Fri, 14 December 2007
In this podcast, PennFuture's VP Jan Jarrett interviews President and CEO John Hanger, who gives an extensive play-by-play of what happened in the legislature this month on renewable energy, and what to expect in January. You’ll discover why passing a 21st Century energy plan is vital, and the pain ordinary Pennsylvanians will continue to suffer if this plan isn’t passed soon. High gas prices, the climate in crisis, increased air pollution and rising electricity rates will all get worse as the legislature fails to act.
To learn more about the campaign for Energy Independence, visit our Web site. There you can also sign up to receive important updates and action alerts on energy and other issues. And there's still time to make your tax-deductible contribution before year's end! As always, we welcome your comments. Thanks for listening.
Tue, 11 December 2007
Dear Boys and Girls,
Santa knows that governing is hard work. And coming to an agreement can be contentious. But Pennsylvania’s families are suffering real pain now without a modern energy policy. Having to spend $50 to fill up your minivan makes having a happy holiday harder. And skyrocketing energy bills will only get worse by waiting.
That’s why Santa really hopes the nice boys and girls in the legislature can put aside their differences and get to an agreement soon.
And even though we are not near final passage of the Energy Independence Strategy, there has been real progress.
The House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee overwhelmingly passed Special Session HB 1, the funding bill that would provide $850 million for renewable electricity projects and for energy conservation. The nice boys and girls who voted for it include: Camille “Bud? George (D-Clearfield), Chair of the Committee; H. Scott Conklin (D-Centre); Michael Gerber (D-Montgomery); James Wansacz (D-Lackawanna, Luzerne, Susquehanna, Wyoming); John T. Yudichak (D-Luzerne); Lisa Bennington (D-Allegheny); Mike Carroll (D-Luzerne, Monroe); Eugene DePasquale (D-York); Robert Freeman (D-Northampton); John Hornaman (D- Erie); David K. Levdansky (D-Allegheny, Washington); Jennifer Mann (D-Lehigh); Michael P. McGeehan (D-Philadelphia); Tim Seip (D-Berks, Schuylkill); Greg Vitali (D-Delaware); Kate Harper (R-Montgomery); Jay R. Moyer (R-Montgomery); Chris Ross (R-Chester); and Carole A. Rubley (R- Chester, Montgomery).
The Senate is close to passing Special Session SB 1, which would provide $650 million for mostly good energy projects, though $25 million would go to owners of highly profitable coal burning plants. But there is a groundswell to improve that bill to add more money for renewable energy and research and development of new clean technologies.
These bills will give Pennsylvania’s families and businesses the tools they need to use energy smarter, and to cut their electricity bills. And the conservation bill will save Pennsylvanians between $9 and $12 billion in avoided costs for building more power plants, big transmission lines and other costs that we would have to incur just to keep up with growing demand.
Santa is still very hopeful that the Energy Independence Strategy will be passed, but it doesn’t look like it will happen this year. But if Pennsylvanians are to have relief from high heating bills next season, the legislators will need to work on this as soon as they come back in the New Year. Santa thinks the new energy policy should be passed no later than February.
Say, that would make a very nice Valentine’s gift to the voters of Pennsylvania. Santa is going to contact his compatriot in the League of Fictional Nice Characters (LFNC), Cupid, and get him on the case. Look out for those arrows!
Love, Santa (R&D-North Pole)
Mon, 10 December 2007
Dear Boys and Girls,
Time is really getting short now. After one last blowout (my birthday party on Thursday night – you don’t turn 1,700+ years old every day!), the elves and I are now working at warp speed. So many toys still to be built, and so many names still to classify as naughty or nice.
Time is short for the legislature, too. I expect both the Pennsylvania Senate and House will also be at warp speed, working furiously to pass legislation this week, so that they can leave for their nice long winter break.
Santa is very excited that the Senate is going to vote on Special Session SB 1 this week. SB 1 is a bill to fund many good energy projects, but it needs some significant improvements. We need more money – and invested faster – into renewable energy like solar and wind, and more funding for research and development of new clean energy technologies.
And there’s one truly bad idea that should be deleted from SB 1. That’s the plan to give the highly profitable dirty power plants $25 million to meet legally required pollution restrictions. I guess I should be glad that the amount of the pork for the coal-fired power plants is down from $75 million, but any money is too much. This would be like giving taxpayer money to Microsoft to clean up the bugs in its software. It’s the Pottery Barn rule: You broke it, you bought it. The old power plants made the pollution; they should clean it up, especially when their owners are rolling in dough.
The good news is some very nice boys and girls are planning to introduce amendments to SB 1 when it comes up this week. Senators Constance Williams (D-Delaware, Montgomery) and Vincent Fumo (D-Philadelphia) are just two of those who are determined to make sure our money doesn’t go up in smoke.
And that very nice boy in the house, Representative Camille “Bud? George (D-Clearfield), who is chair of the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, will be moving Special Session HB 1, legislation that would fully fund the Energy Independence Strategy, through his committee on Tuesday. As long as the boys and girls on the committee vote yes, the bill could then move to the floor of the House of Representatives.
So, boys and girls, Santa still holds hope in his heart of hearts that there will be far more nice members of the General Assembly than naughty, and he’ll get his wish. I wonder if it would help if I sang, “All I want for Christmas is Energy Independence??
I also wanted to show you what a good time we had talking to Philadelphians about the need for energy legislation. And let me tell you, they gobbled up those compact fluorescent light bulbs we were handing out faster than Santa can down the milk and cookies on Christmas Eve! People are hungry for clean and green energy.
Keep sending me your own naughty and nice lists at Santa@PennFuture.org.
Category:Energy -- posted at: 6:15 AM
Fri, 7 December 2007
In mid-November 2007, the Urban Sustainability Forum hosted a special program with presentations from five finalist teams from the "Urban Voids: Grounds for Change" competition. Urban Voids is part of a three-phased program called Philadelphia LANDVisions. Initiated by the City Parks Association, this program seeks to develop a long-term vision for developing vacant lands throughout the City of Philadelphia.
PennFuture’s Christine Knapp interviewed three of the finalist teams from the competition on the night the awards were handed out.
We first hear from the finalist team Timescapes, about how the Urban Voids program got started and why. According to finalist team Urban Arboretum, the common issues addressed in this design competition were mostly environmental in nature, while in some cases economics played a role. But the two go hand in hand: every environmental victory grows the economy. To that end, the Urban Arboretum proposal looked at methods of transforming the land not only for their direct environmental benefits, but also as a means for production. Taking a more global perspective, the Timescapes proposal sought to develop connectivity between the existing vacant spaces. The result of building several continuous passages on these vacant lands would prompt the emergence of a 24-hour living city.
The Grand Winner of the Urban Voids competition, which attracted 220 proposals from 25 countries, was the proposal from a local Philadelphia team called Waterwork. Their concept involves reclaiming Philadelphia’s vacant land for use as a stormwater filter. Philadelphia's serious problems with both stormwater management and vacant land are turned into creative and achievable opportunities, by adapting watersheds to the current urban topography.
Hear from team members Julliet Geldi, Chariss MacAfee, Charles Loomis, and Gavinn Riggall as they explain how their system that would effectively capture the stormwater runoff from homes, and create a network of streams within the city’s vacant lands. Water would be incorporated with the development of parks and trails to create new community areas, and would result in the re-establishment of existing underground rivers and streams that had long ago been piped over or buried. While implementation of this plan has challenges, the team plans to start small and work towards the bigger picture, helping to make Philadelphia the Next Great City.
To learn more about PennFuture's work with the Next Great City project, visit our Web site. There you can also sign up to receive more information, or make a tax-deductible contribution to support our work. As always, we welcome your comments. Simply send us an e-mail or click on "Comments" below.
Thu, 6 December 2007
Dear Boys and Girls,
Winter swept through the state yesterday, with piles of snow in many places. That makes Santa happy, since snow makes delivery by sleigh a lot easier, but it also means that Pennsylvanians are facing cold weather with no help with their heating bills.
Families are really hurting right now because of energy costs. A poll of central Pennsylvanians released last night by Susquehanna Polling & Research, Inc., found that the most important problem facing families is the current cost of gas and home heat. For 18 percent of those polled, the high price of gas and energy was the problem that impacted them most on a daily basis, followed by taxes and healthcare. Gas prices have had a significant financial impact on their budget for nearly one-third, and 42 percent said the impact was moderate. Only six percent said there was no impact. And people are really worried, with 67 percent of participants saying they were very concerned by gas and energy prices and 29 percent saying they were somewhat concerned. Central Pennsylvanians are not seeing any light at the end of the energy tunnel, and the lack of action on Capitol Hill just reinforces their despair.
Santa is disappointed with the legislature. First, the agreement in the senate to move Special Session SB 1, the bill to fund the energy independence programs, broke down. That means there was no vote yesterday (or this week) on this important bill. Time is slipping away and Pennsylvania families are the ones who will suffer, with higher heating and electricity bills, and without any tools to help themselves. And renewable energy investors are surely starting to look elsewhere to invest, since they can’t count on Pennsylvania. There also seems to be no movement in the house that Santa can find.
This can all be corrected, so Santa’s not going to put anyone on the naughty list. Not yet, anyway.
There was other action in the senate yesterday – but not in the right direction. The senators mooshed together two bills and added amendments, then passed legislation that would add Pennsylvania-only paper pulp waste and old hydro plants to the Tier 1 mandate of truly clean energy under the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS). They did indicate that they were worried about getting on the naughty list though. They added language to expand Tier 1, showing they’ve been reading Santa’s notes. But that still doesn’t mean that this is a good idea.
Last I checked, Pennsylvania is in the United States (Dasher – get me Google maps!) and is required to follow the U.S. Constitution. Restricting the plan to only Pennsylvania plants creates a problem with the interstate commerce clause (no relation). And the lack of a severability clause (again, no relation) means the whole law could be thrown out as unconstitutional.
Then there’s the message it sends to investors: “Hey, we’re Pennsylvania – we change the rules in the middle of the game. Hey… where you going?? And should I mention the pork express? If a few legislators can change the law created to build new clean energy and use it to subsidize existing not-so-clean local plants, what’s to stop the rest of them?
I said it before: If you want to change the AEPS, do it thoughtfully and strategically, not just by throwing extraneous changes at it. Otherwise, it’s naughty AND dumb.
There were a whole lot of nice senators, who voted to keep the AEPS clean. They are Senators John Eichelberger (R-Blair); Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny); Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny); Stewart Greenleaf (R-Bucks); Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia); Shirley Kitchen (D-Philadelphia); Charles McIlhinney (R-Bucks); John Rafferty (R-Montgomery); Michael Stack (D-Philadelphia); Christine Tartaglione (D-Philadelphia); Leanna Washington (D- Philadelphia); Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia); and Constance Williams (D-Delaware). You go, grrrls and boyz.
Santa and his elves are going to be in Philadelphia today and Wilkes-Barre tomorrow, handing out the naughty and nice lists. But we may miss the Capitol newsroom on Friday – today is Santa’s birthday (my birth name was Nicholas, you know), and I promised to let the elves throw me a shindig. They get pretty wild sometimes, so I don’t know if I’ll be up to facing the Fourth Estate in its natural habitat.
But keep sending me your own naughty and nice lists at Santa@PennFuture.org.
Category:Energy -- posted at: 6:10 AM
Wed, 5 December 2007
Dear Boys and Girls,
There are a lot of very happy Pennsylvanians today, and Santa is smiling right along. And it’s all because of the nice boys and girls at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Yesterday, the DOE announced that it would rehear the case made by the state of Pennsylvania to stop the plan to build ginormous power lines through 52 of the Commonwealth’s 67 counties as part of the National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor. Governor Rendell greeted the news with pleasure, saying, “Our people should not have to accept that these transmission lines will be on our soil, depreciate our property values, but may not benefit our consumers. And we will not stand by and watch while our efforts to build a new, clean energy economy are undermined by electricity shipped across our state from dirtier fossil-fuel-fired plants to the south and west of us.? Wow. No "Night before Christmas," but pretty good for a non-holiday non-poem, IMSO. We can’t all be Clement Moore.
But this may just be a temporary reprieve. And unless we start using new methods to deal with our galloping electricity appetites, our state will have to make room for at least 12 new 300 megawatt power plants –with high costs of construction, and possibly dire human health costs and an exponential increase in our contribution to global warming. We will also have to build hundreds of miles of new towers and transmission lines, and we will be subject to unpredictable fuel prices. Unless, that is, our state legislators pass the Energy Independence Strategy and we’re able to invest in helping all Pennsylvanian save energy rather than waste it. Getting his wish for energy independence would make Santa very happy — and Santa would be really, really happy if that happened before the legislature leaves for its long winter recess.
And there are now rumblings that movement is afoot. There is real chance that the Pennsylvania Senate will pass an amended version of Special Session SB 1 early next week. SB 1 is a bill to fund the Energy Independence programs, and while it is far from perfect, it is a great starting point to work from. And when the Senate passes the bill, it could move to the House immediately. That means the House could consider it and pass it, with or without amendments, well before the winter break. Lots of boys and girls in both houses would move to the nice list if that happens! Santa really hopes that nice boy Keith McCall, (D-Carbon), the Majority Whip of the House will help move the legislation along.
But some not very nice things are also moving in the senate. Those two bad bills that Santa talked about yesterday, Special Session SB 25 and Special Session SB 31, have been merged. The senate continues to think that it’s okay to monkey around with the Tier 1 truly renewable portion of the AEPS piecemeal, and make sweetheart deals with old power plants to magically declare those new and renewable too. But with the new renewable energy industry having invested millions and created over 1,500 good paying jobs in just a few years — based on the AEPS as passed — we risk destroying the confidence those businesses have in Pennsylvania. We surely don’t want to kill the goose that’s laying those precious golden eggs. Doing that would be not only naughty, but dumb.
Santa and his elves are going to be in Philadelphia tomorrow, handing out compact fluorescent light bulbs – and the naughty and nice list – at the Independence Visitor’s Center. But we’ll also be visiting those naughty and nice reporters (mostly nice) in the Capitol newsroom. So see you there. And send me your own naughty and nice list at Santa@PennFuture.org.
Category:Energy -- posted at: 1:53 PM
Tue, 4 December 2007
Dear Boys and Girls,
Hanukkah starts tonight. Because Hanukkah memorializes the miracle that occurred when one night’s supply of oil lasted for eight full nights during the rededication of the temple, it is a special time to reflect on energy conservation and energy independence. In fact, the nice girls and boys of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life provide special services and prayers using the blessings and story of Hanukkah as a basis to rededicate the community to the Jewish tradition of being stewards of the planet. The coalition urges congregations to model the modern day miracle of light and install compact fluorescent light bulbs as part of the celebration. Is that a great idea, or what?
The opening day of the Bali conference on global warming went well, with record numbers of participants (and reporters) participating. The morning's opening session was "very upbeat," according to the executive Secretary of the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, culminating in long applause when Australia announced its ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, which he called "a very significant political decision." All agreed that this two-week conference will not deliver a fully negotiated and agreed climate deal, but will set the necessary wheels in motion for a future agreement.
Unfortunately, there is still some naughty behavior going on in Harrisburg. Remember when I told you last week about Special Session SB 25, legislation that would allow paper mill waste to be added to the inadequate 8 percent Tier 1 renewable mandate of the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act (AEPS), crowding out wind and other truly clean energy technologies? Well, I said that this legislation would help one naughty company, but I was wrong. No, this bill will help two naughty companies – one in the district of bill sponsor Senator Michael Waugh (R-York), chair of the Republican caucus.
And then there’s Special Session SB 31, which would redefine renewable to include two specific old hydro plants and allow those plants to crowd out cleaner energy sources in the 8 percent Tier 1 renewable portion of the AEPS. One plant is in the district of bill sponsor Senator Donald C. White (R-Armstrong, Butler, Clearfield, Indiana, Westmoreland), who serves on the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. People, don’t you get it? The purpose of the AEPS was to build new, truly clean electricity sources, not prop up plants that are decades old. Even the elves know that if you want to increase new clean energy, you should increase the paltry 8 percent Tier 1 requirement, not nibble away at the standard. This drives Santa crazy! See what I meant by naughty?
Santa is happy to be hearing rumors out of the House of Representatives that the house will be moving soon – maybe even this week – on legislation for smart meters and energy conservation. That is very nice to hear.
As always, send me your own naughty and nice list at Santa@PennFuture.org.
Category:Energy -- posted at: 6:29 AM
Mon, 3 December 2007
Last week, Santa came to Pittsburgh to urge swift action on the Energy Independence Strategy legislation before the winter holidays, and to highlight his Naughty and Nice list.
He was joined by PennFuture's Heather Sage; State Representative Joe Preston, Jr. (D-24); Group Against Smog and Pollution's Michael Parker; Conservation Consultant Inc.'s Ann Gerace; and Steel City Biofuels' Nathaniel Doyno, all speaking on the urgency for Pennsylvania to move now toward our clean energy future.
You can help by taking action to contact your legislator to voice your support for this crucial legislation.
Mon, 3 December 2007
Dear Boys and Girls,
December is here, and this is where the rubber hits the road – or in my case, where the sleigh’s runners hit the snow. Not much time left to get on the nice list.
Nice countries from around the globe began meeting this morning in Bali, Indonesia, to develop a worldwide plan to combat global warming. The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change, the host of the meeting, spoke of the emerging momentum which began early in the year with President Bush’s State of the Union address in which he indicated that climate change is a global issue requiring a global response. Hopes are high of reaching a plan to develop long term agreements among all nations to take serious action to fight global warming. Much of the Bali conference is being webcast online, but remember — Bali is 13 hours ahead of Pennsylvania! Also, as Pennsylvanians deal with an early attack of winter weather, know that the official dress code for the conference is no jackets and no ties, to avoid excess energy use from having to over air condition in the hot and humid Indonesian weather.
All the nice boys and girls in the Pennsylvania legislature are back for their
race to the winter recess. Santa knows that they will all be working hard on a lot of very important issues, but is reminding them that creating a 21st Century energy policy just can’t wait. Gasoline prices are through the roof, heating oil is sky high and the electricity rate caps will be off everywhere around the state within a few years. Waiting isn’t going to make life any easier for hard working Pennsylvanians; they are suffering now. And we have no idea what impact that naughty boy with lots of oil,
Hugo Chavez, will have on our energy markets, now that he’s lost the referendum to make him president for life.
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives will be moving the biofuels bills to a final vote this week, but Santa worries that it will be severely weakened in the senate. If that happens, that would be very naughty. Santa also believes that there will be movement on other portions of the Energy Independence Strategy (EIS) in the house, including hearings and votes.
But the big action this week will come in the Pennsylvania Senate, which should vote on the senate bill on main EIS, SB 1 (Special Session), which, while better than it was originally, still stops short of the mark. For one thing, the bill gives money to the old outdated coal plants to do the environmental cleanup the law requires – kind of like giving Wal-Mart
money to clean up the lead paint in the toys they sell from China. This pork is about one-third of the original gift of corporate welfare, but Santa won’t be happy until it is down to zero. Come on, boys and girls, this is about our clean and green energy future; it shouldn’t be about subsidizing the antiquated, highly profitable coal plants of the last century.
Another problem with SB 1 is that it provides too little too late in funding for renewable energy entrepreneurs to compete in the current energy market. And the source of the money may make any grant received under this bill – say for a family to add solar panels to their home – taxable as income. So keep on amending this bill as it comes up on Wednesday for a floor vote, boys and girls, if you want to be on Santa’s nice list.
We’re already behind in the regional race for Pennsylvania’s fair share of the new green and clean renewable energy industry – we’re not going to win by taking baby steps. We need broad and fast action to be competitive. And don’t be surprised to see Santa turn up in other areas of Pennsylvania this week – my elves and I will be sharing our Naughty and Nice List with voters far and wide.
As always, send me your own naughty and nice list at Santa@PennFuture.org.
Category:Energy -- posted at: 1:01 PM