It is surprising that The Journal Gazette would write a 1,300-word commentary criticizing the recently passed Senate Bill 251, which I authored, without even once attempting to contact me about the measure. Instead, The Journal Gazette appears to have allowed itself to be spoon-fed by the bill’s opponents.
First and foremost, the goal of this bill is to address much more than the concerns of the wind industry. Quite frankly, there was little to no appetite in the Indiana General Assembly to mandate or require Indiana utilities to buy power from any particular source, be it wind or some other generating entity.
Further, the wind industry is doing quite well in Indiana without a statutory mandate.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, Indiana produced 1,339 megawatts of wind power in 2010 with another 8,426 megawatts worth of projects in queue. They say that in 2009, Indiana added the second-most new wind power capacity of any state, and Indiana was the third fastest-growing state for wind power. AWEA says Hoosiers ranked 11th for most installed wind power capacity in the country.
SB 251’s goal is to encourage the use of clean energy sources that are lower-carbon and less polluting than traditional coal-fired power plants.
Renewable sources – such as hydro, wind and solar – are included on the list of energy alternatives that qualify under a voluntary program that encourages their use, but they aren’t the only energy forms that can help Indiana lower carbon. That’s why options such as methane, nuclear and other sources were also included.
There was also a strong interest in the legislature in establishing a law that would allow utilities to meet strict federal environmental requirements, while at the same time protecting consumers from huge spikes in their energy bills; encourage safety and reliability upgrades at existing nuclear plants that serve Indiana customers; and establish a voluntary program to encourage the use of clean sources of power that will lower pollution.
Perhaps the most misleading paragraph in the article was the charge that “Another element of the bill that should cause apprehension for any true conservative is that it grants eminent domain authority for private companies to acquire land for carbon dioxide pipelines.” Oil and gas pipelines are constructed across the United States by private companies that can already use this option as a means of acquiring easements and rights of way.
Granting this authority to private entities and encouraging the transport of carbon dioxide to southern states for the development of domestic oil resources are steps in the right direction. This helps coal-dependent Indiana address environmental concerns and become less dependent on foreign oil. How can the goals of reducing pollution in Indiana and lowering gas prices be construed as negative things?
If the yardstick for judging SB 251 is whether it establishes an absolute mandate requiring utilities to buy a fixed percentage of wind power regardless of cost, then yes, the bill falls short. However, if you believe as I do that our energy reliability and affordability depend on developing a broad portfolio of energy options, then SB 251 meets that objective.
The General Assembly should not pick the winners and losers among clean energy and renewable sources. Instead, the market should decide.
State Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield, represents Senate District 28. She wrote this for The Journal Gazette.
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