make it back to DC if I waited, and that we would be swinging into full-on mutual aid mode, activating the Association’s Mutual Aid Working Group (MAWG). So I departed early, making it back to DC in time to start mutual aid activities with the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council and our Association’s mutual aid staff, ably led by Mike Hyland and Sam Rozenberg.  It truly reminds me why public power is so special when I listen to our MAWG calls—they are all about what utilities dealing with storms need, and how members not in the zone can help them out. Hats off to all of you who responded to the call!