CAC Legislative Update - Week Ending February 15, 2008

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Only one week remains for bills to pass out of committee in the second half of the session to remain alive in the final weeks of the 2008 Indiana General Assembly. Much attention in the coming week will be focused on property tax reform, as HB 1001, the main vehicle bill, will be heard in the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee on Tuesday, February 19, 2008. What follows is a brief update on priority bills in which CAC remains actively involved:

 

Good Bills

Please contact your State Senator and Representative and urge them to SUPPORT the following bills:

HB 1280 – Energy Efficient Buildings
Authored by Rep. Matt Pierce (D, Bloomington), and joined by co-authors Terri Austin (D, Anderson) and Greg Porter (D, Indianapolis), 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.

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 is scheduled for hearing in the Senate Energy and Environmental Affairs Committee on Monday, February 18, 2008 at 10:00 AM in Room 233. It is sponsored by Senators Brandt Hershman (R, Monticello), along with co-sponsors Vi Simpson (D, Bloomington) and Jean Breaux (D, Indianapolis).

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.

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).

 

Bad Bills

Please contact your State Senator and Represenative and urge them to OPPOSE the following bills:

SB 0223 – Coal Gasification and Substitute Natural Gas
Authored by Senator Brandt Hershman (R, Monticello), with Senator Ryan Mishler (R, Bremen) as a second author and Senators Karen Tallian (D, Portage), John Waterman (R, Shelburn), and Dennis Kruse (R, Auburn) as co-authors, SB 223 would allow an out-of-state 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, which 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. CAC raised concerns that it would also spew millions of new tons of CO2 into Indiana’s atmosphere each year.

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 in a classic “bait & switch” scheme designed to secure financing regardless of the negative impact to Indiana ratepayers or the economic best interests of the state.

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 by a vote of 47-0. It was heard in the House Commerce, Energy and Utilities Committee on Thursday, February 14, 2008, where it passed by a vote of 8-0. SB 223 is now eligible for second reading in the House. The House sponsor is Rep. Russ Stilwell (D, Boonville) with co-sponsors Reps. Dave Crooks (D, Washington), Jack Lutz (R, Anderson) and Eric Koch (R, Bedford).

HB 1117 – Various Utility Matters
Authored by Representative Russell Stilwell (D, Boonville), with co-authors Reps. Eric Koch (R, Bedford), Kreg Battles (D, Vincennes), and Jack Lutz, (R, Anderson), HB 1117 as introduced contained identical language to that in SB 223 (described immediately above). It passed 9-1 out of the House Commerce, Energy and Utilities Committee on 1/24/08 in that form. 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.

HB 1117 passed third reading in the House by a vote of 81-8 and was heard in the Senate Utilities and Regulatory Affairs Committee on February 14, 2008. At the hearing, bill sponsor/committee chair, Senator Brandt Hershman (R, Monticello), stripped out Rep. Grubb’s tax credit language and inserted the language from SB 224 (described below).

HB 1117 now includes the original language paving the way for a coal gasification plant financed by captive ratepayers who are locked into long term contracts for the substitute natural gas and over which the IURC and the state has no power to alter, regardless of the availability of cheaper prices offered by other natural gas suppliers. It also contains two tracker provisions that weaken the utility regulatory process and allow utilities to reap massive profits at the expense of ratepayers regardless of the reasonableness or necessity of the investment. Finally, it contains a pseudo-RES (see SB 224 below) that ensures (1) Indiana’s continued over-reliance on coal, (2) increased air pollution, (3) increased health risks, and (4) potentially dramatic increases in utility rates when CO2 regulations are enacted due to Indiana’s disproportionate contribution to greenhouse gas air emissions. HB 1117 passed out of committee by a vote of 6-5 and is now eligible for second reading.

SB 0224 – Various Utility Matters
Authored by Senator Brandt Hershman (R, Monticello), and joined by co-authors Senators Ryan Mishler (R, Bremen), Dennis Kruse (R, Auburn) and Jean Breaux (D, Indianapolis), 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.

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 (D, Anderson) RES amendment – calling for 25% of Indiana’s electricity to be produced from truly renewable resources by 2025 – was defeated, and SB 224 passed the Senate on third reading by a vote of 39-9. SB 224 has since been assigned to the House Commerce, Energy and Utilities Committee, where it awaits hearing. It is being sponsored in the House by Reps. Kreg Battles (D, Vincennes), and co-sponsors Dale Grubb (D, Covington), Jack Lutz (R, Anderson) and Dave Crooks (D, Washington).

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

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