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April 22, 2009 (512) 463-0300

ELECTRIC CO-OP TRANSPARENCY BILL PASSES SENATE

Sen. Ogden, Sen, Estes
Senators Craig Estes of Wichita Falls (left) and Steve Ogden of Bryan vote in favor of Estes' bill to permit the University of North Texas to charge a fee to fund a new football stadium.

(AUSTIN) — Legislation that would bring more transparency and accountability to electric co-operatives in Texas passed the Senate on a unanimous vote Wednesday. This bill would address issues raised during the interim specifically related to Pedernales Electric Cooperative, the largest electric co-op in the country. Bill author and Senate Business and Commerce Committee Chairman Troy Fraser began investigating the PEC during the interim following allegations of misappropriation of funds and director election irregularity. When Fraser himself couldn't get access to a board meeting, he began looking at ways to improve transparency not only at Pedernales but at co-ops around the state. "We had a problem at Pedernales that they were rigging elections, and it was impossible for anyone from the outside to get elected because the board and management controlled that, as they had for 40 years," said Fraser. "We identified it, and obviously we're changing it."

Sen. Shapleigh
Senator Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso discusses a bill that seeks to increase access and transparency at electric co-operatives in Texas.

SB 921 would require elections for electric co-op boards of directors be open to any member that wants to run. Co-op members would have to be notified of board meetings before hand, and all meetings would be open to any member. Meeting records would have to be available to the public, and the state could audit financial transactions and operations of a co-op if approved by the Legislative Audit Committee. The bill includes stiffer regulations for the Pedernales co-operative, prohibiting proxy voting in director's elections and requiring that directors be elected by district.

Flower Mound Senator Jane Nelson praised the bill, but called on Fraser to continue to monitor transparency and access at co-ops around the state and not just Pedernales. "I don't think this is an isolated problem with just one co-op," said Nelson.

Also approved was a measure that would set in place a regulatory frame work for carbon sequestration and storage in Texas. Carbon sequestration is a process where carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and other sources are captured and placed in the ground instead of escaping into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide captured in this way can also be injected into dwindling oil wells to push additional crude out of the ground. SB 1387, by Amarillo Senator Kel Seliger, would put the state Railroad Commission in charge of the process, requiring them to set up rules and regulations surrounding carbon sequestration and its extraction for industrial use.

The Senate will reconvene Thursday, April 23 at 8 a.m. to consider the Local and Uncontested Calendar, and will meet in regular session at 11 a.m.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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