Uncertainty in energy policy direction top's EENR's agenda.
Generation and transmission, stranded costs, muncipalization, aggregation -- these terms represent the lexicon associated with proposals to restructure the electric utility industry. Similar to the recent telecommunications debate, competitiveness in the electric utility is an emerging debate of great importance to all cities. These are the issues the Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources (EENR) Steering Committee began to tackle in order to develop a comprehensive policy for all cities on this key, emerging issue.
To begin addressing electric utility restructuring, the committee convened a panel with representatives from public and investor-owned utilities. Lash Chaflin, Utilities Coordinating Manager for the League of Nebraska Municipalities, moderated a panel with Gary Lay of the Nebraska Municipal Power Pool and Fred Trueblood of Southern California Edison. The panelists offered their perspectives of how the restructured environment for electricity production and distribution will affect investor-owned and public power utilities.
More importantly, the Committee asked the panelists to anticipate the impact of deregulation on cities and on citizens. The discussion represented a continuation of the lively debate currently underway across the country of whether a deregulated electricity utility industry will be beneficial, and, if so, for whom.
Proposed changes in this field will affect local revenues and local budgets. NLC members include those cities that operate utilities and those that are primarily customers. For all cities, the residents will turn to local officials with questions about rates and levels of services delivery. At their fall meeting, the Committee will consider guiding principles to express the concerns city officials in this area.
In addition to the electric utility issues, the EENR Policy Committee identified the energy policy in general as an area that required review this year. Breaking into two small groups, the Committee examined existing policy language to determine whether and if new policy language is needed.
Another issue of concern is the level of airport noise experienced by communities in the vicinity of airports. Technological innovations have reduced the noise generated by aircraft engines. The federal government is implementing a plan to replace existing fleets with quieter aircraft. A growing area of concern is the changing nature of how airports are sited and local land use issues.
For example, in some instances the airfields at closed military bases are being converted to civilian use as a reliever airport. As a result, the nature of the air traffic over the community may change from occasional use during working hours to more continuous use. James Erickson, Director of the Office of Environment & Energy for the Federal Aviation Administration and Betty Ann Kane of the National Organization to Insure a Sound-Controlled Environment (NOISE) addressed the Committee.
The Committee intends to update NLC policy at its fall meeting and to address policy issues related to adjacent communities and reduction in federal assistance for noise abatement.
Nuclear Waste Transportation
Working in conjunction with the Transportation and Communications (T&C) and the Public Safety and Crime Prevention (PSCP) Committees, EENR is reviewing existing policy on the transportation of nuclear waste and hazardous materials. The EENR focus is on environmental consequences; PSCP addresses emergency preparedness and prevention training issues; and T&C is working on routing, financing, and notification concerns.
The Committee's primary concern is that nuclear waste is transported and disposed of appropriately, limiting the risk to citizens. While concern is high about the management of nuclear materials, it was noted at both the T&C and EENR Committee meetings that the possibility of dissaster is more likely in the routing of hazardous materials (such as gasoline and chlorine) than nuclear materials which are much more tightly regulated.
Another top-ranked issue for the Committee's review is sustainable development. The EENR Committee is continuing the work it began last year on this topic. Committee members are very concerned about the full costs of products being factored into the broad range of decisions that city, state, and federal officials must make. The "full cost" concept includes the cost of the product plus the disposal or clean up costs. The Committee will continue its discussion on sustainable development at the fall meeting.
Omaha Councilmember Richard Takechi and the City of Omaha provided first class hospitality and informative forums for the Committee members. Early arrivers toured Entire Recycling, Inc., a tire crumb rubber recycling business where tire rubber is being reused in projects as diverse as resurfacing streets and improving soil quality. The company uses a cryogenic freezing process to separate usable material. Samples of the end product were provided for Committee members to take home.
The Committee also visited a downtown factory which is closing and has the potential of becoming a brownfield -- an abandoned industrial site with uncertain environmental quality. On this tour, Committee members received a briefing on site mitigation issues and learned about the City's plans to develop a recreation site. Omaha is also home to Offut Air Force Base and the Committee was treated to a tour of the Strategic Command Center.