Senate Dems improve energy provisions in state budget bill
RENEW supports the senate action, as reported in a story by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Senate Democrats on Friday announced that they had removed a controversial renewable energy provision from the state budget.
They also restored funding for a renewable energy grant program that’s a key priority of Gov. Jim Doyle.
The moves would result in changes to energy provisions included in the budget by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.
The first proposal would have allowed utilities to tap hydroelectric power from Canada to meet the state’s requirement for utilities to generate more electricity from renewable energy sources.
That proposal, sought by Wisconsin Public Service Corp. of Green Bay, would allow the utility to import hydroelectric power from Manitoba Power to meet the state mandate. The utility would like to see a bill introduced at a later date, and says its proposal would create a more cost-effective way of procuring clean energy than wind-power projects, given the escalating price of building wind farms, said WPS spokesman Patrick Schillinger.
But environmental groups, other utilities and key lawmakers had opposed the change, saying the matter hadn’t been fully vetted before it was brought up and citing concerns about the environmental impact of large hydroelectric projects..
Sen. Dave Hansen, (D-Green Bay), who first proposed the hydropower change, agreed to remove the provision and allow the matter to get a full hearing, said Jay Wadd, a Hansen aide.
The matter likely will be considered by the task force on global warming Gov. Jim Doyle created earlier this year. That panel is charged with developing recommendations by the end of the year on how the state can reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases.
Conservation organizations applauded the move.
“I don’t think there’s any way that you can justify that it’s better for Wisconsin jobs and for our environment to be allowing Manitoba Power to flood our renewable energy commitment,” said Jennifer Giegerich of the League of Conservation Voters.
On the renewable energy grants, Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee had opposed the measure because it was being funded by raising waste-disposal fees.
It’s possible that the version of the budget adopted by the Republican-led Assembly won’t fund the renewable-energy program. If that occurs, that issue would have to be negotiated by a conference committee that ultimately would prepare the budget.
Gov. Jim Doyle said the $30 million program to fund renewable biofuels and other energy projects was the top priority that the Joint Finance Committee had omitted from its version of his budget.