Broadband & Grano Lawsuit

In October, 2020,  two landowners in Culpeper County, Cynthia and John Grano, sued REC in federal court, alleging that a 2020 Virginia statute designed to help Virginia electric cooperatives deploy high-speed fiber-to-the-home broadband violated the Granos’ constitutional rights. To  help REC member owners stay informed about this suit,  Repower REC is posting here pertinent documents filed in the case.

Image of power lines from Exhibit 1 in Grano lawsuit

The 2020 statute allows Virginia electric cooperatives to use existing rights of way (easements) to deploy fiber optic cable that can be used to provide high speed broadband to members’ homes. The Granos, whose property is subject to an REC easement, allege that the statute is an unconstitutional “taking” of their property rights without compensation. REC’s court filings raise several defenses, most notably that REC has not installed and does not intend to install fiber optic cable across the Granos’ property.

We provide links below to key documents that have been filed in the case so far, so that REC member-owners and others interested in understanding the issues in the lawsuit can keep themselves informed.

1. Grano complaint and exhibits:

2. REC’s brief in support of motion to dismiss, and supporting declaration.

3. Granos’ brief opposing motion to dismiss & exhibit 1.

4. REC’s response to Grano brief.

Capital Credit Update Blog

Seth Heald wrote this blog for Power for the People VA in May of 2020: “The dog that didn’t bark: The case of the missing electric co-op members” around Rappahannock Electric Co-op capital credits paid annually to co-op members. Here’s an excerpt:

Readers of Rappahannock Electric Cooperative’s monthly magazine, Cooperative Living, found a surprise when the magazine’s May 2020 issue arrived. The surprise wasn’t what was in the magazine, but what was missing, calling to mind Sherlock Holmes’s key insight in Arthur Conan Doyle’s story The Adventure of Silver Blaze, featuring a dog that didn’t bark. As Holmes explained to a Scotland Yard detective, sometimes what didn’t happen is as significant as what did.

In an annual tradition going back at least a decade and likely much longer, REC each May publishes in its member magazine a list of co-op members or former members whom REC owes money to but has lost track of. The list usually takes up around two full pages, with perhaps 500 to 800 names listed in small print. Readers are encouraged to look for their own names as well as names of others, and to notify REC if they have information about how to find these missing people. The funds in question are “retired capital credits,” a/k/a “patronage capital,” meaning money belonging to the co-op member-owners that has been invested in the co-op for a time and can now be returned. (As a cooperative, REC is owned by its customers, who are called “member-owners” or just “members.”)

But this year, instead of listing the names in its magazine, REC advised readers they could view the list online. The magazine gave no explanation why REC had changed its longstanding annual practice of publishing the list in the magazine, which is mailed to all of REC’s roughly 140,000 member-owners, some of whom don’t have internet service.

So, wondering why REC had changed its publication practice, I took a look at the list online and discovered that it was 74 pages long, with about 21,000 names.

Read the full story here from Power for the People VA