Rep. Betty Olson (R-28B/Prairie City) had fun on the taxpayers' dime at the ALEC conference this month:
There were some great speakers at the policy summit: Rep. Paul Ryan, Sen. Ron Johnson, Sen. Ted Cruz, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Grover Norquist with Americans for Tax Reform, and Tennessee state Sen. Dr. Mark Green (an army special operation flight surgeon who participated in the capture of Saddam Hussein). They addressed the issues of federalism, states rights, strict adherence to the US Constitution, lower taxes, and smaller, more accountable government.
I serve on the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force and the task force passed three pieces of model policy:
1. Resolution in Opposition to EPA’s Plan to Regulate Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act,
2. Resolution Concerning EPA Proposed Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards for New and Existing Fossil-Fueled Power Plants,
3. Updating Net Metering Policies Resolution [Rep. Betty Olson, "Warm Weather and Hot Ait in D.C.," Black Hills Pioneer, 2013.12.11].
The third plank should get the attention of South Dakotans working for net metering and energy fairness. Here is a draft version of the net-metering resolution considered at the ALEC conference:
Updating Net Metering Policies Resolution
WHEREAS, The U.S. electric grid delivers a product essential to all Americans; and
WHEREAS, Electricity runs our economy—it powers our homes, businesses, industries, and the smart technologies and innovations that enhance our quality of life; and
WHEREAS, The electric power industry is leading the transformation to make the grid more flexible and more resilient to meet the growing demands of our digital society; and
WHEREAS, The electric power industry directly employs more than 500,000 American workers and is the nation’s most capital-intensive industry, investing more than $90 billion per year, on average, in capital expenditures, including investments in transmission and distribution infrastructure; and
WHEREAS, ALEC’s Electricity Transmission Principles assert that the electricity transmission system must be “coordinated in a manner that satisfies current needs and future growth, and that provides energy consumers with the necessary levels of system security, overall reliability, and access to the most economic and diverse sources of electricity”; and
WHEREAS, there is growing interest among customers to self-serve with on-site rooftop solar panels; and
WHEREAS, there is growing interest among renewable energy service providers in installing rooftop solar panels and other small-scale, on-site distributed generation (DG) systems; and
WHEREAS, It is recognized that when these rooftop solar and other DG systems first came to market years ago, many states approved a billing plan called net metering that provided a subsidy to distributed generators to encourage their introduction; and
WHEREAS, Some states now have net metering policies that credit rooftop solar or other DG customers for any excess electricity that they generate and sell using the grid and require utilities to buy this power at the full retail rate; and
WHEREAS, The full retail rate of electricity often includes the fixed costs of the poles, wires, meters, advanced technologies, and other infrastructure that make the electric grid safe, reliable, and able to accommodate solar panels and other DG systems; and
WHEREAS, When net-metered customers are credited for the full retail cost of electricity, they effectively avoid paying the grid costs, and these costs for maintaining the grid then are shifted to those customers without rooftop solar or other DG systems through higher utility bills; and
WHEREAS, The use of rooftop solar and other DG systems now has become more widespread, and many states are reviewing their net metering polices; and
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the American Legislative Exchange Council encourages state policymakers to recognize the value the electric grid delivers to all and to:
- Update net metering policies to require that everyone who uses the grid helps pay to maintain it and to keep it operating reliably at all times;
- Create a fixed grid charge or other rate mechanisms that recover grid costs from DG systems to ensure that costs are transparent to the customer; and
- Ensure electric rates are fair and affordable for all customers and that all customers have safe and reliable electricity [John Eick, task force legislative analyst, American Legislative Exchange Council, memorandum, 2013.10.30].
When it comes to paying their fair share in taxes for public schools, roads, and services, ALECky corporate fat-cats want us to cut their taxes and pray to trickle-down economics. But when it comes to shared infrastructure from which they turn a profit, the big corporations suddenly discover a commitment to everyone paying fair shares. Funny how that works.
One of my Dakota Rural Action friends, Barbara Sogn-Frank, gets the message loud and clear: ALEC is coming to help big utilities keep customers from getting any advantage from investing in energy self-sufficiency. And Rep. Betty Olson is ready to serve ALEC over the interests of South Dakotans during the upcoming Legislative session:
ALEC is organized and run by some of the largest, richest and most powerful multinational corporations in the U.S. and abroad. The key players are big fossil fuels, big banks, big chemicals, big pharmaceuticals, big ag and big insurance. But don’t just take my word for it: Check out its website. Its primary aim is to send state legislators back home with “model” legislation that serves the interests of these corporations. ALEC’s aims are diametrically opposed to most of the dreams, aspirations and best interests of individuals, families and communities.
Among the attendees at the ALEC conference was Betty Olson, a Republican representative from Prairie City. In her Dec. 12 column in the Bison Courier, Olson explained that during the ALEC conference, she and the ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force “passed three pieces of model policy.” So, we can expect that in this legislative session we’ll see precious floor time taken away from legitimate bills introduced by South Dakotans for South Dakotans and taken up instead by ALEC-lead efforts to... [t]arget homeowners, farmers, ranchers, businesses and communities who want a fair price through net metering for the clean renewable energy they send back to the electrical grid, thus contributing to the availability of renewable energy and opening up new markets and economic opportunities. ALEC-led legislators in Arizona tried this and failed in that state’s last legislative session [Barbara Sogn-Frank, "Be Alert to ALEC's Influence During Session," Sioux Falls Business Journal, 2013.12.29].
Rep. Olson is the classic example of conservative confusion. She portrays herself as an independent South Dakota conservative, fighting for her neighbors against big outside powers, yet she bays to the whistle of big outside interests and puts their profits ahead of real independent South Dakotans. We must be watchful and not fall for the folksy feel-goodism of corporate shills playing cowgirl conservative.
p.s.: Rep. Olson's column indicates that she was joined on her flight to the ALEC conference by Senator Phil Jensen (R-33/Rapid City) and Rep. Scott Craig (R-33/Rapid City).