State Rep. Jack Lutz, R-Anderson, is facing criticism for opposing legislation to mandate the development of wind energy in Indiana.
“Lutz’s response is that utilities should be free to set their own standards,” said rural Delaware County health worker Lee Ann Mengelt, a Democrat running for Lutz’s seat in the Nov. 7 election.
Lutz said he opposed a proposed renewable electricity standard after co-chairing a legislative committee hearing that considered the issue in Muncie recently.
The legislation would require each electricity supplier in Indiana to generate at least 10 percent of its total electricity from renewable energy sources – such as energy crops, organic waste, methane from landfills, solar cells and panels, fuel cells and wind – by 2017.
“Recently revised wind maps have revealed that Indiana has a much greater wind potential than previously believed,” Mengelt said. “This has sparked the interest of wind companies anxious to set up shop in the Hoosier state.”
But if the state doesn’t enact legislation mandating electric utilities to buy wind energy, wind developers will go to Illinois and other states, Mengelt said, and Indiana will miss out on new energy jobs and decreased electricity bills.
Renewable electricity standards are in place in 20 states and pending in 15 others, according to Citizens Action Coalition.
“Unfortunately, Rep. Lutz … (is) against telling regulated monopolies that they must diversify their energy mix with renewables so that Indiana has more jobs, a more stable economy and cleaner air,” CAC’s executive director, Grant Smith, said. “His actions at the summer study committee hearing held at Ball State … clearly show that Mr. Lutz is coordinating an effort with utility companies to kill the renewable electricity standard bill in the next legislative session.
“The public has to ask itself: Do we want more good-paying jobs and less lung disease (from coal-fired power plants)?”
Utility company spokesmen testified at the hearing that the major obstacle to wind energy in Indiana was cost. The spokesmen opposed mandatory wind-energy development.
“The state of Indiana now has the eighth-lowest energy cost of any state in the country,” said Lutz, who agrees with utility companies that a renewable electricity standard would increase rates charged to customers.
(He said he had not read a study submitted by CAC claiming that a renewable electricity standard would cause electricity rates in Indiana to increase only 1.14 percent in the next decade).
While Lutz is not as optimistic as Mengelt and CAC about Indiana’s wind-energy potential, he said he was thrilled that Indiana’s first wind farm was under development.
“It sounds like they’re saying I’m against renewables,” Lutz said. “I’m not, but it’s got to be practical and affordable.” Lutz supports government incentives, not mandates, to develop wind farms.
As for death and disease caused by coal-fired power plant emissions, Lutz said power companies had spent billions of dollars on pollution-control equipment to improve air quality.
The chairman of the House Utilities and Energy Committee, Lutz has received campaign contributions from Cinergy, American Electric Power, Indianapolis Power and Light and other utility companies.
“They contribute to my campaign as do ordinary citizens and businesses,” Lutz said. “I have a lot of diversified contributions.”
By Seth Slabaugh
# Contact news reporter Seth Slabaugh at 213-5834.
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