CLEAN ENERGY

PRESS RELEASE: ELPC Commends US Senate Committee on Agriculture for Preserving Energy Title & REAP in Farm Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ELPC Commends U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture
for Preserving Energy Title & REAP in Farm Bill

Midwest senators step up in bipartisan effort
to protect farmers’ interests in vital energy programs

Washington, D.C. – Today the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill) by a vote of 20 to 1. The Senate Farm Bill continues important energy title programs, including funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) that provides incentives to farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses for energy efficiency and renewable energy. The committee voted to include an amendment to strengthen energy programs with mandatory funding.

Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said:

“Thank you to the Senators of the Agriculture Committee for continuing REAP with essential mandatory funding. REAP has made a tremendous difference across agricultural sectors and for rural small businesses, bringing a broad range of renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency investments.”

Ann Mesnikoff, ELPC’s Federal Legislative Director added “The Senate Farm Bill’s continuation of REAP and the energy title with mandatory funding stands in stark contrast to the failed House bill that eviscerated both the energy title and mandatory funding for REAP and other programs.” The House version of the Farm Bill was defeated by a margin of 198-213 on May 18th.

The committee adopted a bipartisan amendment to restore mandatory funding for programs within the energy title consistent with the 2014 Farm Bill. The bipartisan amendment was led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) with senators from across the Midwest, including Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).

“Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich. and Ranking Member of the committee) deserves great credit for being a champion of the Rural Energy for America Program,” Olsen added. “Her efforts have advanced a program that helps grow America’s farm energy potential and brings benefits to farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses across the country.”

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Midwest Energy News: Illinois bills for solar on farmland await governor’s signature

by Kari Lyderson

A trio of bills awaiting the governor’s signature in Illinois is the latest development in preparing the state for an expected massive influx of solar energy development sparked by the state’s 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act.

The bills seek to standardize and codify requirements and expectations for large-scale ground-mounted solar installations being built on farmland and other rural parcels by solar developers leasing space from landowners.

A great increase in such developments is expected, as the energy law calls for the construction of 3,000 MW of solar and offers incentives in the form of Solar Renewable Energy Credits.

“There’s always concern when you have a new industry come in,” said Kevin Semlow, state legislation director for the Illinois Farm Bureau, which played a lead role in shaping two of the bills. “Our members just wanted that clarity so there’s a starting place when companies come out talking about signing leases. We’ve already seen that there have been numerous companies throughout the state asking for leases.”

Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Centerwhich helped shape all three bills, said the diverse array of groups participating in the discussions show the widespread support for solar in the state.

“When there were just a couple [large solar] projects here and there, they could be treated as one-offs,” Learner said “So the trio of solar energy bills passed in Illinois by a strong bipartisan majority reflects the growing progress of solar energy development…There’s now sufficient development growing and moving forward that it makes sense to flesh out the policy framework.”

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

Three Big Wins for Solar Energy in Illinois

Three Big Wins for Solar Energy in Illinois

A trio of solar energy legislation in Illinois reflects the growing progress of solar development in Illinois and ELPC’s leadership work with diverse solar energy businesses, farm groups, conservation groups and municipalities to build out the policy framework.  Kudos to ELPC’s experienced Illinois legislative team led by Al Grosboll, David McEllis and Jonathan Feipel.

ELPC worked closely with the solar industry to successfully advance three important bills to support and encourage solar development.  All three bills passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly and now await the Governor’s signature.  Each bill, in its own unique way, is important to successful solar energy development in Illinois.

  • SB 3214 (Solar Pollinators) – ELPC drafted this legislation after reviewing similar efforts in Minnesota and Maryland.  SB 3214 will lead to increased pollinator-friendly habitat on solar energy project sites in Illinois.  ELPC worked closely with the solar industry and conservation advocates to get buy-in; we also negotiated with the Illinois Farm Bureau to avoid confusion or opposition.  This legislation provides that if a solar company intends to present its project as “pollinator friendly,” then the solar company must meet a pollinator standard.  The University of Illinois Department of Entomology will prepare a scorecard to define a pollinator-friendly project.

 

  • SB 486 (Solar Project Uniform Assessments) – Illinois does not have a statewide uniform standard for assessing the value of solar energy projects.  Currently, 102 county assessors determine solar project values, and each can reach a different result, creating uncertainty within the solar industry.  Solar developers, like other businesses, desire stability and certainty.  ELPC supported the solar industry’s efforts to negotiate a uniform standard to be used by the state’s county assessors.  This is similar to the legislative work ten years ago to establish a uniform statewide standard for assessing wind power projects.

 

  • SB 2591 (Solar Agricultural Impact Mitigation Act) – The solar industry negotiated with the Illinois Farm Bureau to develop mitigation legislation to protect agricultural interests.  A comparable “AIM Act” is in place for wind power projects, and the Farm Bureau sought similar requirements for solar energy projects.  The initial draft legislation was problematic, but it was amended and is acceptable to the solar industry and to ELPC.  This bill is a good compromise that sets reasonable standards for solar energy projects.

PJM capacity auction shows First Energy’s nuclear plants aren’t needed

FirstEnergy critics say PJM auction shows its nuclear plants aren’t needed

The bankrupt company’s three Ohio nuclear plants failed to clear PJM’s capacity auction despite higher prices.

The failure of FirstEnergy Solutions’ nuclear power plants to clear a regional capacity auction supports the case for closing them, critics said.

Regional grid operator PJM announced the results of its 2021-2022 capacity auction last week. While FirstEnergy Solutions groused about the results, others expressed vindication in the rejection of its three nuclear plants.

“The recent PJM capacity market auction indicates how extremely uncompetitive the FES nuclear plants are today,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

FirstEnergy Solutions in a statement called the results “as unfortunate as they are unsurprising.” The company announced on March 28 plans to close the power plants within three years, but was required to offer them into the capacity auction because it didn’t announce the closures sooner.

The annual PJM capacity auction aims to ensure that enough electricity will be available to cover projected peak needs plus a margin of safety for the next three years. Generators submit a price per megawatt for capacity they can guarantee, and any at or below the clearing price are accepted.

This year’s clearing price for FirstEnergy’s Ohio service zone: $171.33 per megawatt-day. Bids at or below that amount cleared the auction.

FirstEnergy Solutions’ inability to clear the auction hasn’t stopped it from continuing to seek subsidies that might allow it to continue operating the plants. “We will continue to seek legislative and regulatory relief at the state and federal levels — relief that recognizes the critical but uncompensated contribution that our plants make to the reliability and resilience of the regional grid,” said Thomas Mulligan, the company’s outside media relations consultant and spokesperson.

That comment tracks with remarks that FirstEnergy President and CEO Chuck Jones made last month when the company released its first quarter earnings.

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE.

PRESS RELEASE: New Minnesota Rules Make Connecting Clean Energy to the Grid Easier for Customers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

Judith Nemes, ELPC | 312-795-3706 | JNemes@elpc.org

Ruth Fein, IREC | 518.858.7329 | ruthfein@irecusa.org

Matt Privratsky, Fresh Energy | 651-726-7571 | Privratsky@fresh-energy.org

New Minnesota Rules Make Connecting Clean Energy to the Grid Easier for Customers

Minnesota made new strides for clean energy last week (May 24, 2018), becoming the third midwest state in the last three years to adopt wholesale reforms to their interconnection procedures – creating a more transparent and effective process for customers to connect to the electric grid.

After more than two years, the updated rules are the result of work at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), Fresh Energy and the  Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC). In May 2016, the three organizations jointly petitioned the PUC to initiate a proceeding to establish new interconnection standards that better align with the current market for distributed generation, and to achieve greater consistency with national best practices.

The state’s early challenges connecting community solar gardens projects to the grid led to major backlogs and increased delays, and costs for consumers and communities. This prompted the three organizations to request an overhaul of the state’s interconnection rules to improve the process. They were also looking to streamline the interconnection process for rooftop solar systems, which constitute the vast majority of interconnection applications in the state.

“Interconnection standards are an integral component to a strong market and key to sustaining clean energy growth,” according to Sara Baldwin Auck, regulatory director for IREC, an independent national organization working to accelerate clean energy for more than 35 years.

“Minnesota’s interconnection standards were some of the first to be adopted in the country, but they have not been significantly updated since 2004,” adds Sky Stanfield, who represented IREC in the state proceeding through Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP. “Given the state’s upward growth trends in renewable energy, and with new prospects for energy storage and smart inverter adoption on the horizon, the timing for these improvements is important,” says Stanfield.

“With this interconnection standard, Minnesota has laid the groundwork for our transition to clean energy, and will help drive the Minnesota market forward by bringing certainty and transparency,” adds Laura Hannah, senior policy associate at Fresh Energy, an independent nonprofit that provides in-depth policy analysis on energy issues across Minnesota. “The utilities will be much more prepared for increasing volumes of applications and modern technologies.”

Hannah adds: “The partnership was ideal with IREC’s national experience, ELPC’s regional perspective, and Fresh Energy’s local expertise. It was a big lift to overhaul the standards and accomplish what we did as a working group. A key win is recognition from the commission that we can’t let another 12 years go by without updates.”

“With the commission’s decision last week, Minnesota joins a growing list of midwest states adopting common-sense standards to streamline their interconnection process,” says Brad Klein, senior attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental legal advocacy organization. “We hope this decision encourages the remaining states-including Michigan and Wisconsin-to step forward to join Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Ohio.”

The recently adopted reforms (ref. Docket E999/CI-16-521) replace existing state rules with new procedures based on a national model established by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), known as the Small Generator Interconnection Procedures (or SGIP), along with some additional national best practices.

While these improvements create greater consistency across all Minnesota utilities – which will translate to cost- and time-savings for project developers, consumers and utilities – the Minnesota PUC declined to adopt some important best practices and deferred some critical decisions to a later point in the process.

Some key elements of the decision:

  • Rules Aligned with National Models: Minnesota adopted interconnection rules based on a 2014 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission model. The use of a more nationally recognized model helps decrease the learning curve for interconnection customers and should facilitate updates in the future as innovations emerge from states using similar frameworks.
  • A Formal Screening Process for Mid-Size Systems: The new rules adopt a fast track and detailed supplemental review process that allows mid-sized projects to be reviewed using a two-tier screening process, rather than requiring all projects to go through a full study process. The value of this change will increase as distributed generation penetration increases. The fast track screens follow the FERC SGIP model but contain a few Minnesota specific modifications; i.e., adopting a more conservative eligibility limit that may send some larger projects to full study unnecessarily.
  • Improved Application and Review Process for Smaller Systems: One of the most important changes allows small rooftop solar projects to use a simplified application and review process. This helps streamline the interconnection process for projects smaller than 20 kW. However, if the current 11-week timeline (average 4 weeks for small systems in other states) is left as is, it could add substantial costs and delays to residential and small commercial customers. The PUC deferred decision on this timeline, so the opportunity for change remains.
  • Addition of Energy Storage: The new rules include energy storage systems in the definition of eligible projects, creating a more clear process for energy storage customers to connect their projects to the grid. Considerably more work needs to be done to streamline this process.
  • Adoption of a Pre-Application Report: The new rules allow interconnection customers to request a pre-application report from their utility, which provides details on the state of the grid at the proposed point of interconnection. This preliminary information allows customers to get a sense early in the process – before they make a large investment of time and money – whether a given project is likely to integrate into the grid at that location, without triggering major upgrades.
  • Reporting on Interconnection: The PUC required utilities with more than 40 applications a year to publish a public interconnection queue that enables customers to track the progress of interconnection projects. It also adopted some temporary annual reporting requirements, which while not comprehensive, are a start to providing enhanced visibility into how well the new interconnection process improvements are working.

With these improvements adopted, the PUC will turn its attention to updating the technical standards document to include smart inverter settings, the requirements for energy storage, and the other deferred issues noted above.

As parties to this involved process, IREC, Fresh Energy and ELPC commend the PUC for the time and energy invested to improve this foundational clean energy policy and look forward to continuing efforts to ensure effective implementation of these rules in 2019.

PRESS RELEASE: Illinois Pollinator-Friendly Solar Energy Bill Passes, Adds Momentum to Solar Energy Development

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                       

Illinois Pollinator-Friendly Solar Energy Bill Passes, Adds Momentum to Solar Energy Development

Legislation is good for habitats, good for the environment, good for communities

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois General Assembly passed a pollinator friendly solar energy bill late Monday that gives an extra boost to the vigorous solar energy development already underway in the state and offers benefits to multiple stakeholders. Senate Bill 3214 was sponsored by Senator Jason Barickman (R – Bloomington) and Representative Tom Bennett (R – Gibson City).

The legislation will encourage solar developers to create habitats for bees, monarchs and other pollinators within their solar sites. These projects will create job opportunities for seed growers and landscape companies. Additionally, these plants will help reduce soil erosion and minimize fertilizer runoff into nearby waterways.

This bill is an initiative of the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) with support from conservation interests and solar energy businesses. The bill follows similar legislation passed in Minnesota and Maryland with coordination from the Center for Pollinators and Energy, a national catalyst and clearinghouse for state-based initiatives and best practices, located at Minnesota-based Fresh Energy.

“ELPC is working to set the stage for robust growth of solar energy in Illinois,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “SB 3214 is a win-win that promotes solar energy development and encourages smart conservation practices that make sense for farmers and our environment.”

“This legislation will help the environment by creating more habitats for bees and butterflies,” said Rep. Bennett. ”It is good for agriculture and growers and should increase the number of pollinating insects and birds in Illinois.”

Sen. Barickman said, “SB 3214 will encourage solar site owners to convert otherwise wasted space into natural habitats. In addition to increasing habitat acres, this legislation is good for farmers and other growers and for local economic growth.”

The legislation creates a scorecard to set minimum standards that solar developers must fulfill if they want to call their project “pollinator-friendly.” The scorecard will be designed jointly by University of Illinois Extension at Urbana-Champaign and Illinois’ Department of Natural Resources.

“The scorecard will provide a fair, flexible and science-based method for solar developers who choose to promote their projects as beneficial to pollinators,” said Adam Dolezal, PhD., an Assistant Professor of Entomology at University of Illinois who will be involved in the scorecard’s design.

The bill also ensures that solar arrays will be managed to prevent propagation of noxious and invasive weed species.

Agricultural sector stakeholders were encouraged by the legislation.

“Most farmers understand the preservation and health of pollinators, and their habitat, is important to agriculture,” said James Young, a farmer and property manager in Douglas County who signed an agreement with U.S. Solar to have a pollinator friendly solar array on his land. “The concept of co-locating pollinator habitat, and a solar facility on the same parcel, is a win-win and an excellent use of the available space.”

“It is greatly encouraging to hear about private sector investments from the solar industry that can help bees,” said Tim May, President of the American Beekeeping Federation and CEO of Sunny Hill Apiaries, a leading Chicagoland honey producer and packer. “Populations of honey bees and all pollinators are in crisis and urgently need flowering landscapes that provide food and nutrition. Pollinator-friendly plants under and around ground-mounted solar can play an important role in helping protect Illinois pollinators for the next generation of farmers.”

Read the bill here. SB 3214 passed the Illinois House 114-0 and now goes to Governor Bruce Rauner for final approval.

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PRESS RELEASE: ELPC Appealing Michigan Commission Decision to Approve DTE Energy’s Proposed $1 Billion Gas Plant

ELPC Joins Groups Appealing Michigan Commission Decision to Approve DTE Energy’s Proposed $1 Billion Gas Plant

DTE Energy failed to justify gas plant’s cost, ignored mounting evidence that fossil fuels are poor investments for customers and state

Today, a coalition of clean energy organizations asked the Michigan Court of Appeals to reverse the decision of the Michigan Public Service Commission(MPSC) to approve a massive new natural gas power plant to be built by DTE Energy. The MPSC decision would allow DTE Energy to charge its customers to build the $1 billion gas plant, for ongoing fuel, and for operations and maintenances of the plant for decades to come.  The organizations, which include the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Ecology Center, the Solar Energy Industries Association, and Vote Solar, contend that DTE failed to demonstrate that its plant was the most “prudent” means of supplying power to its customers, as required by Michigan’s utility planning law.

“We are at a turning point in the electric industry, and our concern is that DTE is rushing the plant through without considering whether it really is needed, in light of newer, cleaner, and less costly alternatives,” said Margrethe Kearney, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “It is critical that the MPSC be required to fully and faithfully implement the law, to ensure that Michigan customers are not on the hook to pay for last-Century technology, when a clean, modern grid is more affordable now.”

“The law is there to protect consumers by ensuring that utilities make good investment decisions based on sound analytics to achieve an affordable, reliable and clean electric grid,” said Sam Gomberg, Senior Energy Analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists.  “DTE failed to do the analysis necessary to justify its proposed natural gas plant, and the Commission should have sent them back to the drawing board.”

In July of 2017, DTE asked the MPSC to grant a “Certificate of Necessity” to build an 1100 MW natural gas power plant to replace older coal-fired plants that are slated for retirement. More than a dozen organizations intervened to oppose the plant, presenting expert testimony showing that DTE had failed to consider a range of less costly alternatives. Multiple scenarios showed that a portfolio of resources such as wind, solar, energy efficiency, demand response and battery storage could eliminate, delay or reduce the size of the plant.

“DTE did not provide sufficient analysis for the MPSC to be able to compare its plant to cleaner, reliable and more affordable options that would save customers money,” said Becky Stanfield, Senior Director of Western States at Vote Solar. “MPSC responded by decrying the lack of clear analysis but approving the plant anyway while urging DTE to do a better job in its next plan. It should have required DTE to start over.”

In states like Illinois and Ohio, owners of fossil power plants are finding that the cost to fuel and operate the plants is too expensive and are seeking bailouts from utility customers to recover these “stranded costs.”  Meanwhile, the cost of solar power has declined by 70 percent in just the past decade, while wind power is now the least costly generation resource. Increasingly, the electric industry is turning toward low-cost wind and solar power to meet future electricity demand instead of risking another generation of uneconomic investment in fossil fuels.

Chicago Tribune: EPA Deal Marks Dramatic Shift Away From Dirty Coal Power in Chicago Area

May 24, 2018
EPA Deal Marks Dramatic Shift Away From Dirty Coal Power in Chicago Area
By Michael Hawthorne

Despite President Donald Trump’s pledge to bring back the days when coal power dominated the nation, his administration quietly settled a lawsuit this month that highlights how the lung-damaging, climate-changing source of electricity has largely disappeared from the Chicago area.

Six coal-fired power plants at issue in the nearly decade-old case have been shut down, cleaned up or converted to burn natural gas — dramatically improving air quality without affecting residential electric bills or the stability of the regional power grid.

All that remained was a federal lawsuit accusing former plant owners of evading clean air laws for years. The case lingered in federal courts until the current operator, New Jersey-based NRG, tentatively agreed this year to pay fines of $500,000 each to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Illinois.

The legal settlement, made official on May 10, adds the weight of a federal court order to ensure the shuttered coal plants stay closed and pollution-control equipment installed at the others is kept in place.

As the Trump administration rolls back environmental regulations and attempts to resurrect the coal industry, the NRG settlement is a reminder of economic, legal and political forces that began shifting the country away from the fossil fuel well before the president and his EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, took office.

It also is a remarkable victory for a small group of Will County watchdogs and their attorney from a nonprofit legal aid clinic, who kept the case alive after regional and national environmental organizations backed out as part of a separate settlement.

“People thought, or maybe they hoped, we would just go away,” said Ellen Meeks Rendulich, one of the organizers of a grass-roots group dubbed Citizens Against Ruining the Environment. “We didn’t get 100 percent of what we wanted, but what’s coming out of those smokestacks now is nothing compared to what it used to be like.”

Normally a settlement of this magnitude would be trumpeted in news releases from the EPA and the Department of Justice. In this case, neither agency announced the resolution of an enforcement action initiated by the Obama administration, even though changes outlined in the government’s agreement with NRG have already had significant effects.

Emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide — pollution that forms smog, soot and acid rain — dropped by about 90 percent at the power plants between 2009 and 2017, according to a Tribune review of federal records. The amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by the fleet declined by about 75 percent during the period — equivalent to taking 5.5 million cars off the roads.

When combined with other coal-plant shutdowns in the state, the overhaul put Illinois on a fast track to meet targets in the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, an Obama initiative to reduce climate change pollution that the Trump administration and coal companies are attempting to overturn.

The settlement with NRG “is really a capstone to a long fight for environmental justice,” said Keith Harley, the Chicago Legal Clinic attorney who represented the Will County group. Power companies warned that closing coal-fired plants would disrupt the smooth delivery of electricity, Harley said, but none of their ominous predictions came true.

“The lights are still on,” he said. “We still have a glut of electricity.”

Built by ComEd between the early 1900s and the 1960s, the coal plants were among dozens nationwide that started generating electricity before Congress passed the 1970 Clean Air Act. For years the plants were exempted from the toughest provisions of the law because utilities vowed they wouldn’t be running much longer.

A company called Midwest Generation bought the ComEd plants in 1999 and kept them running as a growing number of scientific studies found that coal plant pollution triggers asthma attacks, causes heart disease and shaves years off of lives. Unlike newer power plants, the ComEd/Midwest Generation facilities were not equipped with advanced pollution controls that sharply reduce lung-damaging soot and other harmful air pollution.

In 2010, a year after the EPA and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued Midwest Generation, the National Research Council, the government’s main scientific advisory body, estimated that pollution from one of the company’s coal plants in Romeoville had cost surrounding areas $187 million a year in hidden health costs.

READ FULL STORY

Cleveland Plain Dealer: FirstEnergy Must Guarantee Nuclear Clean Up, Environmental Groups Tell Feds

FirstEnergy must guarantee nuclear clean up, environmental groups tell feds
By John Funk

CLEVELAND, Ohio – FirstEnergy’s power plant subsidiaries have not put enough money into federally mandated decommissioning trust funds to pay for the shutdown and cleanup of each of its four nuclear reactors, charges an environmental group with a reputation as a legally effective environmental advocate.

The Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, or ELPC, made that charge in a petition filed in March with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The ELPC’s intervention in the Peabody Energy bankruptcy led to the court requiring that company to purchase $1.2 billion in surety bonds to guarantee clean up.

The ELPC wants the NRC to hold parent company FirstEnergy Corp. responsible for bankrolling what it argues could well be a multi-billion reactor cleanup shortfall, which taxpayers or customers could be forced to pay.

The ELPC petitioned the NRC just days before the FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. filed for bankruptcy protection on March 31 and the FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co. told the NRC it would close its nuclear plants within two years.

Now the ELPC, joined by the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund, the Ohio Environmental Council and Ohio Citizen Action, have intervened in the bankruptcy case under way in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

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PV Magazine: House Rejects Amendment to Eliminate REAP

May 21, 2018
House Rejects Amendment to Eliminate REAP
By Tim Sylvia

On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to reject a proposed amendment to the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, also known as “Farm Bill” that would, among other changes, repeal the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

REAP is a federal program that provides grants and other financial assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses, allowing them to “purchase, install, and construct renewable energy systems, make energy efficiency improvements to non-residential buildings and facilities, use renewable technologies that reduce energy consumption, and participate in energy audits and renewable energy development assistance.”

“The bipartisan House vote preserving the Energy Title sends a strong message that attempts to cut farm energy efforts should cease,” said Andy Olsen, senior policy advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC). “Congress should step up and increase funding for effective farm energy initiatives like the Rural Energy for America Program. REAP serves all agricultural sectors and has benefited farmers throughout the Midwest and across the country.”

The amendment was proposed by Representative Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and was shot down by an 82% majority, with the final tally being 340 votes against to 74 votes for. Biggs is no stranger to proposing cuts on renewable energy funding. In July 2017, Biggs introduced the Farewell to Unnecessary Energy Lifelines Reform Act, or FUEL, which proposed the elimination of several energy subsidies under the most recent farm bill of 2014. The act has since been referred to the Subcommittee on Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit, where it has been effectively dead since September.

The House effort to reject the proposed amendment was lead by representatives Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Kristi Noem (R-SD), which appears to show divisions within the Republican Party over this issue.

“The resounding defeat of the Biggs Amendment sends a strong signal to the Senate that these programs have bipartisan support and should be renewed with mandatory funding,” said Ann Mesnikoff, federal legislative director for ELPC.

While this vote appeared to be a win for the protection of REAP, it is not a lasting one. The proposed Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 was ultimately shut down on Friday, when it failed to pass in the House in a 213-198 vote. The current farm bill expires in 2018 and will need to be renewed or replaced by the end of the year, which opens up further opportunities for lawmakers to continue attacks on REAP.

It is worth note that REAP has been incredibly popular among agricultural and rural business owners in the Midwest, with requests for funds regularly exceeded available grants.

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