Friday, February 03, 2012

Renewable Energy Law News - Week of January 30, 2012

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AWEA Pushes For Production Tax Credit's Near-Term Extension

Anticipating a tough fight to get legislation passed during an election year, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is seeking near-term legislative action as a means to extend the production tax credit (PTC), which, for wind power, expires at the end of the year.

"We're putting everything we've got into getting legislation to move in the next five weeks," Rob Gramlich, AWEA's senior vice president of public policy, tells NAW.

"We've made extending the wind PTC our top focus this year,” he says. “We're working with a broad coalition to encourage the leadership of both parties to include the PTC in the payroll tax cut extension when it comes up next month."

Gramlich reasons that, when Congress meets in February about extending the payroll tax cuts, the discussions could include broader tax reform, such as those important to renewable energy. AWEA’s position is that an omnibus tax package provides the best vehicle for attaching a rider, such as a PTC extension.

Vermont Legislature considers banning hydrofracking

MONTPELIER -- Nobody has applied to Vermont for permission to drill for oil or gas using hydraulic fracturing.

No one is sure it would even be worthwhile to do so.

Still, the Legislature and Gov. Peter Shumlin are considering banning the practice, commonly called hydrofracking. Vermont would become the first state to do so.

"This is kind of saying, 'Don't bother. Close the door on the issue,'" said Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, sponsor of a bill the House Fish & Wildlife Committee is preparing to vote on this week. "It's about protecting our most precious resource -- our groundwater."

A look at what's going on in neighboring New York state, across the border in Quebec, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere is all that some lawmakers and state officials needed to conclude they want no part of the procedure. Stories abound of possible links between drilling and contamination of well water, earthquakes and more.

Group seeking more renewable energy in Maine misses 2012 deadline

AUGUSTA, Maine — Supporters of a citizens’ initiative that would require utilities to produce more clean and renewable energy failed to gather enough signatures to put a question on the November ballot.

Maine Citizens for Clean Energy was scheduled to meet at the State House on Monday afternoon, presumably to announce that it had gathered more than the 57,000 signatures needed for a citizens’ initiative.

Instead, the group canceled its event early Monday and announced later in the day that it will continue to gather signatures with the intent of bringing the issue back in 2013.

“Going for the 2012 ballot was always a race against the clock. Despite the incredible enthusiasm from the public and from hundreds of campaign volunteers, the clock was just a little too fast for us to hit the deadline for the 2012 ballot,” said David Farmer, spokesman for Maine Citizens for Clean Energy.

Just two weeks ago, as the initiative faced increasing opposition led by Gov. Paul LePage, supporters said they were confident that they would meet Monday’s deadline for signatures.

The initiative sought to increase the amount of Maine’s electricity that comes from new, renewable energy sources — such as wind and solar — and also would require utilities to invest in energy efficiency whenever it would reduce energy costs for ratepayers.

Wis. regulators defend renewable energy suspension

MADISON, Wis.— Wisconsin regulators defended a decision Wednesday to suspend renewable energy funding from a popular utilities program, despite criticism from businesses that it damages the state's renewable energy marketplace.

Public Service Commission spokeswoman Kristin Ruesch said a Focus on Energy program geared toward renewable energy was over budget and not cost effective. But she said they're still analyzing how it may be restored later this year.

The suspended program, introduced in 2002, offers monetary incentives to businesses and residents to install renewable energy systems. In recent years, between 8 to 10 percent of the Focus program's recent $85-$90 million budget was set aside for it.

But Ruesch said the Focus program has a smaller budget now. The state budget signed by Gov. Scott Walker placed a 1.2 percent cap on how much residents can be charged through utility bills to pay for the Focus program.

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