DES MOINES – Lyon Rural Electric Cooperative, Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative, Osceola Rural Electric Cooperative and Sanborn Municipal Utilities have filed a formal appeal with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) asking that the agency reverse their decision to deny federal disaster aid to Iowa following devastating storms, a decision that could also force the repayment of millions in previously awarded aid.
“Our top priority is providing member-consumers in rural Iowa with reliable and affordable power. In order to do that, it’s important that FEMA honor its commitment and their well-established practices,” said Marion Denger, president of the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives. “During the appeal process we will continue to make a strong case showing this decision is an unprecedented reversal of FEMA’s disaster aid policy. With winter storm season approaching, it’s vital that we resolve this issue and give our members the assurance that the federal government will follow their established policy.”
Following a late winter snow, ice and wind storm in April, a federally declared Major Disaster included Lyon, Osceola, Dickinson, Sioux and O’Brien counties. Three of Iowa’s electric cooperatives, a generation and transmission cooperative and one municipal utility suffered damage.
In response to past disaster-related damage, FEMA has followed a policy where visually observable criteria were used to determine if power lines had been damaged beyond the point of repair. FEMA reversed this long-standing policy and denied disaster aid applications following the April storm.
For the first time in the nation, FEMA has stated that disaster aid could not be issued because the affected electric utilities did not conduct comprehensive laboratory testing on every mile of wire on an annual basis. This test is not performed as a matter of industry practice or required to meet any industry or engineering standard. It is also not required by the Iowa Utilities Board, which regulates Iowa’s electric utilities and required them to submit reliability plans and inspection and maintenance plans.
Members of Iowa’s congressional delegation and a coalition of Iowa agriculture, business, and utility organizations had previously requested that FEMA meet with the utilities to discuss the disaster aid denial. Additionally, the governor’s office and the Iowa Department of Homeland Security have raised questions about the agency’s decision.
“The commitment of such a broad group of elected officials and organizations underscores the importance of reversing this decision. It’s the right thing to do for rural Iowa and our member-consumers across the state,” added Denger.