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Friday, July 06, 2007 12:34 PM ET
Emissions, regulation, siting among legislative priorities in Northeast


Legislators in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic passed a number of bills applying to the electric power industry, with several states committing to emissions reductions through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and other states making broad organizational changes to their regulatory processes.

Connecticut lawmakers escaped a repeat of their 2006 legislative session by this year passing an energy bill, House Bill 7432.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell said June 4 she was signing the bill into law, but vetoed two sections. Among other things, the bill requires electric companies to annually assess how best to eliminate or stabilize growth in electric demand.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signed into law May 17 Senate Bill 400, which directs the state Public Service Commission to redo studies of Maryland's electric industry.

The PSC's analysis will address, for instance, whether Maryland can "reregulate" its electricity market, and the costs and benefits of doing so. The PSC issued a request for proposals June 20 for analysis of Maryland's electric industry and is to report back to the governor and the General Assembly before the 2008 session.

O'Malley also signed legislation April 24 designed to increase the use of solar power and give wind farm developers exemptions from obtaining permits.

Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner signed into law June 28 Senate Bill 18 to create a "sustainable energy utility" for the state. According to its supporters, the utility will focus on all energy fuels and use a market-based and market-driven approach to address energy efficiency, renewable energy use and energy conservation.

Delaware legislators on July 1 passed S.B. 19, increasing the state's renewable portfolio standard to 20% by 2019 and including a "solar carve out." Minner has yet to sign the bill, which passed both houses of the Delaware Legislature without opposition.

In Maine, Gov. John Baldacci signed into law on June 18 a bill to implement the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, saying that the bill "builds on my commitment to lower emissions and fund new investments in cleaner technologies and energy efficiency and conservation."

Another New England governor, John Lynch of New Hampshire, signed on May 11 a bill that creates a renewable portfolio standard in the state.

According to the legislation, electric utilities will have to procure a percentage of the electricity they supply to their customers in renewable energy certificates. In 2008, utilities will have to procure 0.5% from "Class I" sources; 3.5% from "Class III" sources, classified as existing biomass and methane facilities; and 0.5% from "Class IV," or small hydroelectric sources.

In Massachusetts, legislators passed in February a cabinet reorganization plan from Gov. Deval Patrick. The plan, House Bill 2034, includes creation of an Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The state Department of Telecommunications and Energy, which had regulated electric utilities, was split in two, with a new Department of Public Utilities overseeing electric, gas, infrastructure siting, pipeline, water and transportation issues.

Kyle Sullivan, press secretary for Patrick, said July 5, "That plan was approved and was adopted and became law on Feb. 28."

In Rhode Island, legislators passed, among other things, H.B. No. 5577 SUB A, which calls for the implementation of RGGI.

Legislators also passed S. B. No. 231 SUB A, through which the commissioner of energy resources is required to adopt goals and a plan, as well as standards and procedures, for renewable energy, facility investment and/or procurement.

The bills await action by Gov. Donald Carcieri. A representative for the governor could not be immediately reached for comment July 5.

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine was expected to sign the "Global Warming Response Act" requiring significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Lilo Stainton, press secretary for Corzine, said July 5 that the governor would sign the bill July 6.

Not all proposed energy bills in the region met with success, however.

In late June, Vermont legislators attempted to save an already vetoed bill by proposing to remove a section that would have imposed a 0.3 cent per kWh property tax on the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant to fund an expansion of a statewide all-fuels energy efficiency utility.

Gov. Jim Douglas vetoed the bill, H. 520, on June 6 and soon after that outlined a public-private partnership that will invest $20 million in energy efficiency efforts over the next four years.

A veto session is scheduled for July 11.

Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee LLC, an Entergy Corp. subsidiary, directly owns the Vermont Yankee plant.

In New York, members of a conference committee formed to work out differences in power plant siting proposals will continue to meet to find a compromise, even though the legislative session is over. The committee was formed after the state Assembly and Senate approved bills in late May to re-establish a power plant siting law, known as Article X.

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell's energy plan is apparently stalled in the General Assembly; he has said that he will not sign onto a 2008 budget until lawmakers pass all parts of his four-bill energy package.

A Pennsylvania House of Representatives committee has advanced one bill, H. B. 1201, which, in part, outlines a 0.05 cent per kWh system benefit charge on electricity to feed an $850 million fund to pay for the governor's energy programs.

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