(Promoted by Colorado Pols)
Earlier this month the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) held its annual conference in Nashville. Jo Ann Emerson, former Missouri Congresswoman-turned-CEO of her top political donor, started the conference with an attack on the Obama administrations' environmental record. She was followed by the alternative speaker Haley Barbour (who replaced Chuck Todd of NBC who was stuck in D.C. by the ice storm), the former governor of Mississippi. Mr. Barbour spent half an hour attacking everyone but conservative Republicans. Everyone in the room seemed concerned that the speaker had gone too far: the numerous, African-Americans, Democrats, unaffiliated voters and environmentalists felt unwelcome and uncomfortable with the harangue and showed it with very limited applause.
It's hard to miss the irony that such a partisan witch hunt would be waged by an organization that exists only because of the vision of FDR and the New Deal – and today feasts at the trough of almost unlimited dollars doled out at treasury rates.
It didn't go over well; Ms. Emerson has been deluged by letters from the membership, prompting this response:
Members of the Board,
In the week since the Annual Meeting, I have received plenty of feedback regarding our selection of speakers on Monday morning. You’re all well aware of what happened: Chuck Todd canceled his appearance over the weekend, the ice storm hit, and Governor Haley Barbour hopped in his car and drove seven-and-a-half hours to pinch hit. His remarks went well beyond what was discussed with staff, and even with me personally. In short, this was not the presentation anyone expected, nor was it well-received by our members who rightfully and correctly expect the content of our meetings stay within the context of NRECA’s mission.
Although there is no doubt Governor Barbour strayed into a partisan political field on his own, I’m responsible for the fence which is supposed to prevent that from happening. NRECA does not endorse the personal political views of any of our speakers. Our organization’s meetings are not opportunities for others to advance a political agenda of their own. I know some folks got up and left the room because they were upset by what happened, and I can’t blame them for doing so. This wasn’t a question of having political balance; it was a case in which those political subjects should never had been broached.
In the future, we will certainly be more careful when filling emergency speaking roles – including asking the crucial question or whether we are not better off abbreviating the program and dropping a speaking slot when we have a cancelation. Without the lead time to adequately prepare our speakers, there is never a guarantee that we will get what was advertised to us. I know I’ve learned a valuable lesson about what happens when you hand someone an NRECA microphone and you don’t quite know what they will say.
I apologize that this situation has put many of you in the position of answering for Governor Barbour’s appearance at the Annual Meeting. I’m sorry for the problems this may have caused for you. All I can say is that we will go forward smarter and more cautiously to assure this doesn’t happen again.
We've witnessed the coordinated efforts of the Colorado Rural Electric Association and their parent, Tri-State Generation and Transmission, as they launched the deceiving "War on Rural Colorado" campaign. This, even as they are making plans to significantly expand their already-existing Kit Carson County Wind farm, "Carousel".
The transition is taking place, in spite of the best efforts of the old guard to thwart its every move:
In the case of wind, simple economics is driving this transition. A quick transition away from coal will not only conserve our resources and provide us with solutions to our current challenges, but create scores of new job opportunities and build a new tax base across America's rural communities.
As the American West is approaching a panic on the loss of Glen Canyon Dam's generation capacity, 100x that capacity sits undeveloped across the Central Great Plains. For every challenge that faces us, there is nothing but opportunity that awaits us. It starts with political will.
Rural America is a special place – one being systemically marginalized by its leadership. It wasn't always this way; we use to understand our interdependence with urban areas. We understood our role in society as producers of food. A 21st century vision adds "energy producer" to that list. It's time to stop looking back…we're not headed that way.
Let's let what was once old, be new again.