Most of us drive by utility poles every day and think nothing of them. But did you know it takes 52,885 utility poles to support the lines that deliver electricity to Tipmont REMC’s 22,000 member homes and businesses? If well-maintained, these utility poles can safely and reliably last up to 60 years.
However, a proposed Indiana legislative amendment in February threatened reliability and safety. That’s why Tipmont and Indiana’s other 37 rural electric cooperatives united to successfully defeat a decision that would have also put line crews at risk.
The amendment to SB146 would have permitted cable operators and third-party contractors to damage rural electric utility poles by attaching their own materials, signs, and the like. It also would have protected them from liability for pole damage, crew injury, or interruption of your service caused by attachments.
Co-ops also would have been placed under an unrealistic “shot clock” deadline to replace 100 poles in 60 days. Lastly, it would have financially handcuffed co-ops — permitting them only to levy a fine of $100 and to levy the fine only after illegal installation took place and completion of a required pole audit that would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“We take seriously our responsibility to make sure your electric power is safe, reliable, and affordable,” says Jeremy Konkle, chief operating officer for Tipmont REMC. “Tipmont works hard to maintain poles and infrastructure. Illegal or unprofessionally installed pole attachments have the potential to interrupt your service. In extreme weather conditions, that can become a life and death issue.”
What this amendment would permit was dangerous on two fronts, notes John Gasstrom, CEO of Indiana Electric Cooperatives, because it risked the safety of both the electric grid and line crews.
“As your line crews work on our electric infrastructure, it’s important for their safety that they know in advance what they’ll encounter on each pole,” Gasstrom says. “When unexpected attachments are present, it can present dangerous conditions and prolong the work of maintaining and restoring power.”
Stopping those illegal or unprofessionally installed pole attachments and increasing safety is why Tipmont and Indiana’s cooperatives fought so hard on this issue. Collectively, we are not-for-profit service providers, which is why fighting for you on this issue at the Statehouse was so important.