Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester has been working with electric cooperatives in Delaware to help address the supply chain issues plaguing co-ops and other utilities across the nation.
The Democratic congresswoman, who serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, recently met with leaders of Delaware Electric Cooperative to discuss the problem. Co-ops have had difficulty getting transformers and other essential equipment because production failed to keep pace with demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Blunt Rochester voted in July to help pass the CHIPS and Science Act, a bipartisan bill to boost the manufacture of critical semiconductor chips in America. The legislation, signed into law by President Joe Biden in August, also includes funding for advanced energy efficiency technologies.
“There’s still more work to do to prevent future supply chain disruptions … but the CHIPS and Science bill is an important milestone and a badly needed measure that will spur innovation and lower the cost of living for Americans,” the congresswoman said in a statement after the vote.
Blunt Rochester’s meeting with DEC officials on supply chain issues was just the latest example of the congresswoman’s concern for co-ops and their consumer-members, co-op leaders say.
“[She] has been an avid supporter of the co-op’s mission to provide affordable and sustainable power to our members,” says Rob Book, DEC’s senior vice president of member services. “She’s always been willing to listen to our concerns and has been an advocate for us on Capitol Hill.”
Blunt Rochester supported the budget bill passed by Congress in August that included direct-pay tax credits for electric cooperatives to deploy new energy technologies, including carbon capture, nuclear, energy storage, renewables and more. Providing direct-pay incentives to co-ops has been one of NRECA’s top legislative goals.
The congresswoman is also co-sponsoring the Flexible Financing for Rural America Act. The bipartisan bill could save co-ops billions of dollars by allowing them to refinance loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service at lower interest rates without being hit with prepayment penalties. Co-ops say the savings could be used to keep rates down and strengthen their systems.
Blunt Rochester keeps in close contact with Delaware co-op leaders and spoke to co-op members at DEC’s annual meeting in August, focusing on the “resilience of DEC employees during the pandemic and the co-op’s dedication to keeping the lights on,” Book says.
“We are grateful for Congresswoman Blunt Rochester’s support of DEC and our members,” he says.
The congresswoman says electric co-ops are important to Delaware’s economy.
“As a member of the Energy Subcommittee on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, I know how critical electric co-ops across the country are to keep the lights on and help sustain local economies,” she says. “I’ve been proud to work with Delaware Electric Co-op here in the First State to help address their supply chain challenges throughout the pandemic and will continue working closely with their leaders to ensure that the co-op has the tools and resources they need to continue serving Delaware’s rural communities.”
Blunt Rochester is the sole member of the U.S. House from Delaware and has served for nearly six years. The 60-year-old congresswoman grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, where her first job was working at the local McDonald’s restaurant, according to her official biography. She earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey and a master’s degree in urban affairs and public policy from the University of Delaware.