By Kent Singer, CREA Executive Director
Each spring, representatives of electric cooperatives across the country fly to Washington, D.C., to participate in a legislative conference sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, our national trade association.
The purpose of this legislative rally is to remind members of Congress how important electric co-ops are to rural communities and to ask these national leaders to support policies and legislation that help electric co-ops provide reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible electric service to their consumer-members.
For many years, our team at CREA has organized this trip for Colorado co-op board directors, managers and staff. We typically send a group of 40–50 folks who represent many of Colorado’s electric co-ops. We work with the staff in the nine different Colorado legislative offices (seven House members, two Senators) to set meetings with the members of the Colorado congressional delegation and/or their staff.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, we were unable to have an in-person legislative rally in either 2020 or 2021. While we held virtual meetings with the members of Congress, those are not nearly as effective as sitting down face to face to talk about the issues. When our group convened in Washington for the 2022 legislative rally, it had been three years since we last traveled to our nation’s capital.
Since the U.S. House of Representatives was not in session during our visit, we met with the staff of the members of Congress rather than the members themselves. Our group was smaller this year in part because our meetings were “only” with staff, but the meetings with staff were excellent and extremely worthwhile. I think everyone in our group was impressed by the way the staffers listened carefully to our concerns, asked relevant questions, and demonstrated a sincere interest in following up with assistance if possible.
As an example, after our meeting, Dr. Nikki Roy from the office of Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D) reached out to us to discuss a possible partnership between our members and Subaru to install electric vehicle charging stations in Colorado’s four national parks. (Ironically, Rep. DeGette is the only member of our delegation without any co-op service territory in her congressional district.)
The U.S. Senate was in session during the time we were in Washington, so we had an opportunity to meet with U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper (D) and two of his aides to discuss several issues of importance to Colorado’s electric co-ops. We worked with Sen. Hickenlooper for many years when he was Colorado’s governor and have always appreciated his willingness to listen to the concerns of Colorado’s electric co-ops.
We particularly enjoyed Sen. Hickenlooper’s story about a recent road trip with former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer deep into eastern Colorado co-op country. It was great to hear that at age 93, Gov. Romer has not lost a step and maintains a keen interest in his home state.
All our meetings in Washington were useful to our members and helped us establish and maintain contacts with our national delegation. The meetings demonstrated that our members of Congress are assisted by hardworking men and women who have a passion for public service.
Specifically, we want to thank the following staff members from our Colorado congressional delegation for taking the time to meet with the Colorado co-op group:
• Susanne Brooks, senior policy advisor for Sen. Michael Bennet (D)
• Daniel Palken, legislative assistant, and Rachel Starr, legislative fellow for Sen. Hickenlooper (D)
• Dr. Nikki Roy, climate and energy policy advisor for Rep. DeGette (D)
• James Thomas, legislative director and deputy chief of staff for Rep. Doug Lamborn (R)
• Jeff Small, chief of staff for Rep. Lauren Boebert (R)
• James Braid, chief of staff for Rep. Ken Buck (R)
• Macey Matthews, chief of staff for Rep. Jason Crow (D)
• Abbie Callahan, legislative assistant for energy and water issues for Rep. Joe Neguse (D)
Thank you to these staffers for all the work they do on behalf of Colorado’s residents and electric co-ops.
Kent Singer is the executive director of CREA and offers a statewide perspective on issues affecting electric cooperatives. CREA is the trade association for all of Colorado’s 22 electric distribution co-ops and one power supply co-op.