Focus on the Future


Steve Freese
President and CEO

January is typically the time of year we focus on the future, and this year, perhaps more than ever, I am happy to leave 2020 behind. We finally have the availability of a coronavirus vaccine on the horizon. I know you will all do your research and make the best choice for you and your family. Having experienced the illness and loss related to the pandemic among my own loved ones, I look forward to doing whatever I can to help put this pandemic behind us.

With the new year comes some big changes at the federal level that will affect the energy industry as a whole, and efforts to supply safe, reliable, and affordable electricity, while protecting the planet for future generations. President-elect Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris have an aggressive climate-change agenda. Showing he is serious about his campaign promises, Biden has appointed longtime senator and former secretary of state John Kerry to serve as climate envoy for national security. Kerry was an early advocate of the Paris climate accord, and this new position in the federal government marks the first time that the National Security Council will include an official dedicated to climate change. It will be interesting to watch the interaction and decision-making coming out of this side of the federal government. Other major appointments include former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm as the secretary of the Department of Energy, and Michael Regan as the Environmental Protection Agency administrator. Granholm was a two-term governor and prior to her tenure as governor, Granholm was elected to serve as the attorney general of Michigan. Regan is the current secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality where he created an Environmental Justice and Equity Board. He has served at the EPA under both Democratic and Republican presidents.

Biden also picked Brenda Mallory to chair the Council on Environmental Quality. She is the current director of regulatory policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center and formerly worked in the Obama administration.

This year there will be a clear change in direction as it relates to domestic energy policy, and our job will be to keep you informed on how the proposed policies will affect you. Just how aggressive the new administration will be on climate change hinges on a couple of key senate races in Georgia this month. If both incumbent Republican senators are defeated, Democrats will control the House and the executive office, and have a 50-50 tie in the Senate. Since the tiebreaker falls to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, in this scenario, Democrats have a clear path to make major changes. If Republicans maintain control of the Senate, we still expect moderate bi-partisan reforms that will affect the electric cooperative industry. We will continue to keep you posted on all the happenings in Washington, D.C.

On the state front, we will continue to see divided government with a Democratic governor and Republican legislature, and we will continue to work with both of them. If this pandemic has made anything glaringly apparent, it is the need for broadband in all areas of rural Wisconsin. We are working with lawmakers on legislation that will help clear the way for better service in rural areas through the use of existing easements. We will also keep you updated on our progress at the statehouse and look forward to working with all electric cooperative members to share stories on the dire need for broadband expansion.

All in all we have an exciting year ahead, and we look forward to serving you.