The state Supreme Courtï¿½s ruling restricting services electric co-ops can offer may be right or it may be wrong. But it definitely hurts Kentucky.
This month’s article Supreme Court Ruling Restricts Co-op Services describes the courtï¿½s decision. The case concerns whether a McKee-based electric co-op can set up a business selling propane gas. But the sweeping decision restricts electric co-ops across the state from providing any service other than electricity.
When electric co-ops began in the 1930s, it wasnï¿½t because farmers wanted electrons flowing through their houses. It was because they looked at the lights of the cities and saw a world leaving them behind. They wanted to share the lifestyle and productivity brought by lights, refrigerators, washing machines, and motors.
Their isolation from the modern world wasnï¿½t caused by any technical problem of stringing power lines to the country. It was because electric companies couldnï¿½t envision a way to reap large profits from farmsteads.
So the federal government set up the Rural Electrification Administration to provide loans and technical advice. And the farmers formed their own utilitiesï¿½private, not-for-profit corporations owned by the people who used the services.
These co-ops saw their mission broadly. They werenï¿½t about technology; they were about finding ways to bring modern society to people who wouldnï¿½t otherwise have access to its benefits.
Jackson Energy Co-op asked its member-owners how it might help the community, and affordable propane gas services came back as one of the answers.
Co-ops across the state and nation have responded in similar ways, offering telephone, home security, and satellite TV when none was easily available outside large cities.
Todayï¿½s need in the country is for affordable access to high-speed broadband Internet service. Electric co-ops had been working with state and national leaders to see whether co-ops could help bring the Internet to rural Kentucky. The Supreme Court decision appears to put an end to those discussions.
Electric co-ops are now working on how to best respond to this court decision.
The Supreme Court ruling hinged on how many times the word ï¿½electricityï¿½ appeared in the law, and where commas were placed. The Supreme Court may have a point when it comes to grammar. But it comes at the expense of the quality of life for people who live in small-town and rural communities of Kentucky.