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Electric system reliability was the main focus as more than 2,000 electric cooperative leaders gathered in Washington, D.C. for NRECA’s Legislative Conference in April.

Joining others from across the nation to meet with elected officials and discuss top priorities for the nation’s electric co-ops were Jo-Carroll representatives David Senn, chairman of the JCE board of directors; Mike Casper, JCE president and CEO; Jesse Shekleton, director of broadband operations; and Terry Kurt, cooperative counsel.

Areas of key focus for the JCE group were expanding rural broadband access, alleviating supply chain challenges, and modernizing the federal permitting process.

“Congress must continue to fund rural broadband programs that meet the unique challenges of serving hard-to-reach areas,” Casper said. “A reliable broadband connection is vital for rural America and creates new ways to live, learn, and earn in rural America.”

More than 200 electric cooperatives across the nation are working to expand rural broadband access in un- and underserved areas, as well as integrating smart grid technologies on their energy networks to improve efficiencies and carbon footprints.

Casper said Congress must also help address labor shortages, invest in long-term manufacturing growth and incentivize increased domestic steel production to help ease supply chain issues.

“Ongoing supply chain constraints are impeding the ability of Jo-Carroll and other co-ops to access key components and materials,” Casper said. “It also impedes growth of businesses and new housing, essential for our area’s economic growth."

A modern, streamlined permitting process is essential as co-ops build for the future, Casper added. “The process for conducting federal environmental reviews must be more efficient and streamlined to reduce costs and provide more certainty to co-ops as they work to maintain affordable, reliable energy services and bridge the digital divide,” Casper said.

During the week, co-op representatives also met with the offices of Senators Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth and Congressmen Darin LaHood and Eric Sorensen.