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Backers pessimistic over Pennsylvania alt-energy bill

Advocates, including Gov. Rendell, for long-in-the-making legislation that would increase requirements for alternative-energy use in Pennsylvania expressed pessimism Monday that passage could be accomplished before the General Assembly breaks for its summer recess.

Advocates, including Gov. Rendell, for long-in-the-making legislation that would increase requirements for alternative-energy use in Pennsylvania expressed pessimism Monday that passage could be accomplished before the General Assembly breaks for its summer recess.

That vacation could start by week's end if a budget consensus can be reached. The current spending plan expires at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

If House Bill 2405 does not advance by then, it will be the second time the state's efforts at building on its 2004 alternative-energy standards have been stymied. Supporters say such enhancements are essential to ensuring the state's competitiveness in a clean-energy economy.

Once again, an avalanche of late amendments, along with staunch opposition from the state's coal industry, appears to be the roadblock.

In an e-mail, Rendell spokesman Gary Tuma wrote of the bill's prospects: "As the summer break gets closer, the less likely it seems that it will pass by then." If it is not acted upon, Tuma said, Rendell hopes the legislature "would deal with it in the fall."

"Pennsylvania is one of the national leaders among states in alternative energy... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Advocates, including Gov. Rendell, for long-in-the-making legislation that would increase requirements for alternative-energy use in Pennsylvania expressed pessimism Monday that passage could be accomplished before the General Assembly breaks for its summer recess.

That vacation could start by week's end if a budget consensus can be reached. The current spending plan expires at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

If House Bill 2405 does not advance by then, it will be the second time the state's efforts at building on its 2004 alternative-energy standards have been stymied. Supporters say such enhancements are essential to ensuring the state's competitiveness in a clean-energy economy.

Once again, an avalanche of late amendments, along with staunch opposition from the state's coal industry, appears to be the roadblock.

In an e-mail, Rendell spokesman Gary Tuma wrote of the bill's prospects: "As the summer break gets closer, the less likely it seems that it will pass by then." If it is not acted upon, Tuma said, Rendell hopes the legislature "would deal with it in the fall."

"Pennsylvania is one of the national leaders among states in alternative energy because of actions early in the Rendell administration," Tuma said. "But as time goes on and technological possibilities improve, we have to keep pace and update our laws."

The likelihood of the measure's facing a summer without legislative action was especially frustrating to the solar industry, which has worked over the last year to build consensus for a provision that would boost from 0.5 percent to 3.0 percent the amount of solar power utilities would have to tap by 2024.

"If this bill does not pass before summer recess, Pennsylvania will be in a weaker position to attract green investments on the installation and manufacturing side, and could potentially lose out to other states in future opportunities," said Alex Sarly, project developer with San Diego-based Borrego Solar Systems, which has partnered with Reading Electric to coordinate 32 installations for Pennsylvania businesses.

Maureen A. Mulligan, a consultant to Pennsylvania's two largest solar trade associations, was holding out hope Monday that, if passage of the entire bill was no longer possible, there could be a vote on just the solar provisions before the recess.

Its prime sponsor, State Rep. Eugene DePasquale (D., York), was not giving up, but he acknowledged "a huge challenge in getting enough support for the legislation."

Among H.B. 2405's most formidable obstacles, he said, are the views of some legislators that the measure is "an anti-coal bill."

George Ellis has been promoting that perspective as president of the Pennsylvania Coal Association. Its members, who account for 80 percent of the bituminous coal produced annually in the state, are concerned, in part, that the bill would help other forms of energy "displace coal," Ellis said.

When told Monday that even supporters of the bill were suggesting that its chances appeared remote for passage by the summer legislative break, Ellis said: "That's great."

Other legislators are concerned that mandating greater use of newer sources of energy will mean higher electricity costs for consumers. The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry has opposed the bill because it prioritizes certain forms of alternative energy over others and because, the group maintains, the effectiveness of the state's first alternative-energy mandates has not yet been determined.

Adding to controversy over the bill was an amendment by State Rep. Thomas Killion (R., Delaware-Chester) that would qualify operators of nuclear power plants, such as Exelon's generating station in Limerick, for alternative-energy credits.

Killion said Monday that his amendment would apply only to existing nuclear plants that have invested at least $150 million in upgrades to improve efficiency and increase output of what advocates say is a form of clean energy more reliable than wind and solar.

With mid-term elections expected to devour significant amounts of legislative time come the fall, it is possible that progress on H.B. 2405 - if not accomplished by the time a new budget is adopted - could be delayed until early next year.

That prospect was particularly distasteful to John Hanger, Pennsylvania's secretary of environmental protection.

On Monday, he attended the launch of the Green Jobs Academy, a worker-training facility in Bristol operated by Bucks County Community College and Gamesa USA, which in 2006 established a wind-turbine manufacturing plant at the former U.S. Steel site in Fairless Hills.

"What H.B. 2405 would do is make sure that the 4,000 jobs in Pennsylvania in the wind industry now grow substantially," Hanger said.


Source: http://www.philly.com/phill...

JUN 29 2010
https://www.windaction.org/posts/26952-backers-pessimistic-over-pennsylvania-alt-energy-bill
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