How is it possible that a “regional transmission authority” in Arkansas can order our Nebraska public power utilities to shut off electricity to Nebraskans?
Nebraska by itself has more than enough electrical generation within our own state to meet the load requirements that Nebraska users have. Why must power be shut off to Nebraskans?
In 2009, when Nebraska’s public power organizations decided to join the Southwest Power Pool, they made this decision all by themselves. The decision to join a 17-state consortium of electrical utilities was never a question before the Legislature. No bill was ever introduced, no public hearings before a committee were ever held, and no public debate by our elected representatives was ever conducted. No bill was ever put on the governor’s desk for signature or veto. No question was ever put on the ballot for the people to decide.
I question whether or not the Nebraska Public Power District had the legal authority to make such a choice on behalf of our entire state in the first place, especially when it works against one of the reasons the Legislature provided the existence of public power districts in the very first law written to create them.
Nebraska law says public power districts “have an obligation to provide the inhabitants and customers of the district an adequate, reliable, and economical source of electric power and energy.” Willfully turning off the heat during the coldest winter in generations is the opposite of providing reliable power. It ought to be criminal.
I can tell you one thing for certain, no rancher trying to keep his cattle alive in record cold weather ever voted for this wrong-headed idea. Some years back, the Legislature was not pleased with how the Department of Health and Human Services was dealing with government programs for children, so they created an Inspector General for Child Welfare the Legislature could call upon when issues arose.
The issue of prison overcrowding raised similar concerns in the Legislature so a special investigative committee for the department of corrections was created and they also have an inspector general now.
In 2011, an entire special session of the Legislature was convened to pass a body of laws that addressed how the Keystone XL pipeline would be routed and built in Nebraska.
It is plain to see the Nebraska Legislature has a long history of creating more oversight and demanding more accountability for things that our state is not doing very well. Deliberately shutting off electricity to Nebraskans because some outfit in another state ordered us to do so is a life-or-death matter that cries out for more accountability.
There are numerous opportunities this year to find a way to bring public power before this legislature under oath. They have some tough questions to respond to. Their very existence may rely on their answers.
Tom Brewer represents Dist. 43 in the Sandhills, encompassing most of Cherry County. Contact him by email at email@example.com, mail a letter to Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1101, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509, or call his office at (402) 471-2628.