Maine State Sen. Opposes Offshore Wind Floater
State Sen. Dana Dow, R-Maine, has proposed a bill to prevent an offshore wind test area from being built near Maine’s Monhegan Island, which the lawmaker calls a “place of rugged beauty” that is “free from commercial development and the distractions of modern life.”
A consortium including the University of Maine is developing the 12 MW New England Aqua Ventus floating offshore wind pilot project, which has received U.S. Department of Energy funding. The project, to be situated off Monhegan Island, is a floating offshore wind farm with two 6 MW direct-drive turbines to be installed on concrete, semi-submersible foundations.[adright zone=’190′]
Specifically, L.R.1613, “An Act To Protect Monhegan Island,” would prohibit the placement of the turbines within 10 miles of the Monhegan Lobster Conservation Area.
In 2009, the Maine Department of Conservation designated the wind site as one of three wind energy test areas off the coast of the state. According to Maine Aqua Ventus GP LLC, the sites were selected following “extensive analysis and outreach efforts by state officials” and included input from “local/federal officials, fishermen and residents.”
In a press release, Dow argues that the bill is necessary to “protect the area’s economy and culture.” The senator says the remote island is regularly visited by “many of America’s foremost artists,” as well as a “large number of seasonal residents and visitors.”
In addition, Dow claims the legislation is critical for the protection of “migratory birds that use the island as an important landfall along the North Atlantic Flyway.”
“Mainers would never allow a massive wind turbine experiment to be placed within a short distance from the top of Mount Katahdin or near the shores of Acadia National Park because these are special places – and so is Monhegan Island,” he says.
“Having said this, I firmly believe that the final decision rests with the permanent residents of the island, who need to determine the merits of this bill. I believe the need is to finally settle this issue so that outside interests will know whether they can build this project or move onto a different area.”
The senator adds that he will be “available to Monhegan residents to help resolve this issue.”
Fallin Proposes Wind Tax, Wants To End State PTC
In her newly laid out budget proposal for the state, Gov. Mary Fallin, R-Okla., is proposing a new tax on wind power, as well as an acceleration of the phaseout of the state production tax credit (PTC).
According to the budget plan, the Oklahoma governor wants to roll out a $0.005/kWh tax on wind produced in the state, which is home to, for example, Exelon’s 198 MW Bluestem wind project.
The Sierra Club estimates that this tax increase would raise the cost of wind energy by a whopping 25% (based on current rates).
“This would kill Oklahoma jobs, punish Oklahoma electricity customers and send a strong message to the business community that Oklahoma is closed for investment,” Johnson Bridgwater, director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Sierra Club, says in a statement. “If Oklahoma does pass a new 25 percent tax on wind energy production, I assure you we will lose billions of dollars in investments, along with all the jobs these investments represent, to states like Texas, Colorado and Kansas.”
In the budget proposal, Fallin claims the wind industry was “incentivized sufficiently to now be a major player in the Oklahoma energy industry.” However, she says the industry is also a “major winner of now-unnecessary incentives,” referring to the PTC.
In fiscal year (FY) 2017, the governor says the “ad valorem exemption for manufacturing of wind energy costs Oklahomans $40 million.”
The proposal adds, “Assuming no changes in current law, it is estimated that the claims paid over the next 15 years [through FY 2032] will average $60 million a year for a total of $840 million.”
“If the governor wants to raise new revenues and add additional taxes to our electric bills,” Bridgwater continues, “it makes much more sense to tax out-of-state coal that we import from states like Wyoming for electricity production here in Oklahoma. It is counterproductive to tax clean energy produced right here in Oklahoma, rather than energy that we import from other states.”
In conclusion, Bridgwater calls on Fallin to “withdraw her misguided proposal.”
“If she doesn’t, I will work tirelessly with ratepayers and businesses to hold members of the legislature accountable to defeat the governor’s proposal.”
In Wyoming, the state’s House Revenue Committee axed a proposal that would have raised wind taxes by $4/MWh.
Congressman Proposes Killing EPA
A newly elected congressman is seeking to completely abolish the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Yes, indeed, under H.R.861, the agency would be no more.
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., proposed the bill on Feb. 3. The text of the legislation has yet to be published, but H.R.861 simply states that it would “terminate” the EPA. Gaetz, a freshman congressman, was sworn in as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 3.
The Huffington Post reports that Gaetz, in an email to legislators who could potentially co-sponsor the bill with him, said he wanted to “take back our legislative power from the EPA,” which is an “extraordinary offender” of causing U.S. citizens to be “drowning in rules and regulations promulgated by unelected bureaucrats.” He added that the legislation would terminate the “abusive and costly agency” by the end of 2018 and, thus, “allow our state and local government partners to implement responsible policies in the interim.”
The legislation has now garnered the support of co-sponsors Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky.; Rep. Steven M. Palazzo, R-Miss.; and Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga.
In response to the proposed bill, Melinda Pierce, legislative director of the Sierra Club, says in a statement, “Congressional Republicans have finally pulled back the curtain and revealed their true agenda: completely eliminating the Environmental Protection Agency and dismantling everything it does to protect our air, our water and the health of American families.
“This bill would do nothing less than put the lives of thousands upon thousands of Americans at risk. After decades of trying smoke-and-mirror tactics to break the EPA, this bill finally makes things explicit and puts them in the clear light of day.”
Notably, in all likelihood, according to a Business Insider report, the legislation would not become a reality. The report cites Gaetz’s political inexperience; a prerequisite of repealing several other laws in which the EPA has “specific environmental responsibilities”; and already existing Republican support for President Donald Trump’s plan for the agency, which Trump recently chose (in a controversial decision) Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead.
The Sierra Club’s Pierce maintains that the “American people will not stand for this egregious overreach” and that “Congressional Republicans should expect their town halls to remain full, their phone lines to remain jammed and their lives [to] remain difficult if they continue to recklessly put the profits of polluters ahead of the needs of their own constituents.”
Bill Would Simplify Public Land Use Process
A bipartisan bill that would work toward an “all of the above” energy strategy by simplifying the permitting process for renewable energy projects on public lands has been introduced in Congress by a number of U.S. senators.
U.S. Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev.; Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; Jim Risch, R-Idaho; Jon Tester, D-Mon.; Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; Michael Bennet, D-Co.; Steve Daines, R-Mon.; and Tom Udall, D-N.M., have rolled out S.282, the “Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act.”
According to a press release from Heller, the act would streamline the review of solar, wind and geothermal projects on public lands, as well as establish a U.S. Department of the Interior program focused on making the permitting process more efficient.
The legislation would also create a revenue-sharing system to aid local communities that are home to potential projects and help mitigate the impact construction could have on the land, water and wildlife.
Heller says he has long advocated for reforms to renewable energy permitting and energy production revenue sharing. In the 111th Congress, he introduced similar legislation entitled the “Clean Energy, Community Investment, and Wildlife Conservation Act” in the U.S. House, and he teamed up with a bipartisan group of senators on previous iterations of the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act in the 112th, 113th and 114th Congresses. Last Congress, the bill passed the U.S. Senate – the first time the legislation passed either body of Congress, according to the senator.
Jon Goldin-Dubois, president of Western Resource Advocates, says in a statement that the conservation group applauds the senators for “showing that the West can advance clean energy, protect western landscapes and support our local communities.”