Annual Report: 2015

Just about a year ago, I published an article detailing the need for a new, comprehensive state power plan. While there has been a little commotion on this at the state level, we are really no closer to systematically grasping the opportunities we have to improve life for Nebraskans through our electric utilities than we were then.

As I write this, the Supreme Court has just stayed the EPA's Clean Power Plan. Many see this as a bump in the road, some as a waste of precious time, and others as a blessing to our economic status quo. Regardless of the progress of various lawsuits (Nebraska's included), we need to be vigorous in planning our future. The Deparment of Environmental Quality had announced a series of meetings to take public input on the Clean Power Plan--I hope they will not pull the plug on these and I hope Nebraskans will step up to express their opinions.

One change I hope to see this year is passage of Senator John McCollister's bill to facilitate the development of more renewable energy. LB 824 is currently held in the Natural Resources Committee, where a little tweaking is on-going regarding oversight and safeguards for wildlife. I am proud NPPD did not oppose this measure, which will help Nebraskans modernize our utility infrastructure, create jobs and promote investment. I certainly believe that public power could have done more of this ourselves, but as we have not, some one should!

There’ve been a couple of highlights this year that I am excited and proud about.

The first is NPPD’s partnership with Monolith Materials, a carbon-black manufacturer. This company’s technology is highly advanced and clean enough to pass California EPA standards. Most of the carbon black manufacturing happens in Russia and China where environmental standards are weak. So Monolith offers an opportunity to clean up this industry (whose products are ubiquitous) and bring jobs to Nebraska. More exciting to me is that, if this project succeeds, NPPD will convert Sheldon Station near Hallam in south Lancaster County from coal to hydrogen fuel. It’s a game changer. I am proud of us for pioneering a new technology, though there are always risks involved in a venture like this.

The second item I want to share is our partnership with the Save Our Monarchs Foundation. NPPD has provided access to the buffer property around the Beatrice Power Station to restore pollinator habitat, and we hope this will become a model for other utilities across the region. Randall Gilbert, project coordinator, wrote, “We are just about overwhelmed with the enthusiastic support NPPD has given us for this project, from the senior management to the land managers to the environmental specialists. NPPD has approved our proposal, and provided invaluable staff-time to help us carry this out. Particular special mention goes to Rocky Plettner and Ross DeBower.” Our partner Norris Public Power published an article this month about this project in their customer magazine, which you can read here, on pages 14-15.

NPPD continues to move forward building major transmission across the center of the state. Known as the R-Line, is will be more than 220 miles of 345KV line making the development of renewable generation in the north and west of the state more possible, and creating greater reliability for the systerm. I know of no transmission line project that has been welcomed with open arms by every landowner in its path, and this one is no different. There is special resistance to this project as it crosses the Sandhills.

In spite of reservations, I support this project. I've had landowners stand on sites where center pivots run, talking to me about fragmentation of the ecosystem. I'd probably be more sympathetic if there had been a little more resistance to the center pivot revolution in the Hills, which I consider far more damaging. In the final analysis, I am persuaded by the need to address climate change and to access more renewable generation. What will become of that ecosystem--indeed all ecosystems--if we continue to pour greenhouse gases into the atmosphere?

I am proud to serve as your representative, and appreciate your support and input. Please let me know your thoughts on issues that are important to you. Very best wishes. Mary

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