CAC Legislative Update - Week Ending February 22, 2008

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Thursday, February 21, 2008 was the last day for bills to receive hearings in House and Senate committees in the 2008 session of the Indiana General Assembly. Wednesday, February 27, 2008 is the deadline for bills that received hearings and passed out of committees to be passed on third reading in the House and Senate to remain alive. Here is an update on bills of key interest to CAC:

 

Good Bills

Please contact your State Senator and Representative and urge them to SUPPORT HB 1280!

 

HB 1280 – Energy Efficient Buildings

Status: Eligible for second reading in the Senate

Authored by Rep. Matt Pierce (D, Bloomington), and joined by co-authors Terri Austin (D, Anderson) and Greg Porter (D, Indianapolis), as introduced 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. Sponsored in the Senate by Senators Brandt Hershman (R, Monticello), along with co-sponsors Vi Simpson (D, Bloomington) and Jean Breaux (D, Indianapolis), HB 1280 was further amended before passing out of the Senate Energy and Environmental Affairs Committee on 2/20/08.

As amended, HB 1280 now requires the Environmental Quality Service Council to study whether public entities should be required or encouraged to seek to achieve energy and environmental design ratings in the construction and renovation of buildings and structures, as well as related issues. If passed on third reading in the Senate, differences in House and Senate versions of the bill will likely result in further discussions during the conference committee process to work out a compromise that ensures progress towards energy efficiency in public works building projects yet this year.

 

HB 1090 – Climate Registry

Status: Dead

HB 1090 would have required 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 have ensured 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 was assigned to the Senate Utility and Regulatory Affairs Committee, where it was sponsored by Senator Beverly Gard (R, Greenfield). HB 1090 failed to receive a hearing in committee, meaning it does not survive the final segment of this year’s legislative process.

 

Bad Bills

Please contact your State Senator and Represenative and urge them to OPPOSE SB 223 and HB 1117!

 

SB 0223 – Coal Gasification and Substitute Natural Gas

Status: Eligible for second reading in the House

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

Status: Eligible for House concurrence or dissent on Senate amendments

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 passed on third reading in the Senate on 2/19/08 by a vote of 33 t o12. It is now returned to the House, where the bill’s author will determine whether to recommend the House concur with or dissent from the amendments made in the Senate. If the House concurs, the bill is eligible for signature into law by the Governor. If the House dissents, differences between House and Senate versions must be worked out in the conference committee process and approved by both chambers for the bill to survive.

 

SB 0224 – Various Utility Matters

Status: Dead

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 contained a pseudo-RES – renewable energy resources were 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 could be met using “advanced energy resources”, a new term that nevertheless included 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, would add to Indiana’s disproportionate contribution to greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming), and that could encompass nuclear power.

SB 224 also included two pro-utility trackers that would have weakened 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 was 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). It was assigned to the House Commerce, Energy and Utilities Committee but failed to receive a hearing and is now dead. However, the language from SB 224 still survives in HB 1117 (described above).

 

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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