The good news is that despite the utilities' attempt to hijack Indiana's energy policy, there were also several good bills down at the State House this year that would have moved Indiana a lot closer to the reality of a renewable energy and energy efficient future. Shifting from fossil-fuels to renewables and efficiency is better for our health, better for our environment, and it will create the jobs that we desperately need to jump-start our economy right now.
SB 300: Net metering
Authors: Sen. Errington (D), Sen. Merritt (R), Sen. Stutzman (R), Sen. Kruse (R), Sen. Leising (R)
Sponsors: Rep. Moses (D) and Rep. Dvorak (D)
Conferees: Sen. Merritt (R), Sen. Errington (D), Rep. Moses (D), and Rep. Grubb (D)
Status: Died in Conference Committee
Summary: SB 300 expanded Indiana’s net metering rule to allow a customer of an investor owned utility to connect to the grid a renewable energy system with a capacity of 100 kW or less, up from the current law of only 10 kW. Current law also limits the program to residential and K-12 schools only. SB300 would have expanded the program to all customer classes. Net metering is currently an administrative rule of the IURC; SB 300 would have codified net metering and put it into statute. The bill was written by the Indiana Energy Association, or the investor owned utilities.
No opposition was offered to SB 300 in committee and it moved by a unanimous vote of 11-0. It also moved out of the full Senate on 3rd reading unanimously 50-0.
In Committee in the House, Rep. Moses did a strip and insert, putting in the language form Rep. Dvorak’s net metering bill, HB 1347, and Rep. Dvorak’s renewable energy standard, HB 1349, which did not originally get a hearing. Rep. Dvorak had 3 amendments prepared to offer in committee, in addition to the language from HB 1347 and HB 1349, he was prepared to offer Rep. Koch’s renewable energy tax credit language (explained above), but after all the Republicans, including Rep. Koch, voted against the first amendment, which was HB 1347, Rep. Dvorak decided not to offer Rep. Koch’s language. Not only did the bill significantly improve Indiana’s net metering rule, it now included a clean RES, requiring 15% of investor owned utilities electricity to come from renewable energy resources within Indiana, by 2025. The amended version of SB 300 was voted out of committee on a partisan vote of 7-5. SB 300 then was voted off the House floor on 3rd reading by a vote of 62-37. It had unanimous support from the Democrats, and 11 Republicans broke from their caucus and voted yea.
As expected, Sen. Merritt dissented on the House amendments to SB 300. The conference committee was comprised of Sen. Merritt, Sen. Errington, Rep. Moses, and Rep. Jack Lutz (R, Anderson). Rep. Dvorak worked to reach a compromise with Sen. Merritt on net metering language. When it appeared a compromise was reached, Rep. Lutz was replaced on the conference committee with Rep. Dale Grubb, (D, Covington), as Rep. Lutz stated he would not sign the agreed upon conference report. However, Sen. Merritt failed to actually offer a conference committee report, apparently due to pressure behind the scenes from the utilities and Sen. Hershman, and the legislation died.
Please thank Rep. Dvorak for his leadership on sustainable energy. He worked tirelessly, reaching across the aisle in an attempt to pass meaningful energy legislation, but was shut down once again thanks to the influence of the investor owned utilities. Thanks are also owed to Rep. Moses and Sen. Errington for their efforts to see this bill through. Please let Sen. Merritt and Sen. Hershman know that the continued failure of the Indiana General Assembly to pass meaningful sustainable energy legislation is undermining our State’s economy, placing an undue burden on Indiana ratepayers, and continuing to degrade the quality of our environment and public health.
HB 1080: Sales tax exemption for home energy assistance
Authors: Rep. Day (D), Rep. Barnes (D), Rep. Murphy (R), and Rep. Welch (D)
Sponsors: Sen. Alting (R), Sen. Kenley (R), Sen. Lanane (D), and Sen. Taylor (D)
Status: Died in the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee
Summary: HB 1080 would have made the sales tax exemption for low-income home energy assistance permanent. The exemption is set to expire on July 1, 2009. The bill was initially heard in Ways and Means and was moved out by a unanimous vote 24-0. Despite voting for the bill in committee, Rep. Jeff Espich (R, Uniondale) expressed concern over the fiscal impact of the bill and stated he would vote against it, but recommended that none of his fellow Republicans follow his lead. Rep. Murphy then followed Rep. Espich and said, I agree with Rep. Espich that no one should follow his lead, and asked for Republican support of the bill. 31 Republicans voted yea and HB 1080 was moved off the House floor 80-16. In the Senate the bill was then assigned to the Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee chaired by Sen. Brandt Hershman (R, Monticello). Despite the best efforts from low income advocates, Sen. Hershman refused to hear HB 1080, based in large part to the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) coming out in opposition, and the legislation died.
In the 2007 session, HB 1037 went through both chambers with unanimous support, extending the exemption until July 1, 2009. It was widely believed after the 2007 session, based on strong and unanimous bi-partisan support, the exemption would become permanent in 2009. However the Governor neglected to include the exemption in his budget outline, forcing the General Assembly to introduce HB 1080. CAC certainly understands the difficult decisions that need to be made when drafting a budget under the economic realities of today’s economy. However, looking for revenue from the least amongst us is immoral and unconscionable.
Households that receive home energy assistance live at or below 150% of the federal poverty level. The federal poverty level for a family of 4 is currently set at $22,050. These families receive these dollars out of need. Poor families struggle daily to provide food, shelter, clothing, and health care for themselves and family members. This daily struggle to survive is exacerbated in the winter time, as their energy costs significantly increase, trying to keep their family warm. Adding additional expense by taxing these assistance dollars is inhumane and wrong. It should also be noted that LIHEAP dollars come from the Federal Government, or taxpayers. These funds are a result of tax dollars, and there is something fundamentally wrong and unethical about assessing a State tax on Federal tax dollars.
There is still some hope with the budget bill failing that this exemption can be included in the budget during the special session. Please contact Sen. Luke Kenley and Rep. Bill Crawford and urge them to include the sales tax exemption in HB 1001. Also, thank both Rep. Day and Rep. Murphy for their leadership on this issue.
HB 1347: Net metering
Summary: HB 1347 expanded Indiana’s net metering rule to allow any utility customer, including customers of cooperatives and municipals, to connect a renewable energy system with a capacity of 5MW, up from the current law of 10 kW. Current law also limits the program to residential and K-12 schools only. HB 1347 would have expanded the program to all customer classes. In committee, an amendment offered by Rep. Sandra Blanton (D, French Lick) was adopted which exempted the rural cooperatives. The bill was voted out of committee by a party line vote of 6-4.
There were 10 amendments prepared for 2nd reading in the House, 3 of which prevailed on a voice vote. One was a request CAC made to change the language of municipal solid waste to methane recovered from landfills. There was a lot of pressure to reduce the capacity down from 5 MW, so in a bi-partisan display of cooperation, Rep. Dvorak agreed to lower the capacity to 1 MW, and in exchange, Rep. Koch offered his support if his amendment providing tax credits to renewable energy manufacturers and businesses that installed renewable energy systems was inserted. The amended version passed on 3rd reading 68-25.
HB 1347 was assigned to the Senate Utilities and Technology Committee chaired by Sen. Merritt. However, Sen. Merritt did not give the bill a hearing, effectively killing the legislation.
HB 1352: The Climate Registry
Summary: Authored by Rep. Dvorak, HB 1352 would have required the state of Indiana to become a member of and participate in the Climate Registry concerning greenhouse gas emissions reporting and reduction. It would have required the Governor or the Governor's designee to sign the Climate Registry's statement of principles and goals to become a member of the Climate Registry and deliver a copy of the signed statement to the Climate Registry before July 1, 2009.
HB 1352 was heard in the House Environmental Affairs committee and met minimal opposition, primarily from the Chamber of Commerce. It was voted out of committee on a party line vote of 6-3. Rep. Tim Brown (R, Crawfordsville) offered an amendment on 2nd reading that established an exception to the registry membership requirement if a petition of opposition is submitted to the Governor by the majority of the local economic development commissions in the state and it allowed the Governor to withdraw the state from the registry if the Governor determined that membership caused a loss of jobs or missed opportunities for jobs. The amendment was adopted by a voice vote. On 3rd reading, it was passed 61-33.
Sen. Gard and Sen. Jean Breaux (D, Indianapolis) sponsored the legislation in the Senate. Sen. Gard held a hearing for the bill on March 9th. The contrast between the hearing in the Senate and the hearing in the House could not have been greater. All the polluters lined up one after the other to express their opposition, the Chamber, the Farm Bureau, the Manufacturers, the utilities, the Petroleum industry, ET all. The hearing took close to 2 hours as the corporate polluters wanted to make sure their paid servants in the Senate were aware of their opposition. A vote was never taken by Sen. Gard, effectively killing the bill. This was the second year in the row the Indiana Senate allowed this legislation to die.
This bill would have ensured Indiana’s place at the table in developing policies related to carbon dioxide air emissions. Given Indiana’s disproportionate contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, Indiana’s participation in the Climate Registry is a key to acknowledging our shortcomings and facing our challenges for the betterment of generations to come. However thanks to the influence of special interests, Indiana continues to stand in the middle of the railroad tracks, waiting to be run over by the freight train known as climate legislation.
HB 1415: Tax deduction for solar powered roof vents and fans
Authors: Rep. VanDenburgh (D), Rep. Candelaria Reardon (D), Rep. Dermody (R), Rep. Robertson (D)
Sponsors: Sen. Gard (R), Sen. Tallian (D), Sen. Charbonneau (R), and Sen. Landske (R)
Status: Died in the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee
Summary: This bill provides an individual income tax deduction of up to $5,000 for the installation of solar-powered roof vents or fans.
Solar attic fans have proven to save consumers $75-$150 per year on their energy bills. Not only do these fans save consumers money, they also reduce energy by lowering cooling and heating bills and by using the power of the sun to power the systems. These roof vents and fans will help mitigate climate change, by reducing the need to burn dirty, fossil fuels. Indiana is home to one of the largest manufacturers of these fans; therefore this bill will create new, green manufacturing jobs for our State. HB 1415 will help protect our environment, our health, save consumers money, and help to create new, green jobs.
HB 1620: Energy Efficient Buildings
Authors: Rep. Pierce (D), Rep. Austin (D), Rep. Klinker (D), and Rep. Porter (D)
Sponsors: Sen. Gard (R), Sen. Errington (D), and Sen. Simpson (D)
Status: Died in the Senate Energy and Environmental Affairs Committee
Summary: Authored by Rep. Matt Pierce (D, Bloomington), and joined by co-authors Rep. Terri Austin (D, Anderson) and Rep. Sheila Klinker (D, Lafayette), HB 1620 would have required certain government buildings be designed and constructed to achieve or exceed the level of energy efficiency required under certain rating systems. The bill moved out of Ways and Means 15-8, and subsequently passed out of the House on 3rd reading 58-39. Sen. Beverly Gard (R, Greenfield) sponsored the bill in the Senate, along with co-sponsors Sen. Sue Errington (D, Muncie), Sen. Vi Simpson (D, Bloomington), and Sen. Greg Taylor (R, Indianapolis). Sen. Gard did give the bill a hearing in committee in the Senate, but failed to take a vote, effectively killing the legislation.
Opposition to this legislation is short sighted and is effectively a mandate on taxpayers to pay more for utilities, and fails to recognize the positive impact that green building design has on worker productivity and worker health. In 2008, Sen. Brandt Hershman (R, Monticello) amended a similar bill to nothing more than a summer study committee. By failing to move this bill for a second year in a row, the Indiana Senate is costing the taxpayers of Indiana millions of dollars in unnecessary utility bills, ignoring the environmental impacts of fossil fuel emissions and pollution, and undermining the economy of our State.
Please call Rep. Pierce and thank him for his continued leadership on this issue. Also contact Sen. Gard and voice your disappointment for her failure to take a vote on HB 1620.
HB 1622: Advanced renewable energy tariffs
Summary: Authored by Rep. Pierce, HB 1622 would have required the owners and operators of an electric grid to enter into 20 year fixed price contracts with the owners of renewable energy generation systems. It would have obligated the owner of the grid to purchase the customer owned generation at above market rates, prioritize the deployment of that energy to the grid, and make the necessary upgrades to the grid necessary to deploy that energy. Chairman Moses did give the bill a hearing in committee, but did not take a vote.
Feed in tariffs have been enacted in over 40 countries worldwide, most notably in Germany, Spain, and Denmark. A feed in tariff is a true market based approach to the development of renewable energy. They level the playing field and make it financially viable for customer owned generation.
Deployment of renewables, especially solar power, has exploded in the countries that have enacted feed in tariffs. Indiana not only has vast renewable energy resources, but also significant manufacturing capabilities for green technology. Enactment of this bill would provide rapid and sustainable deployment of renewables in Indiana which would in turn cause significant job creation, vastly improve public health and the quality of our environment, help to stabilize the price of electricity, and make Indiana a leader in the renewable energy marketplace.
Please thank Rep. Pierce for his courage to introduce HB1622, and his committed leadership to enact progressive energy legislation in our State.
CAC supported other good bills that are now eligible to be signed into law by the Governor. HB 1097, authored by freshman legislator Rep. John Barnes (D, Indianapolis), requires the state department of health to adopt rules concerning indoor air quality in schools and state agencies. HB 1589, authored by freshman legislator Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan (D, Indianapolis), establishes the State’s first recycling program for electronic waste. Please thank Rep. Barnes and Rep. Sullivan for their leadership on these important issues and their interest in protecting the environment and the health of all Hoosiers.
These are the issues of immediate importance we are working on right now.