CAC Legislative Update - Week Ending February 1, 2008

Body: 

This week marked the deadline for bills to pass third reading in their respective houses of origin to remain alive. The Senate adjourned on the evening of January 29th, and the House adjourned on the evening of January 30th. Bills that did not receive a hearing in committee, or that did not pass the third reading deadlines in the House and Senate, are now dead, although language from a dead bill can still be inserted in other bills moving through the House and Senate in the second half of the session.

Thanks to all of you who made calls to members of the House and Senate in response to our action alerts on key energy bills. The following is a brief synopsis of those bills and where they now stand:

 

Good Bills (STILL ALIVE)

HB 1090 – Climate Registry
HB 1090 would require Indiana to become a member of the Climate Registry, a collaboration between states (39 have joined), Canadian provinces and tribes to develop and manage a common greenhouse gas emissions reporting system in anticipation of future mandatory reduction policies. Authored by Representative Ryan Dvorak (D, South Bend), HB 1090 would ensure Indiana’s place at the table in developing policies related to CO2 air emissions. Given Indiana’s disproportionate contribution to greenhouse gas emissions (1st in the nation in per person CO2 air emissions and 5th in CO2 air emissions from coal-fired power plants overall), Indiana’s participation in the Climate Registry is key to acknowledging our shortcomings and facing our challenges for the betterment of generations to come.

Current Status:
HB 1090 passed 8-2 out of the House Environmental Affairs Committee on 1/23/08, and passed third reading in the House on 1/30/08 by a vote of 53-44. It has been assigned to the Senate Utility and Regulatory Affairs Committee, where it is sponsored by Senator Beverly Gard (R, Greenfield). CAC actively supports HB 1090.

 

HB 1280 – Energy Efficient Buildings
HB 1280 would require large, state, educational, and local public works building projects (other than public schools) – those that are newly constructed, as well as those subject to repair or alteration – to be designed with the goal of achieving the silver rating under the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, the Green Globes Two Globes level or an equivalent rating system accredited by the American National Standards Institute. These systems rate buildings based on the sustainability of the site, the materials and other resources, water and energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and innovation in design.

Current Status:
HB 1280 passed 7-3 out of the House Environmental Affairs Committee as amended on 1/23/08, and passed third reading in the House on 1/30/08 by a vote of 51-45. HB 1280 awaits committee assignment in the Senate, where it is sponsored by Senators Brandt Hershman (R, Monticello), Vi Simpson (D, Bloomington) and Jean Breaux (D, Indianapolis). CAC actively supports HB 1280.

 

Good Bills (DEAD)

HB 1102 – Renewable Energy Development (DEAD)
HB 1102 was defeated in the House Commerce, Energy and Utilities Committee on 1/24/08 by a vote of 8-3. Authored and championed by the Committee Chairman, Representative Dave Crooks (D, Washington) with co-authorship by Rep. Ryan Dvorak (D, South Bend), HB 1102 would have required electric utilities to provide at least 10% of their electricity from renewable resources, such as wind, solar and biomass, by 2018. CAC strongly supported this bill.

SB 0295 – Renewable Energy Standards (DEAD)
Introduced by Senator Tim Lanane (D, Anderson), SB 225 called on utilities to supply 25% of Indiana’s electricity using only truly renewable resources by 2025. Unfortunately, Senator Beverly Gard (R, Greenfield), Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Environmental Affairs, failed to give Senator Lanane’s bill a hearing in committee. Senator Lanane later attempted to amend SB 295 language into SB 224 (below) on second reading in the Senate, but was defeated by a vote of 16-31. CAC strongly supported this bill.

 

Bad Bills (STILL ALIVE)

SB 0224 – Various Utility Matters
Authored by Senator Brandt Hershman (R, Monticello), SB 224 contains a pseudo-RES – renewable energy resources are defined to include largely non-polluting, renewable sources of energy (other than energy from burning tires, garbage and other waste in waste-to-energy facilities). However, of the 6% standard to be achieved by the year 2020, 50% of it can be met using “advanced energy resources”, a new term that nevertheless includes old, non-renewable resources such as waste coal (extremely high in mercury content) and “clean” coal (that, while capable of reducing sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and other toxic air emissions, will add to Indiana’s disproportionate contribution to greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming), and that could encompass nuclear power.

SB 224 also includes two pro-utility trackers that weaken the utility regulatory process by requiring the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to approve investments regardless of whether they are just, reasonable and in the public interest. These tracker provisions could result in significant and unjustified increases in electricity rates.

Current Status:
SB 224 passed out of the Senate Utilities and Regulatory Affairs Committee on 1/22/08 by a vote of 6-3. An amendment offered by Senator Hershman on second reading to further expand the reach of one of the tracker provisions was adopted by voice vote. Meanwhile, Senator Lanane’s RES amendment (discussed in SB 295 above) was defeated, and SB 224 passed the Senate on third reading by a vote of 39-9. SB 224 now awaits committee assignment in the House, where it is being sponsored by Representatives Battles (D, Vincennes), Grubb (D, Covington), Lutz (R, Anderson) and Crooks (D, Washington). CAC strongly opposes this bill in its present form and will continue to work for it’s defeat.

 

HB 1117 and SB 0223 – Coal Gasification and Substitute Natural Gas
These companion bills, authored by Representative Russell Stilwell (D, Boonville) in the House and Senator Brandt Hershman (R, Monticello) in the Senate, would allow a foreign venture capitalist firm that seeks to build a coal gasification plant in Southern Indiana to assign tax credits to coal and substitute natural gas producers outside of Indiana. CAC opposed last year’s legislation that paved the way for construction of this coal plant, as it locked natural gas suppliers, and hence ratepayers, into 30 year contracts for the substitute natural gas, whatever the price, that neither the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission or other governmental entity could subsequently change or even review.

Promises made last year to garner support for the coal plant – that it would use Indiana coal and produce substitute natural gas in Indiana – are now removed in SB 223 and HB 1117 in a classic “bait & switch” scheme that nevertheless continues to have widespread support in the Indiana General Assembly. HB 1117 passed 9-1 out of the House Commerce, Energy and Utilities Committee on 1/24/08. An amendment offered by Rep. Dale Grubb (D, Covington) on second reading, establishing a 10% tax credit for purchases of energy-generating wind or anaerobic digestion equipment from Indiana businesses, passed by voice vote.

Current Status:
HB 1117 passed third reading in the House by a vote of 81-8 and has been assigned to the Senate Utilities and Regulatory Affairs Committee, where it is sponsored by Senators Brandt Hershman (R, Monticello) and Richard Young (D, Milltown). SB 223 passed 10-0 out of the Senate Utilities and Regulatory Affairs Committee on 1/17/08, and passed third reading in the Senate (without amendment) by a vote of 47-0. It awaits committee assignment in the House, where it is sponsored by Reps. Crooks (D, Washington) and Lutz (R, Anderson). Despite Rep. Grubb’s favorable amendment to HB 1117, CAC will continue to oppose both HB 1117 and SB 223 because of the deceptive and costly coal plant financing scheme that ratepayers will be required to underwrite for the next 30 years even though Wall Street investors are unwilling to do so.

 

Bad Bills (DEAD)

HB 1044 – Livestock Waste Anaerobic Digestion Systems (DEAD)
An innocuous bill as introduced, author Rep. Dale Grubb (D, Covington) offered an amendment in the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee seeking to establish a so-called RES – although one containing coal in the definition of “renewable resources” – on par with his failed attempt last year to push a pro-utility agenda that included three “tracker” provisions weakening the utility regulatory process and bestowing unreasonable profits on Indiana’s largest investor-owned monopoly utilities (IOUs) at ratepayer expense. HB 1044 was never voted on in committee and is now dead. CAC strongly opposed the amendment.

HB 1300 – Labeling Standards for Milk (DEAD)
While not included in our earlier reports, HB 1300 is nevertheless important because it would have prohibited farmers from telling consumers that they do not use artificial hormones on their dairy cows. Under HB 1300, labels such as "Our farmers' pledge: no artificial growth hormones," "From cows not treated with the growth hormone rBST," and "free of artificial growth hormones" would have been banned on the basis that they cannot be confirmed through laboratory analysis or can only be supported by sworn statements, affidavits, or testimonials.

Due to intensive and effective activism by consumers, dairy farmers, farm and agricultural organizations, public health, animal protection and environmental groups, food processors and retailers, HB 1300 failed to be called for third reading in the House despite passing out of the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee by a vote of 10-0 on 1/22/08, and is now dead. CAC actively opposed HB 1300.

 

Please continue to stay tuned for further developments. We appreciate your ongoing interest in our legislative efforts and your activism on behalf of ratepayers who seek to enact sound and sustainable energy policy for Indiana’s economic, public and environmental benefit.


Paul Chase, J.D.
CAC Governmental Affairs Liaison

Categorize this content under: