(WNAX) — A bill dealing with service territories between rural electric co-ops and municipal utilities was delayed several times during this year’s legislative session. With no compromise, lawmakers set up a summer study to look at the issue. Chris Studer, Chief Member & Public Relations Officer for East River Electric says losing service areas and customers costs all their members…
“We don’t think it’s right that a municipal government should be able to take territory away from a cooperative. The Cooperative members have built their Electric Cooperative over decades; 80 years most cases and to lose a portion of their service territory just increases costs for the Electric Co-op and the members left behind.”
Under current law, if a community with a municipal electric system annexes new territory, those residents become their customers. Studer says the issue needs a better hearing…
“We’re really looking forward to the summer study because we think we are going to be able to show that there is a problem here and it’s been a problem for as long as this law has be the place and for the last 40 years and it’s going to continue to be a problem if we don’t deal with it and so the summer study we think will take a broader look and a deeper look into what the problem really is.”
Studer says there are economic impacts to communities if electric services change….
“We’ll take a look at Economic Development. You know, the municipal electrics will talk a lot about economic development in this study and you know, the electric co-ops have sunk millions of dollars, hundred millions of dollars into Economic Development in the State of South Dakota and direct investment.”
There are thirty-five communities with municipal electric utilities in the state.
A schedule and membership on the summer study committee has not yet been set.