Friday, May 21, 2021

Senate Agriculture, Local Government Committees Hold May 25 Hearing On Utility Scale Solar Development

The Senate
Agriculture and Rural Affairs and Local Government Committees are scheduled to hold a hearing May 25 on utility scale solar development in the Commonwealth and related local government ordinances.

A list of witnesses is not yet available.

The hearing is a follow up to a May 12 hearing by the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy and Agriculture and Rural Affairs committees on Senate Bill 284 (Yaw-R- Lycoming).  Read more here.

The bill would establish a new state bureaucracy that imposes new state bonding requirements on solar electric generation, biomass, coal waste and other renewable energy projects of any type included in the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards, plus other products and services.  

In addition to bonding requirements on solar electric generation, biomass, coal waste and other renewable energy projects of any type, the bill would also requires state bonds--

-- Alternative Fuels, Energy Efficiency, Energy Conservation Product Makers: “A facility that manufactures or produces products, including component parts, that provide alternative energy or alternative fuels, improve energy efficiency or conserve energy.”

-- Alternative Energy R&D Facilities: “A facility used for the research and development of technology to provide alternative energy sources or alternative fuels”

-- Transportation Systems For Alternative Fuels & High-Efficiency Locomotives: “A project for the development or enhancement of rail transportation systems that deliver alternative fuels or high-efficiency locomotives.”

During the May 12 hearing, several key points were made by witnesses--

-- All witness pointed out bonding is included as a standard provision in landowner leases for solar and wind energy facilities;

-- Bonding requirements have been expanded upon by county and local land use ordinances covering solar and wind energy projects and a model ordinance for solar facilities is available;

-- The PA Farm Bureau and the solar energy industry supports legislation that would codify the existing industry practice of restoration and reclamation bonds for solar and wind facilities setting minimum requirements;

-- The new state bonding requirement and the new bureaucracy created by the bill would cover not only solar and wind facilities as stated by the prime sponsor, but 16 different renewable energy facilities, energy efficiency products including thermostats, lightbulbs, water heaters, high-efficiency HVAC systems, high-efficiency LED lighting, energy efficient windows and doors, and insulation. Read more here.

Interestingly, another bill by the same sponsor-- Senate Bill 275 (Yaw-R-Lycoming)-- would preempt local governments from adopting ordinances and policies restricting energy providers-- including renewable energy facilities.  Read more here.

Ironically, this could include ordinances setting local bonding and other land use requirements for solar and wind facilities to make sure their sites are reclaimed.

In fact, the PA State Association of Township Supervisors offered testimony on Senate Bill 275 expressing this specific concern saying, “Senate Bill 275 could be open to interpretation a nd limit the ability of municipalities to regulate in the siting of power generation facilities, including commercial solar facilities. Read more here.

The common objective of both bills is to impose additional costs on renewable energy sources and impede their development in Pennsylvania.

Larger Effort To Kill Renewable Energy

Senate Bill 284 is part of a larger effort by conservative Senate and House Republicans to slow or kill renewable energy projects in Pennsylvania.  

In addition to this legislation, Republicans have introduced or plan to introduce bills to--

-- Stop state support for solar energy projects with any foreign components, which every energy generation source has.  Read more here.

-- Preempt local governments from requiring new buildings use climate-friendly energy sources.  Read more here.

-- Introduced legislation to require recycling of solar panels through the state’s broken state Electronic Waste Recycling Program (Senate Bill 530 (Dush-R-Jefferson).  Read more here.

-- Senate Republicans reported legislation out of committee to take away DEP’s authority to adopt a Carbon Pollution Reduction Program covering power plants (RGGI) - Senate, House  

-- Threatened to hold up nominations to the Public Utility Commission-- which has nothing to do with the RGGI regulation-- unless the proposal is withdrawn.  Read more here.

A minority of Senate Republicans have introduced legislation to support renewable energy--

-- Senators Laughlin, Haywood Announce Bipartisan Bill To Increase AEPS Solar Share To 5.5%

-- Sen. Scavello Reintroduces Legislation To Enable Community Solar Projects

The May 25 hearing will be held in Hearing Room 1 of the North Office Building starting at 9:30 a.m.  Watch live on the Senate Agriculture Committee or Senate Local Government Committee webpages.

Sen. Cris Dush (R-Clearfield) serves as Majority Chair of the Senate Local Government Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-787-7084 or send email to his chief of staff: Sen. Timothy Kearney (D-Chester) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-1350 or send email to:

Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver) serves as Majority Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and can be contacted by calling 717-787-3076 or sending email to: evogel@pasen.govSen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-8925 or sending email to:

(Photo: 70 MW Lightsource BP - Penn State University Solar Farm in Franklin County.)

Related Article - Prior Hearing

-- Senate Committees Hear Bill Requiring State Bonding For Solar, Wind Projects Duplicates Local Ordinances, Landowner Leases; Adds New Bureaucracy; And Has A Broader Scope Than Advertised

Related Articles This Week:

-- PA Solar Center Recognizes Solar Energy Leaders In Beaver, Washington Counties

-- 4 DEP Advisory Committees Express Their Support For DEP’s Final Carbon Pollution Reduction Regulation Covering Power Plants [RGGI] 

Related Articles - Block Renewable Energy/Climate Initiatives:

-- Sen. Yaw Plans Bills To Stop State From Supporting Solar Energy Projects With Any Foreign Components; Adopt A Moratorium On Rulemaking During A Declared Emergency [Reported out of Committee April 27. Read more here.]

-- Sen. Yaw Introduces Bill To Preempt Local Governments From Requiring New Buildings Use Climate-Friendly Energy Sources

-- Sen. Dush Introduces Senate Bill 530 Requiring Recycling Of Solar Panels Thru Broken State Electronic Waste Recycling Program.  Read more here.

-- PA Senate Republican Caucus Files Lawsuit Against Delaware River Basin Commission Over Shale Gas Drilling Moratorium

-- Senate Republicans Report Out Bill Taking Away DEP Authority To Reduce Carbon Pollution From Any Source, Including Power Plants

-- Senate Republicans To Gov. Wolf: We Will Reject Any Nominees To PUC Until You Withdraw Your Executive Order Joining RGGI Carbon Pollution Reduction Program For Power Plants

-- Republicans On Senate Environmental Committee Approve Letter Urging IRRC To Disapprove Reg. Reducing Carbon Pollution From Power Plants

-- Republicans On House Committee OK Letter Urging IRRC To Disapprove Reg. Reducing Carbon Pollution From Power Plants 

-- Senate Republicans Report Out Bills To Kill Regulations By Doing Nothing, Repeal Regs Because They Have Too Many Words, Shield Law Breakers, And More

[Posted: May 21, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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