Sierra Club Delta Chapter Legislative Update, April 29, 2013

State Capital w tree

HB 705 and SB 231 are aimed more directly at the wind and solar tax credits. These identical bills eliminate the residential wind energy tax credit which was not being used anyway. For photovoltaic projects the bills institute a deadline of December 31, 2016. This would sync up with the federal tax credit which also expires in 2016. The proposed bills allow the 50% tax credit to continue until then. After 2016 the credit would be reduced to 35% until December 31, 2020. The bills allow for third-party sales. This would reduce the cost of solar installation for a lot of folks but these are capped at $25k systems.
The proposed incentives are not as good as the ones currently available. The current credit does not expire and is set at 50%. However, the eventual 35% tax credit is still better than much of what the rest of the nation has, and it is certainly better than eliminating the credit altogether.

SB 158 by J.P. Morrell limits the claim of a tax credit for wind or solar system to one time for the original purchaser of the system.

A much more direct attack on residential solar energy is coming from the Louisiana Public Service Commission’s reconsideration of rates paid to owners for the electricity that their panels produce. A rate that is too low would lengthen the time it takes for the system to pay for itself and would certainly reduce numbers of people installing such systems. There may be a vote on this issue at the May 21 meeting of LPSC. You can see our discussion of this at: http://lasierraclub.org/node/47

Salt Domes

The continued flow of bad news from the Bayou Corne sink hole on the Napoleon Salt Dome has bred a short list of proposed legislative remedies. HB 493 by Karen St. Germain requires DNR to make rules governing solution mining of wells and storage caverns. HB 494 also by St. Germain requires notification of proximity of a property to a salt dome. SB 200 by Sen Fred Mills and SB 214 by Sen Troy Brown ban permits for underground activities near salt domes where disasters have occurred (like Bayou Corne) until DNR issues an upgraded permit process. Currently the House bills 493 and 494 have moved through their first committees.

Louisiana Public Service Commission regulation of water cooperatives

HB 427 by Rep Fannin proposes a constitutional amendment to limit the power of the LPSC to regulate water cooperatives but the bill was involuntarily deferred (killed) in its first committee.
HB 600 by Rep Montoucet would prescribe conditions under which nonprofit water cooperatives not regulated by LPSC can hold election to make changes to rates charged for water.
Privately owned water cooperatives clearly do not like being regulated by the LPSC. This writer has seen the water cooperatives taking a beating in the LPSC for their attempts to raise water rates. The issue comes down to who has final say about water rates, LPSC or the voting members in a nonprofit privately owned water cooperative.

Scenic Rivers

HCR 68 by Rep Stephen Ortego continues study of Bayou Teche for designation as a Historic and Scenic River within the Louisiana Scenic Rivers system. HCR 68 focuses the study on the stretch of Bayou Teche flowing through St. Martin Parish and St. Landry Parish. HCR 49 in last year’s (2012) legislature had requested La Dept of Wildlife and Fisheries to study inclusion of the entire length of Bayou Teche in four parishes. Three public hearings conducted in mid March of this year identified much more support for the idea in the two northern parishes. You can see our more complete discussion of this one at http://lasierraclub.org/node/49.

Trash

Rep Regina Barrow has proposed the first ever in Louisiana attempts to get control of the problem of landscapes trashed with single use plastic bags. HB 529 proposes a Constitutional Amendment to tax single use plastic bags, and HB 711 proposes a state law to do the same. Other states and municipalities have banned or taxed the distribution of single use plastic bags. We applaud Rep Barrow for initiating discussion of this issue in Louisiana.

Rep Eddie Lambert has once again introduced legislation to create a Louisiana Beverage Container Law. HB 445 would create a system of deposits and redemption on glass and metal beverage containers in order to reduce beverage container trash on Louisiana roadsides and in public areas. This proposed legislation always runs into stiff opposition from grocers and beverage retail companies that do not want to deal with returned containers.

We are now (April 29, 2013) in the fourth week of an eight and a half week legislative fiscal session. Sierra Club Delta Chapter will be working with our lobbyist and our allies to keep you informed and to let you know if we need your help to contact legislators about proposed legislation.

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