DENVER—Stan Lewandowski, General Manager of Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA), distributed a nine page letter to approximately 900 fellow members of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association that describes IREAs launch of a campaign to combat global warming “alarmists”. Lewandowski revealed that IREA contributed $100,000 to Dr. Patrick Michaels of New Hope Environmental Services, Inc. A quick review of past newsletters from the World Climate Report, whose chief editor is Dr. Michaels, reveals that Dr. Michaels has long been a leading skeptic of global warming. Unlike the vast majority of climate scientists today, Dr. Michaels disputes the fact that human activity (in the form of burning fossil fuels) is the leading cause of the spike in concentrations of CO2, the resulting increase in global temperature, and its consequences.
Jake Meffley, an Energy Advocate for Environment Colorado says, “The real issue here is not global warming, its cause, and our collective responsibility for the generation of greenhouse gases. That is a debate (if there is one) best left for qualified climate scientists. The issue deserving our attention is IREA’s contribution of a huge sum of money last February to such a questionable source with virtually no input from its members”, Meffley concluded.
Stan Lewandowski and the IREA Board of Directors have a good faith obligation to act in the best interests of their members. That trust may have been broken.
"I'm a little shocked. If he wasn't trying to hide something why wouldn't he notify the members? It's hard to trust someone like that, I mean, what else is he doing with our money that we don't know about?", says Jessica Wilson, and IREA member.
Coop funds are not profits that can be spent as management dictates as in the for-profit business world. Excess money in the hands of the coop belongs to its member customers and can be returned in the form of capital credits.
In the letter sent to other rural electric coops asking for their financial contributions, Lewandowski explains the connection between global warming and IREA, “A carbon tax or a mandatory market-based greenhouse regulation system would erode most, if not all, of the benefits of the coal filed generation”. IREA’s expenditure represents a significant policy shift that merits the involvement of members.
Per a Lewandowski quote appearing August 2 in the Rocky Mountain News, “We’re a $300 million-a-year corporation. We’re not going to our members and ask them individually about every decision we make.” While no one expected an individual consultation from IREA management or it’s Board of Directors, they could have held public meetings, used the monthly newsletter to elicit responses, or utilized their web site to obtain input.
The following quote first appeared July 27 th in an article co-authored by Clayton Sandell and Bill Blakemore of ABC World News Tonight:
“It’s outrageous. It’s an abuse of authority,” said Ron Binz, a public utility consultant who was Colorado’s state utility consumer advocate from 1984 to 1995. “Intermountain is a rural electric cooperative,” Binz said. “The customers are member-owners. Stan Lewandowski is basically spending other people’s money.”
IREA is a member of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) Per the NRECA web site:
Electric cooperatives are private, independent electric utilities, owned by the members they serve. Democratically governed businesses, electric cooperatives are organized under the Cooperative or Rochdale Principles, anchoring them firmly in the communities they serve and ensuring that they are closely regulated by their consumers.
Intermountain REA must live up to the ideals expressed by its national organization. Contributing large sums of money to issues that are primarily of a political nature without incorporating the input of its members runs IREA afoul of the spirit of these ideals.