NLC Policy Unit Tackles Electric Utilities Issues

Article excerpt

"Changes in the electric utilities industry will impact every city and town across America," said Committee Chair Ingrid Lindemann, council member of Aurora, Colo. "The changes could benefit or hurt every family and every business. We, as leaders, need to ensure that these changes will work to help our communities."

With that jolt from the chair, the Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources (EENR) Steering Committee highlighted its final meeting by acting on the key issues of electric utility restructuring, energy policy source water protection, and sustainable development. Completing an ambitious agenda, the EENR Committee took action to send recommendations for consideration by the full membership in San Antonio for the Congress of Cities.

Energy

The Committee adopted a resolution itemizing and prioritizing key principles to be considered regarding any electric utility restructuring proposal. Heading the list is the, need to ensure that local elected officials must be at both state and federal tables as part of any restructuring proposal. Another top concern is that proposals to modify electricity service delivery needs to ensure reliability of service for customers.

In addition to the resolution, the Committee made comprehensive changes to the energy policy section of the National Municipal Policy. The Committee's review of the energy policy incorporated discussions of efficient energy production, conservation, renewable and conventional energy sources, and management of energy emergencies.

With the deregulation of electricity, consumers would be able to choose among a wide range of suppliers for power. This may bring about lower rates or cause substantial increases in electricity bills. Local elected officials must be attuned to important concerns of both businesses and residents of their communities. The Committee plans to submit a resolution for the Policy Committee to consider during the Congress of Cities in San Antonio.

Included in this issue of Nation's Cities Weekly, is an article describing the basics aspects of the current debate on electric utility deregulation.

Source Water Protection

In addition to the revised energy policy and proposed electric utility resolution, the EENR Committee also reviewed the water quality and supply sections of the National Municipal Policy. City officials are continually concerned about proposed stormwater regulations, particularly the impact of nonpoint sources of pollution. While cities are held accountable for "end-of-pipe" pollution, similar efforts have not been asserted to regulate nonpoint sources of pollution such as runoff from fields and agricultural sources.

Representatives from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation addressed the committee and assessed prevailing water quality issues and impediments. The speakers presented differing views on the management of nonpoint source pollution and the role of cities. In addition to the guest speakers, Committee members received updates on the three federal advisory committees with NLC participation. …