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Climate polluter minority interests find tough sledding against the rise of clean energy bipartisan majorities in the states

Pierre Bull

Posted February 7, 2014 in Curbing Pollution, Green Enterprise, Solving Global Warming

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Big polluters are once again taking their special interest lobbying efforts to the state level with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) issuing a slate full of resolutions and model bills attempting to weaken state policies that are driving renewable energy growth. My colleague Aliya Haq  recapped the polluter-funded, ALEC bills attempting to weaken limits on carbon pollution. 

Two of these ALEC bills (full text here and here) attempt to undermine state renewable portfolio standards (RPS) that are now in 29 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. These standards are the foundational bedrock for states taking action to reduce their dependency on dirty, imported fossil fuels and instead rebuild local economies and expand new job opportunities from vibrant clean energy growth sectors such as wind and solar. 

ALEC is also hoping to disrupt clean energy growth via this resolution to weaken net metering policy -- a policy that allows distributed renewable energy producers like rooftop solar owners to get full credit on their monthly utility bills for clean energy they produce. It would deem net metered customers as second class energy producers, despite their investments in solar and contributions to the utility grid.

To the states!

We are monitoring the handful of states where ALEC model bills attempting to repeal or harm state renewable energy laws were introduced last year:

Kansas:  The 2013 bill (House Bill 2241) to repeal the state RPS ultimately failed in Committee last March. A mammoth 91 percent of Kansas voters continue to voice strong support for renewable energy, but foes will likely introduce new bill(s) this year. A recent article in Midwest Energy News had this to report out of Topeka:

But now the Chamber, one of the state’s most powerful lobbying groups, has endorsed a full repeal. Kansas’ speaker of the House and Senate president have criticized the renewable mandate. And critics like Rep. Hedke believe the expiration of the federal production tax credit signals waning sentiment for such subsidies. … Mike O’Neal, a former Kansas House speaker and president of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, is more circumspect. He said the group disagrees philosophically with government mandates and decided to actively call for the repeal of the Kansas renewable energy law after a survey of members, mostly small businesses, showed increasing concern with rising energy prices.

Net metering is also under attack in Kansas from two bills according to the Kansas Energy Information Network:  

Senate Bill 280 and House Bill 2458 appear to be identical and both would effectively end net metering in Kansas and replace it with the old parallel generation rules that stood prior to 2009. 

Ohio:  A bill to repeal the Ohio RPS (Senate Bill 34) was introduced in the Senate Public Utilities Committee by Senator Jordan in the fall of 2013 but was swapped out by the chair of the committee, Senator Seitz (ALEC member) to focus instead on Senate Bill 58. (Senator Seitz was billing SB 58 as a "more reasonable alternative" to the repeal.) Senate Bill 58 failed in Committee in late 2013. Not to be defeated, Senator Seitz and his committee revived hearings on the RPS repeal, i.e. Senate Bill 34, and will be holding the 4th proponent hearing next week.  As for Senate Bill 58, two Republican members of the Committee — Senator LaRose and Senator Hite — are reportedly working on a pared-down version which may be reintroduced in committee in the weeks ahead.

North Carolina: ALEC is on the attack on net metering policy, particularly for customers served by Duke Energy.  From my colleague Luis Martinez:

Duke [Energy] is attempting to reduce the amount it pays homeowners almost in half, from 10 – 11 cents (the amount households currently pay for electricity) to 5 to 7 cents per kilowatt hour.  The company is also questioning the value of solar energy in general and that of the policies that have spurred the recent growth of the clean energy economy in the state. ... Duke Energy CEO, Lynn Good, spoke to reporters last week about clean and renewable energy generation within her company's generation fleet. She zeroed in on two aspects of solar generation that, despite constituting less than one percent of Duke Energy’s electricity supply, seems to be giving the utility fits.

ArizonaHouse Bill 2182 would amend the current RPS that was established by the Arizona Corporate Commission in 2006. This bill would prevent further renewable development by instead counting existing nuclear energy as “renewable”.

ColoradoHB 14-1113 is one of a several sour-grapes anti-renewable energy bills in CO this year (CO expanded its RPS just last year). Bill co-sponsor Senator Conti is a known ALEC member. 

The rise of the clean energy majority 

Renewable energy has the backing of strong bipartisan support from a vast majority of Americans. The small minority of special interest polluters who are taking their agenda to the states are will continue to learn the hard way that their agenda runs counter to bipartisan majorities of supporting renewable energy.  With “all politics being local,” the continued rapid deployment of renewable energy like wind and solar — thanks in part to policies like state RPS’s and net metering — are renewing economic vibrancy in thousands of local communities throughout the nation with sustained economic returns and new clean energy job opportunities in tow. State and local political leaders of all stripes in every locale across the nation are paying witness to this outcome that is powerfully invigorating and reinforcing the bipartisan majority of constituents who want a clean energy future. 

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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