Long-time co-op manager dies
Kentucky’s electric cooperatives lost one of its long-time leaders when Jackie Browning, president and CEO of Farmers Rural Electric Co-op based in Glasgow, died May 4 of an apparent heart attack. He was 55 years old.
Browning worked at Farmers for 35 years, the last 19 as president and CEO. He also served on state and national boards and committees, including as chair of the board of the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives, which publishes Kentucky Living.
Other positions he held included alternate director on the board of East Kentucky Power Cooperative, the Winchester-based power supply co-op, and as a board member of United Utility Supply Co-op, which provides utility materials to co-ops in 17 states. He also served on the Community and Economic Development Committee of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
In all those positions, Browning could be counted on for insightful, reasoned analysis of issues that others looked to for leadership.
Browning also provided a strong local force in his community, being well-known in the Glasgow Kiwanis Club, the Barren County Recreation Board, and the Barren County American Red Cross. He was an especially devoted and active member of Glasgow’s Calvary Baptist Church.
Friends and colleagues particularly noted the important role that family played in the life of Browning, who is survived by his children, Erica Nesbitt, Jarrod Browning, and Justin Browning, all three of them speaking at his funeral, and his wife, Deborah.
If you have detected a shift in the national debate on climate change, you would be correct. The focus in Congress is not on whether climate change is a problem, but what to do about it and when.
As Congress moves to curb greenhouse gases—primarily carbon dioxide, or CO2—legislators cannot ignore the reality of energy supply and demand.
The need for a reality-based approach is particularly important for electric cooperatives, because the surplus generating capacity built up over the years has run out.
In the next 10 to 15 years, we need to increase co-op generating capacity by 50 percent just to meet projected growth.
Coal is the most plentiful and affordable source of fuel today. New policies regarding coal-based generation at the state and federal levels will have a dramatic effect on power production and electric rates.
Some tout renewable energy as the answer to reducing CO2 emissions, as well as postponing or barring power plant construction. Others urge reducing demand through energy efficiency. Electric co-ops have long embraced both renewable resources and energy efficiency.
These are only part of the solution, however. There is no single, inexpensive, quick-fix solution. But there is a reality gap in Washington on how and when to achieve these goals.
We must close this gap between imaginary quick-fix solutions and realistic possibilities to reduce CO2 emission.
It will take a lot of straight talk to get Congress to recognize that meeting future power needs will be neither easy nor cheap.
And while we consider the next 50 years, we can’t lose sight of the near term, which is only 10 to 15 years away—that is tomorrow for electric power planning purposes.
The network of nearly 1,000 co-ops nationwide has two primary concerns as this debate unfolds: first, keep the lights on; second, minimize rate increases that will arise as new power plants are built and new environmental regulations add to the cost of power.
America’s electric co-ops will continue working with members of Congress, making the following points:
• any plan to reduce man-made CO2 emissions should cover emissions from all sectors of the economy, not simply electricity generation;
• any climate change proposals should maintain fuel diversity;
• any climate change legislation should provide incentives to increase efficiency and the use of renewable energy.
Responsible legislation will fully fund research to hasten the development of needed technology. Good legislation will balance the electric bills of consumers, the health of the economy, and the needs of the environment.
Glenn English is the CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
Land conservation incentives
You could protect your land for future generations, still use it today, and possibly get a tax break under a federal law passed last year and expiring at the end of this year.
That’s according to the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund Board, established in 1994 to provide funding for preserving natural areas that possess unique features such as a habitat for endangered species, areas important to migratory birds, or that perform important natural functions.
The Pension Protection Act of 2006 contains tax incentives for qualified conservation contributions, better known as conservation easements.
A conservation easement is a land protection approach that allows a landowner to protect property forever by donating some of the rights to the land. Under a conservation easement, the landowner still owns and uses the land and can sell it or pass it on to his or her heirs. Future owners of the property must abide by the terms of the conservation easement.
If you own land with important natural or historic resources, donating a conservation easement can be one of the smartest ways to conserve your land and protect America’s natural heritage while maintaining private property rights and possibly realizing significant federal tax benefits.
The tax law improves the income tax incentive for conservation easement donations by allowing donors to:
• Deduct up to 50 percent of their adjusted gross income in any year (previously that figure was 30%);
• Deduct up to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income if the majority of that income came from farming, ranching, or forestry; and
• Continue to take deductions for as long as 15 years after the initial deduction (previously the carry-over period was five years).
Unless Congress extends it, the Pension Protection Act of 2006 is only in effect for easements donated in 2006 and 2007. After December 31, 2007, these incentives will be gone and the previous law allowing a deduction of only 30 percent of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income and a five-year carry-forward period will be back in effect. There will not be a provision for deducting 100% of a farmer’s or rancher’s adjusted gross income.
The decision to place a permanent conservation easement on your property is a major decision. The landowner should talk to professional legal and financial planning advisors to determine the value of this incentive in specific situations.
If you are interested in donating an easement, remember that an agency will only accept donations if it fits its mission and purposes. In Kentucky, several government agencies are willing to hold conservation easements in addition to the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund Board, the Kentucky Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, and the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust.
For more information, contact your tax preparer or financial advisor or log on to the Web site of the Lands Trust Alliance at www.lta.org and look under New Conservation Tax Incentive.