17,830 and Counting

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

Richard Johnstone

The late journalist and educator Max Lerner had it right when he wrote, “Of the many things we have done to democracy in the past, the worst has been the indignity of taking it for granted.” Readers of Cooperative Living, however, clearly respect democracy, and the democratic process!

To say that we were overwhelmed by your response to the postcard campaign in the May issue would not do justice to the breadth of your participation, or the depth of your commitment. The postcards were pre-printed with a message to our members of Congress, asking them to “help prevent increases in our electric bills” by “keeping the EPA from using the Clean Air Act (CAA) to regulate carbon dioxide from power plants,” pointing out that “the Act was never intended to regulate greenhouse gases.”

But many of you went further, taking the time to write additional comments on the postcards, expressing your concerns about keeping electric bills affordable as Congress considers climate-change legislation.

And, as of June 3, less than a month after the May magazine began arriving in the mailboxes of cooperative member-consumers, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association reported to us that 17,830 postcards had arrived, with more coming in every day since. It’s the largest grassroots response we’ve ever seen from folks served by Virginia’s 13 electric cooperatives. And it’s clearly a tribute to your belief in the value of the democratic process.

As you know, Virginia’s electric cooperatives believe that our elected representatives in Congress — and not the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — should set the rules regarding control of greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide. Our House and Senate members are accountable to us for their actions; employees at federal agencies like the EPA are not.

As you read this, the first wave of 17,830 postcards has been delivered to Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner, and to Virginia’s 11 House members. The message you delivered through your huge participation made it clear that they should only consider climate-change legislation that is:

1) fair to all consumers and regions of the country;

2) affordable for average consumers; and

3) achievable, able to be accomplished.

If you have not yet taken part in this effort and would like to, it’s not too late. If you still have your copy of the May issue of Cooperative Living, all the information you need will be inside it. If you don’t have it, please contact us (see our masthead at left) and we will send you the information. Additional information is also available at a special website set up by our national electric cooperative trade association; that site’s address is www.ourenergy.coop.

We’ve celebrated for many years in these pages the fact that an electric cooperative is a business owned by those it serves; indeed, that it’s a democratic business, owned and controlled by its member-consumers. And, as such, we at Cooperative Living have always taken seriously our responsibility to represent fairly, and as fully as is possible, the breadth of views held by cooperative members on the variety of issues discussed and topics featured within these pages. It’s only fair to note that some readers disagree with our position that Congress, not the EPA, should take the lead on dealing with greenhouse gases and their impact on climate.

To reflect the views and concerns of these cooperative member-consumers, the Mailbag section in the June and July issues features letters that take exception to our position, and to the postcard campaign. The four letters featured in June, and the one in this month’s issue, are among 15 reader contacts that we’ve received to date disagreeing with our views. We thank these folks for sharing their opinions in the best tradition of the American political process. We encourage all of our readers to let us know how you feel about our advocacy efforts on your behalf, as well as about the feature stories, small-town profiles, energy-saving tips, and slice-of-life columns that we publish in each issue of Cooperative Living.

We will continue to work hard to keep you informed as Congress considers climate change and energy legislation, and as our federal elected representatives consider other important issues that affect you and your electric cooperative. As a not-for-profit utility, ultimately your cooperative’s only interest is in providing you with electric service that is as reliable, as affordable and as environmentally responsible as possible. Again, thanks to each of you who made your voice heard as part of the democratic process! 


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