Increase in power board representative pay proposed

A bill heard by the Natural Resources Committee Jan. 28 would increase the pay for Nebraska’s representative on a committee that oversees the region’s electric transmission infrastructure.

LB914, introduced by Sen. Ken Schilz of Ogallala, would increase from $60 to $250 per day the compensation for the Nebraska Power Review Board member who represents the state on the Southwest Power Pool’s regional state committee. Total compensation would be capped at $20,000 per year. Another board member who serves as proxy would receive the same daily compensation when serving as representative.

The Nebraska Power Review Board authorizes and oversees electric generation and transmission facilities in the state. The regional committee provides guidance on the development and operation of electric transmission infrastructure within the Southwest Power Pool—a group of utilities, power generation and transmission companies that oversees electricity infrastructure in 14 states including Nebraska. The Nebraska Public Power District, Omaha Public Power District and Lincoln Electric System are members.

Steve Lichter, board chairman and Nebraska’s regional state committee member for the past two years, spoke in support of the bill. In that time, he said, the Southwest Power Pool approved more than $8 billion of transmission infrastructure work in the region.

Lichter, who will step down as chairman next year, spends about two weeks every month attending or preparing for committee hearings, he said. The current compensation for Nebraska’s representative on the committee is not adequate, Lichter said.

“It’s my belief that this role is too important and the potential impact is too great,” he said.

Kevin Wailes, testifying on behalf of the Nebraska Power Association, spoke in support of the bill. Wailes, administrator and CEO of Lincoln Electric System, said Nebraska’s utilities are tied closely to the Southwest Power Pool and work hard to ensure Nebraska’s interests are represented.

“We can’t emphasize too much how important the [board] representation on the [committee] is as it relates to protecting ratepayers and customers in Nebraska,” he said.

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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