Filibuster kills proposed Nebraska tax credits for wind farms, other renewable energy facilities

Source: By Martha Stoddard / World-Herald Bureau • Posted: Wednesday, May 6, 2015

LINCOLN — A bill that would have provided Nebraska’s first-ever production tax credits for wind farms and other renewable energy facilities died Tuesday in the face of a filibuster.

Backers could only muster 30 votes on a motion to end the filibuster and proceed with second-round consideration of Legislative Bill 423. The motion needed 33 votes to succeed.

State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha, who introduced LB 423, expressed disappointment about the outcome of the vote.

“This was a decision today that’s going to have negative consequences long-term for the state,” he said. “It’s a decision that my daughter’s generation is going to be paying the cost for.”

The tax credits would have allowed Nebraska to take advantage of rapid changes in the energy industry, Nordquist said. Utilities are in the process of closing dozens of coal-fired power plants and will be looking to invest in clean-energy projects.

With an amendment adopted Tuesday, LB 423 would have allowed renewable energy facilities to claim either an investment tax credit or a tax credit for each kilowatt hour of energy produced.

The total amount of credits available under the bill would have been capped at $75 million, and facilities would have had five years to apply.

Backers said the credits would benefit both wind farms and solar projects, offering an economic boost to rural areas.

But Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte, who led the opposition to the bill, said Nebraska doesn’t need additional energy and argued that wind farm development would harm the state’s public power system.

The wind is unpredictable, Groene said, which would force the coal-powered plants to operate below capacity when it is blowing but could not replace those plants.

“These projects drive up the cost,” he said. “Call it a secular humanist religion that believes we have to save the planet.”

Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse said Nebraska could use the $75 million in better ways.

But Sen. Ken Schilz of Ogallala said the credits were similar to other business incentives that Nebraska has offered. Similar incentives were key to launching ethanol plants in the state, he said.

Nebraska’s wind energy potential has always ranked among the highest in the nation. But its production of energy via wind farms has lagged behind, ranking 18th nationally in 2013.

By contrast, Iowa was No. 1 in wind energy production that year, with about eight times more wind turbines than Nebraska.