From the Arkansas Statehouse...

Lawmakers file energy conservation package.

In Energy on 26 February 2009 at 5:41 pm

With the exception of some global-warming squabbling in its initial weeks, this session has been conspicuously absent of energy policy. But the floodgates opened today as several lawmakers filed bills that seek to cut down on energy use and improve efficiency.

Rep. Kathy Webb, who led a press conference this afternoon to introduce the legislative package, filed a bill to establish energy-saving practices at state-owned and higher-education buildings. The current version, which is a shell bill, should gain more detail as information about Arkansas’s share of federal stimulus dollars emerges. Rep. Webb said her plan is based on a North Carolina conservation program, the Utility Savings Initiative.

Rep. Webb’s bill will work in conjunction with others filed today.

Rep. Joan Cash introduced a measure that will increase the Public Service Commission’s regulatory authority by requiring it to create efficiency standards for public utilities.

Sen. Shane Broadway offered a bill that calls for a $300 million bond issue to pay for retrofitting state agency buildings. If approved by the legislature, the bond issue would come before voters in 2010, barring an earlier special election. Voter approval would allow the state to borrow up to $60 million annually. The money would be repaid with saved energy costs.

A second wave of energy legislation is expected before the filing deadline in 10 days. One bill would change code in order to allow electric cars to be regulated as automobiles rather than motorcycles; another, which is to be sponsored by Rep. Allen Maxwell, will help homeowners install efficient energy systems.

The filing, of course, is the easy part: the package’s supporters are likely to face a stiff fight from energy producers.  Rep. Webb said she was meeting with energy representatives today and hopes to eventually gain their blessing. We shall see.

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