Wednesday, May 09, 2012

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 Vermont first state in nation to ban fracking for oil and gas

With a 103-36 vote in the House of Representatives, Vermont on Friday became the first state to ban hydraulic fracturing to extract oil or natural gas. The bill passed the Senate earlier this week.

The House debate was short. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, raised concerns that Vermont was banning the practice without knowing what natural gas resources it was giving up. “We have no idea if some farmers in Franklin County might be able to take advantage of an economic opportunity on their property,” she said in floor debate. Scheuermann urged the House to vote for a moratorium, which would sunset after a number of years.

David Deen, D-Westminster, argued that there was a small “semantic difference” between a ban and a moratorium, since no legislature can bind a future legislature. “If we put a ban in place at this time, by this time next year, that ban could either be a moratorium or lifted.”

Vermont renewable energy bill gets last-minute overhaul

It was do or die for the energy bill on Wednesday. After a fight on the Senate floor over the House proposal to expand the buildout of renewable energy projects over the next 10 years, the legislation was on life support by Tuesday night.

The options? The legislation would either pass, die in committee or delay the end of the session.

Wednesday morning a whirlwind of closed door meetings in the governor’s ceremonial office, cursory committee testimony and whisperings in hallway ensued.

A handful of lawmakers hammered out a plan with the Shumlin administration in the morning, a lawyer from legislative counsel then redrafted the bill and lawmakers in Senate Finance spent less than an hour taking testimony from the commissioner of the Department of Public Service. By day’s end the Senate was set to debate the hastily reworked legislation. The bill passed 21-4 late in the evening.

Can you say sausage?

When S.214 (H.468) landed from its missile-like trajectory onto the Senate floor, the legislation, formerly known as the Renewable Portfolio Standard bill, it no longer contained renewable portfolio standards. Presto change, the requirements for utilities to retain renewable energy credits had vanished. Instead, the legislation calls for another study (the RPS recommendations came from a Public Service Board study conducted last year per a legislative request) and expands the “standard offer” program for small renewable projects.

Arizona Legislature Exempts the Sale of Renewable Energy Credits from State Sales Tax

Affirming its commitment to the development of renewable energy resources, the Arizona legislature recently passed legislation exempting the sale and/or use of Renewable Energy Credits (generally referred as "RECs") from Arizona's transaction privilege tax, which operates similar to a sales tax. Given that Arizona's state transaction privilege tax is over seven percent in most counties, and that city tack on an additional 2 to 3 percent tax, the decision to exempt the sale of RECs from a 10 percent tax is a significant development that should encourage the development of renewable energy in Arizona.

Arizona’s Renewable Energy Standard

In 2006 the Arizona Corporation Commission, which is the state agency that governs public utilities, enacted the Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff. This “RES Tariff,” which became effective in 2007, requires that by 2025, at least 15 percent of energy supplies come from eligible renewable energy, with smaller amounts required in earlier years. Of the total renewable energy requirement, 30 percent must come from distributed energy renewable resources by 2025, again with smaller amounts required in earlier years.

A “distributed energy resource” is small-scale power generation technology used to provide an alternative or enhancement to the traditional electric power system and is located on the customer’s side of the power meter. Rooftop or parking lot solar panel arrays are examples of a distributed energy resource, and can be contrasted with solar power plants operated by the utilities themselves. Under the RES Tariff, 50 percent of the distributed energy resource must come from residential customer systems while the remaining 50 percent must come from non-residential, non-utility applications.

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