Nebraska’s wind energy bill likely to be scaled down

Source: By DON WALTON | LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR • Posted: Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha sponsored and accepted proposed amendments to his bill (LB423), scaling down individual investment and production tax credits while limiting total credits in an apparent effort to build support for his proposal.

The bill, which was debated at second-stage floor consideration, cleared its first-round test two weeks ago on a 25-3 count, attracting the minimal number of supporting votes required to move it ahead.

Senators had not acted on Nordquist’s proposed amendments before moving on to other scheduled business.

“If we don’t incentivize these projects, they’re not going to come here,” Nordquist said.

Renewable energy electric generation projects, largely wind and solar, have economic benefits for Nebraska and will be required to meet approaching federal regulations limiting carbon emissions, supporters said.

Nebraska now is heavily dependent on coal-fired generation plants whose carbon emissions are targeted by the pending EPA rule.

Opponents argued that wind energy is inefficient and expensive for ratepayers.

“It drives up the cost of utilities for the average homeowner,” Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte said.

“It’s not smart energy policy,” Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus said.

Sen. Ken Haar of Malcolm pointed to the increased property taxes that flow into local governments in areas where wind energy projects are located along with the environmental advantages.

Iowa’s development of wind energy has resulted in attraction of major national businesses that are committed to clean energy and to fixed long-term energy costs, Haar said.

“The property tax benefits are real,” Sen. Al Davis of Hyannis said.

Sens. John Stinner of Gering and John McCollister of Omaha helped broker the $75 million tax credit limitation in an agreement with Nordquist.

“We need a predictable number,” Stinner said, “and $75 million (devoted) to wind energy development is acceptable to me.”

Earlier, the Legislature gave second-round approval to a bill providing for development of a state energy plan that includes an assessment of the economic costs of compliance with the proposed new EPA regulations limiting carbon emissions.

The proposal (LB469) was advanced on a voice vote.