About a month ago my phone buzzed on a Sunday afternoon. It was a call coming in from Lower Valley Energy’s CEO Jim Webb. I thought, that’s strange for him to be contacting me on Sunday, but quickly understood when he advised, “we have trouble.” He explained how the current administration in D.C. had gone behind closed doors and arranged a plan to breach the hydro dams in the Snake River/Columbia Gorge. Why is that a concern? Those dams are the major source for power at Lower Valley Energy. Lower Valley Energy contracts with the Bonneville Power Administration allowing us to offer you the most inexpensive power in the nation and it’s all based at those hydro dams.
The answer for displacing the power, while causing absolute havoc for the ag community in the northwest, was an offer to replace it all with renewable green energy that would be operated by sovereign nations or the tribal nations in the northwest. First problem–the renewables do not have the ability to fill the grid and deliver on-demand power to the utilities like Lower Valley Energy. Second is the problem of managing this new energy source by those who have little to no experience.
My first thought on the matter was to turn to our local state authorities with our concerns. We did that, as I traveled to Laramie where I made contact with the Governor as he finished a speech at the Wyoming Business Alliance. I spoke with him personally and then put him on the phone with CEO Webb. We wanted him to understand the importance of this energy source and any changes could result in problems for one of the state’s flagship electric cooperatives. I also set up a conference call with the Wyoming Attorney General and then arranged a zoom meeting with the Governor’s Energy Advisor Randall Luthi and the entire LVE Board of Directors, again, emphasizing the problems with the plan to breach the dams.
The next step was to take the issue to our federal delegation. Webb called on Shawn Taylor, the cooperative’s leadership representative from Wyoming to join us and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Chairman Jim Matheson, former seven-term member of Congress from Utah to join us for a visit to Wyoming’s delegation in Washington, D.C. Calls were made, and appointments made. Webb and I flew out to Washington and our first stop was U.S. Rep. Harriett Hageman. She was on a tight schedule, so I made introductions and explanations, then turned it over to Webb and Matheson. Our conversation continued from her committee room to her presentation on the House floor. The photo shows Webb grabbing the final moments in an underground transport on the way to the U.S. Capitol House Floor.
Sen. Cynthia Lummis warmly welcomed us and we presented our concerns in her private office with a key staffer on board to specifically track the situation for us. She was very understanding and wants to help.
Finally, Sen. Barrasso, recovering from a minor surgical procedure back in Wyoming, had assigned key staff members to help us with this matter. I already knew the leading staff member as he had helped me with the EPA challenges with the Afton and Star Valley Ranch water systems.
We also met with Senate Energy Staff and appraised them of this problem. They knew the direction to take, and I added the request that we consider a public hearing on the original closed door meetings. Why take this behind closed doors?
I make countless “I-80 runs” to Cheyenne and an occasional “fly the not-so-friendly skies” out to D.C. That’s the way it needs to be done, in person with the Governor, our U.S. Rep. and the Senators and staff. That’s my approach with my public service jobs in the state and with LVE. Traveling at my own expense, I show up in person, seeking cooperation, looking for a plan and effective response to whatever the endless challenges are in public service.