January 11, 2010Client Alert

Wisconsin Legislature Introduces Clean Energy Jobs Act to Implement Governor Doyle’s Global Warming Task Force Recommendations

As a continuation of his efforts to position Wisconsin as a leader in the alternative energy economy, Governor Jim Doyle’s Clean Energy Jobs Act (SB 450 / AB 649) has been introduced in both houses of the legislature. The landmark legislative proposal aims to spur renewable energy development and, thereby, combat climate change. The proposal is built upon the recommendations made in 2008 by the Governor's Global Warming Task Force.

At Governor Doyle’s press conference, the Governor indicated the bill would create new renewable energy standards, set energy conservation goals, accelerate development of the state’s green energy technologies, and would create 1,800 jobs in Wisconsin the first year after adoption and at least 15,000 jobs by 2025. Although environmentalists and independent renewable energy developers support the bill, the business community remains divided. Some of the state’s largest business trade associations representing manufacturers, contractors, builders, food processors, independent business owners, auto and truck dealers, and fuel retailers have strongly argued the package of new regulations would raise energy prices and result in the loss of 43,000 jobs.

As currently drafted, key measures of the legislative bill include:

Accelerated Renewable Portfolio Standards: To assist with greenhouse gas reduction, a new 20 percent standard would be set for 2020 and a 25 percent standard would be set for 2025. The current 10 percent standard would be accelerated from 2015 to 2013. The mandate stipulates the state’s energy must be generated from wind, solar, biomass, and other renewable energy sources.

Advanced Renewable Tariff: Contains provisions for advanced renewable tariffs, which promote public utilities' purchase of privately produced renewable energy.

Increased Energy Efficiency and Conservation Efforts: Sets a goal of reducing energy consumption 2 percent per year beginning 2015. To increase energy efficiency, the bill requires the State Commerce Department to promulgate rules establishing: 1) strict mandatory energy conservation standards for commercial buildings, new one and two family dwellings and agricultural facilities; and 2) voluntary design standards to further reduce the environmental impact of constructing, maintaining, and using public buildings and places of employment. The bill also restricts idling of freight trucks to reduce pollution, and requires the Department of Natural Resources to promulgate rules specifying motor vehicle emissions standards that are identical to the California emissions limitations.

Enhanced Energy Efficient Programs: Increases ability to meet energy targets and create jobs by enhancing several programs that provide financial assistance to municipalities and counties located in qualified areas.The modified financial programs include the brownfield grant programs, forward innovation fund, Main Street program, transportation facilities economic assistance and development program and planning grants for local governments.

Relaxed Nuclear Ban: Allows construction of new nuclear plants by deleting a provision in Wisconsin's nuclear moratorium that requires a site for long-term disposal of spent nuclear fuel to be developed before any nuclear plant could be built.

The legislation is expected to be one of the more contentious issues taken on by the Democratic-controlled Legislature this year. The debate over whether or not certain mandates included in the legislation will benefit the economy will continue over the next few months via two newly created committees. The Senate bill was referred to the Select Committee on Clean Energy and the Assembly bill was referred to the Special Committee on Clean Energy Jobs. The Senate committee consists of five Democrats (Senator Mark Miller, Jeff Plale, Bob Wirch, Dave Hansen and Bob Jauch) and three Republicans (Glenn Grothman, Ted Kanavas and Mary Lazich). The Assembly committee consists of seven Democrats (Representative Spencer Black, Jim Soletski, John Steinbrink, Josh Zepnick, Joe Parisi, Ann Hraychuck, Cory Mason) and three Republicans (Mike Huebsch, Phil Montgomery, Scott Gunderson). Each committee will be co-chaired by the chairmen of the Senate and Assembly energy and environment committees (Mark Miller, Jeff Plale, Spencer Black, and Jim Soletski).

All four legislative committee co-chairs assisted with the drafting of the Clean Energy Jobs Act over the past year. The co-chairs plan to hold public hearings soon and have indicated they would like to get the bill to Governor Doyle to sign on April 22, 2010 - the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.

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