Undeniably, Nebraska Public Power District is a big company. We have about 2,100 people working together to supply approximately 600,000 Nebraskans with wholesale and retail electric energy. We maintain and operate an electric grid that covers in excess of 75,000 square miles.

We serve customers in large towns and small, in Norfolk and in Scottsbluff, Terrytown and Table Rock. Across the state, we operate power plants that use nuclear fuel, coal, natural gas, oil, water and wind to generate electricity. Last year, we sold nearly 20 million megawatt hours of energy to our customers and brought in total revenue of almost $1 billion.

And still, as our mission statement indicates: NPPD is committed to the environment.

Can a big company do more than “business as usual” and be environmentally responsible, dedicated to clean air, clean and abundant water, and the continued existence of natural resources, to protecting threatened and endangered species?

The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

As a public power utility, NPPD is ultimately controlled by the very people we serve. We don’t have stockholders expecting a return on their investment. Our investment is in Nebraska, in providing excellent service and reliable, affordable electric energy, and in protecting the environment.

We invest in the environment because we want to assure a good quality of life for Nebraskans, now, and for future generations. We and our families live in Nebraska. We call our customers neighbors and friends. Nebraska is home.

It would take pages to tell the story of how we work every day to protect the environment — much more room than the space we have here. But there are a few things you should know about NPPD’s environmental efforts.

All our power plants meet current environmental regulatory limits and standards for emissions. Members of our environmental team continuously test and monitor air, water and soil at our facilities across the state to be certain the air and water is clean. We pledge to comply with federal and state environmental regulations, and we embrace that responsibility.

To demonstrate this, we have implemented programs that protect the environment. For example, in the early ’90s we purchased approximately 3,000 acres of land to provide wildlife habitat at Cottonwood Ranch along the Platte River in west central Nebraska. Cottonwood Ranch is one of several properties that is currently being managed by the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program for threatened, endangered and other fish and wildlife species.

In addition to purchasing Cottonwood Ranch, NPPD manages three islands and three sand pit areas as nesting habitat for the threatened piping plover and the endangered least tern. Over the years, the birds have used our manmade areas for nesting, and over the past 10 years 100 percent of the birds that nested and fledged chicks selected the sand pit areas.

Knowing environmental stewardship is part of a big, complex “world view,” we consult often with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to ensure “best practices.” Just recently, we teamed with them to rescue stranded fish from a canal slated for refurbishment, a practice we have repeated many times in a variety of locations.

As a rule, we work hard to plan construction of power lines during non-breeding season for nesting birds to protect eggs and chicks. Before commencing recent transmission line construction across the Platte River, for example, we surveyed the area for least terns and piping plovers to be certain construction activities did not disturb breeding pairs. Also on that same project, we adjusted our work schedule so we did not disturb roosting American bald eagles.

On other line construction projects, we have monitored and surveyed for endangered migrating whooping cranes, and we place bird diverters on our power lines in key locations. Before we construct any facilities – power lines, substations, etc. – we evaluate the proposed area for migratory bird flight patterns, wetlands and threatened or endangered species of insects and plants, like the American Burying Beetle and the Small White Lady’s Slipper or Western Prairie Fringed Orchid.

In addition to protecting various species, we monitor the air, soil, and water for contaminants that could impact the environment. In a nutshell, we are Nebraskans serving Nebraskans. We are dedicated to protecting the environment and the quality of life our customers have grown accustomed to.