Friday, November 26, 2021

Sen. Yaw Introduces Bill To Make It Illegal For State Government To Own Renewable Energy, Something Every Utility, And Thousands Of Energy Users Do

On November 23, Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) introduced Senate Bill 945 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) which directs state government to sell all its Renewable Energy Credits and deposit the proceeds in the Marcellus Legacy Fund for use to plug oil and gas wells abandoned by the industry and left to taxpayers to pay for plugging costs  (sponsor summary).

Sen. Yaw serves as the Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

“Governor Wolf recently entered into a long-term contract to purchase solar electricity equal to 50 percent of Commonwealth state agency energy usage,” said Sen. Yaw.   [Read more here]

“At current solar credit prices, the credits which accompany this commitment are worth approximately $10.8 million annually. Pennsylvania has a separate contract with an out-of-state firm to purchase wind energy credits as well, potentially yielding millions of dollars in additional revenue,” said Sen. Yaw.

  “My legislation would allocate the proceeds from the sale of these credits to the Commonwealth Financing Authority to be used to plug abandoned and orphan oil and gas wells across the state. Pennsylvania is home to several hundred thousand legacy wells in need of plugging.”

[Note: DEP is expected to receive approximately $395 million to plug orphan and abandoned oil and gas wells over the next decade from the new federal Bipartisan Infrastructure law.  Read more here. DEP has only $15 per well in bonds on hand to deter future abandoned wells.]

This bill raises a whole host of issues and questions. The goal of this legislation is clear-- prevent State Government from using Renewable Energy Credits.

This legislation makes it illegal for the state government to continue to own and manage the Renewable Energy Credits-- own, hold or sell when markets are favorable, something every electric utility in the state does and thousands of individual energy users do, including private companies, colleges, school districts and individuals.

Renewable Energy Credits, paired with electricity from the grid, are renewable energy being generated on behalf of the buyer.

A REC that has been sold once cannot be purchased again. All renewable energy credits are uniquely numbered and generally include information such as where they were generated, the type of renewable resource they came from, and a date stamp of generation. The exchange of RECs is tracked and recorded.

It may or may not be advantageous to sell credits at a certain time, but that is for the market to determine.  No legislation can time a sale for the highest benefit of taxpayers.  Senate Bill 945 simply says sell them.

Buying renewable energy helps stabilize and lower energy costs and shields users from the wild fluctuations in international energy markets like those governing the price of natural gas and oil. [Read more here]
It also requires the state to abandon legal contracts it has signed with private companies to purchase renewable electricity, depending on the detailed provisions of those contracts, something the General Assembly is prohibited from doing by Section 17 of the state’s constitution.

It is also worth noting Sen. Yaw voted against studying rulemaking petitions before the Environmental Quality Board to increase per well bonding amounts for oil and gas wells designed to prevent future well abandonments.  [Read more here]

An audit released last February found the Senate and House are sitting on over a $200 million surplus of taxpayer money in their legislative operating accounts they just have laying around.  [Read more here]

Expands Attack On Renewable Energy

This legislation is one of several initiatives by Republicans to artificially stifle the growth of renewable energy in Pennsylvania in favor of fossil fuels by interfering in the free market to make it more expensive or prohibit it altogether.

Other bills include--

-- Make Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency More Expensive: Senate Bill 284 (Yaw-R-Lycoming) would load up renewable energy projects, energy efficiency products and high-efficiency locomotives with bonds to prevent their development [Read more here] is now on the Senate Calendar for action.

-- Require Recycling Solar Panels Thru A Recycling Program That Doesn’t Work: Senate Bill 530 (Dush-R- Jefferson) and House Bill 266 (James-R-Venango) would require the recycling of solar panels through the broken state electronic waste recycling program to drive up solar energy costs.  Read more here from last session

-- Prohibit The Ability Of Communities To Promote Clean Energy: Senate Bill 275 (Yaw-R- Lycoming) which would limit the ability of communities to offer new and clean energy sources and energy efficiency programs by locking in the status quo, in particular natural gas was passed by the Senate and now goes to the House for action.  Read more here. The bill is now in the House Local Government Committee.

    A companion bill in the House-- House Bill 1947 (O’Neal-R- Washington)-- was reported out of the House Local Government Committee and was Tabled.

Senate Bill 945 was referred to the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming) serves as Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-787-3280 or sending email to:   Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-5709 or sending email to:

Related Articles  - Natural Gas Price Increases Driving Up Electric Costs:

--  Guest Essay: Shifting Toward Clean Energy Can Lower Costs For Pennsylvanians; Unlike Natural Gas, Clean Energy Does Not Suffer From Wild Price Fluctuations

-- PUC: Electric Utilities To Increase Cost Of Electricity They Provide To Non-Shopping Customers Dec. 1, Some As High As 50%; Increases Driven By Price Of Natural Gas 

-- IFO Reports PA Natural Gas Prices Increased 187.1% In Last Year, Higher Than Henry Hub Price 

-- StateImpactPA - Rachel McDevitt: With Energy Prices High, Pennsylvanians Urged To Review Heating Bill Options With Utilities

-- PUC Natural Gas Winter Reliability Reports - Heating Bills Will Be Significantly More Expensive This Winter

-- Inquirer - Andrew Maykuth: PA Electricity Prices Rising By As Much As 50% Next Week; Here’s How You Can Save

-- ScrantonT: Multiple Programs Available To Help With Heating Costs

Related Article:

-- Gov. Wolf Announces Major Commitment To Solar Energy To Supply Nearly 50% Of State Government's Electricity Needs

[Posted: November 26, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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