Explaining the local impact of federal policy

Despite reports to the contrary, a lot of policymaking still occurs in Washington. Federal agencies, such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency, continue to promulgate rules that impact public power utilities across the country. And Congress recently approved legislation, such as the tax reform bill and vegetation management provisions of the omnibus appropriations act, that are now law. Further, Congress continues to hold oversight hearings to learn how federal agencies implement policies and what impact these policies have on businesses and communities. These hearings are the basis for determining whether to draft legislation to change federal law.

Your regular communication with your representatives and senators throughout the year, including participation in our annual Legislative Rally, is a big part of why the American Public Power Association’s federal advocacy efforts are so effective. These efforts educate federal lawmakers on how policies impact their constituents back home and which policies require the most urgent attention.

It is equally important to educate your local governing boards, locally elected officials, chambers of commerce, businesses, and other stakeholders about how federal policies can impact your utility’s ability to deliver affordable and reliable electric service.

As your community’s trusted energy advisor, it is critically important for you to keep your community apprised of how a bill or proposed regulation could impact your customers. For example, the House of Representatives passed legislation in 2015, 2016, and 2017 to reform the hydropower licensing and relicensing processes. The Senate passed similar legislation in 2016. The bills would, among other things, cut lengthy, duplicative, and, at times, contradictory regulatory processes for relicensing at existing hydropower facilities.

Many community members, including your board or city council, might not understand the potential effects of such legislation on your day-to-day operations. Public power utilities that either own or get power from hydropower facilities should explain how long and costly the current processes are, which results in higher costs for the utility, which get passed on to customers. You could explain how more efficient processes would ensure the continued use of this important renewable energy resource, and clarify that the legislation does not seek to weaken important environmental reviews that occur during the licensing process.

In explaining how the enactment of such a bill would benefit your utility and the community, remember to keep it simple. Provide your mayor, city council, governing board, and customers with specific examples of how the process is burdensome and costly. If you can, provide an estimate for how much time and money your utility would save if the relicensing process was more efficient. Consider handing out a one-page document that lays out the key problems with the current relicensing process and how the bill would make it better, reduce costs, and ensure the continued use of this important, non-emitting source of electricity. Use infographics, where helpful, to visualize the problem and summarize the main points of how the bill would solve it.

The Association’s advocacy team can assist you in these local education efforts. We can provide you with materials and advice on how to present complicated legislative or regulatory policies in a simple way. We are here to help you advocate on behalf of public power.