A billboard in New Castle, Ind., urges motorists to visit Action.coop. From left: Henry County REMC’s Jeff Hale, Wayne Jackson, Shannon Thom and Phil Moore. (Photo By: Rick Moore)
By Victoria A. Rocha | ECT Staff WriterPublished: May 26th, 2014
At an Indiana electric cooperative, the Action.coop grassroots advocacy campaign has been doing double duty.
Using social media and, lately, two billboards on a busy state road, Henry County REMC in New Castle is rallying members to visit the Action.coop website to urge the Environmental Protection Agency to stick to an “all-of-the-above” energy policy.
The co-op is also using the national campaign to reach out to individuals unclear on the value of co-op membership.
“We’ve been focusing more on letting members know that they’re member-owners and not just customers of a utility. This is a good first step—bringing them together to take action on an issue,” said Shannon Thom, CEO of Henry County REMC.
The outreach method appears to be working. At the co-op’s recent annual meeting—the EPA’s proposed rules for new power plants and its pending guidelines for existing coal-based units was a big topic of discussion.
“Younger members really asked a lot of questions. They spoke up and wanted to know more about what the EPA wanted and how the issue came up in the first place. We could have gone on all night,” said Lara Sullivan, manager of marketing and member services at the co-op.
NRECA’s Amanda Wolfe agreed that connecting members to an issue that directly affects them is an effective grassroots organizing technique.
“Henry County REMC’s Action.coop campaign highlights their concern for their members and the communities they live in. By engaging and educating members, cooperatives make their voices heard,” said Wolfe, a senior grassroots adviser.
And that means the co-op is including a significant segment of its membership—those lacking Internet access. That’s where the billboards come in. Designed by the Indiana Statewide Association of REC’s Mandy Barth, the two billboards stand on opposite ends of New Castle on State Road 3.
“We didn’t feel like we were reaching all of our members because not everyone is in the electronic age. The billboards are another medium for communication,” said Thom.
The billboards will stay up about another three weeks to boost awareness about the EPA’s rule for existing plants. That rule is expected to be proposed in early June.