As we move from 2008 into 2009, this
is seen as a time of great political change: The United States has elected
its first African-American president; the Democratic candidate won
Virginia’s electoral votes for the first time in over 40 years; one
political party will control the House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate
and the White House for the first time this century; and our economy is in
the depths of a downturn not seen since perhaps the Great Depression.
Yet, in the midst of all of this
political change, the Virginia General Assembly will convene in early
January as it has every January since 1971 and will meet as it has for
over 350 years. While change may seem slow in this Assembly, the 2009
Session of the General Assembly will also meet in the shadows of change.
On Jan. 20, as America inaugurates its first African-American president,
Virginia will acknowledge its role in this historic event (as well as
boast that Virginia was the first state to elect an African-American as
governor). And change will be afoot in Richmond as well, since this
Session will be influenced by the fact that all 100 members of the House
of Delegates will be up for re-election this fall; this Session will be
Governor Kaine’s last before he leaves office; and, this budget must
receive monumental change in the face of economic uncertainty.
There is one other area that faces
change, if you believe the press accounts: laws and regulations reflecting
environmental policy. Congress has been debating legislation concerning
global climate change for over a year and both candidates for president
promised significant action on environmental legislation if they were
elected. President-elect Obama has indicated that the environment will be
one of those areas getting his immediate attention and Governor Kaine has
proclaimed 2009 the year of the environment in Virginia for his
In various communities around
Virginia, it is the responsibility of 13 electric distribution
cooperatives to be sure you stay connected to the power grid so
electricity can flow into your homes and businesses. At Old Dominion
Electric Cooperative, it is our responsibility to be sure that nine of
those cooperatives have the power they need to run through their lines. We
do that by owning and operating some power-generating facilities; by
owning an interest in generating facilities that someone else operates;
through contracts to purchase power from other power providers; and, by
buying power from the market. Generally, the power we buy from the market
is our most expensive power, so we are always looking at the possibility
of long-term purchase-power contracts or owning more generation.
Currently, we own several gas-powered combustion-turbine generating
plants, interests in a coal plant and a nuclear power plant, and are
committed to buy power by contract from a methane gas plant at a landfill
site, power from a wind farm and power generated from a small
hydroelectric facility. As of Jan. 1, these facilities will only provide
enough power to meet about half of our members’ electricity needs.
How do we meet the remaining load and
our future load over the next 10, 20, 30 years and beyond? We will need to
meet this obligation in several ways. First, we will encourage our
cooperative members to be more efficient and use less power in the future.
Second, we will look for as many economic and technically viable renewable
sources of generation that we can find to meet our members’ needs.
Third, we are always pursuing contracts with other generators to find good
deals for our members. Finally, we will ultimately need to build more
Which leads me back to our discussion
of change. As your delegates and senators and members of Congress make
decisions regarding environmental laws that impact power-generating
facilities, I hope you will ask them three questions: What is your plan to
make sure we have the electricity we will need in the future? What are you
doing to fund the research required to make emission-free, affordable
electric plants a reality? How much will your decisions increase my
They are basic questions that need to
be answered before new laws are passed. The governmental-affairs
department of your electric cooperative association will be asking these
questions and doing everything we can to be sure our elected leaders have
the facts they need to make wise decisions. Change can be good. We need to
make sure that environmental changes are good for our environment and good
for the consumer.
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