Nebraska Renewable Energy Victory

NFP

The Legislature’s adoption of a major wind energy development bill April 9 was a sweet, sweet victory for Nebraskans for Peace. For an organization that’s been on record in support of renewable energy generation in the state since the 1970s (and has been criticized and belittled for our views for decades), to now have the Legislature unanimously approve a ‘Big Wind’ bill (LB 1048) and our conservative governor promptly sign it into law is yet another testament to the importance of tenacity in working for social change.  

Over the past five years especially, NFP has been working closely with our environmental allies (the Nebraska Sierra Club in particular) to legislatively promote development of Nebraska’s wind energy resources. LB 1048 (the Natural Resources Committee bill which grew out of a previous legislative initiative sponsored by Sen. Ken Haar) will allow private developers to generate wind energy in the state for sale to out-of-state markets while fully protecting Nebraska’s 100-percent public power distribution system. Public power in Nebraska will be eligible to purchase up to ten percent of the renewable energy produced, and the private generators must shoulder the cost of developing any additional transmission infrastructure. As a result of this legislation, Nebraskans will see job growth, rural economic development, increased tax revenues—and less demand for carbon-producing fuel like coal.

Nebraska has admittedly been late in jumping onto the wind energy bandwagon. Although our state currently ranks 4th in potential for wind energy generation, we are only 24th in actual production. Many neighboring states are already reaping the benefits of wind energy. Iowa for example, which currently gets 15 percent of its energy from wind, has seen 2,300 new jobs created, increased property tax revenue for local governments, subsidiary economic activity, and revenue for local landowners. The cheap cost of Wyoming coal shipped into the state by rail has historically thwarted serious development of wind energy. And even today, our public power districts have set a goal of generating only ten percent of their overall energy portfolio from renewable sources. With the possibility of a federal tax on carbon looming, however—and a new poll just out that shows that 79 percent of Nebraskans want public power to be getting 20 percent of their energy from renewables—perhaps change is finally in the wind. 

LB 1048 will not be the last word on renewable energy legislation in Nebraska. It’s just a first step and improvements should and will be made. But LB 1048 is a watershed piece of legislation for our state and we need to be sure to thank our state senators for their support. And while we’re at it, we should also give ourselves a pat on the back for getting out front on this environmental issue, for hanging in there when it was still unfashionable to be ‘green,’ and for contacting our senators to give them a political nudge from a voter in their home districts exactly when they needed it.

Another reminder to all you environmentally minded Nebraskans, starting April 16th, with an open house for lead certification, and culminating on April 24th, is Nebraska’s 40th Earth Day Celebration. For a full list of events, or if you are interested in volunteering, please visit www.lincolnearthday.org.  Be assured there will be plenty to keep you entertained.  So please stop by Antelope Park on Saturday, April 24th between 2:00 – 6:00 p.m. to take part in our zero-waste celebration of 40 years of Earth Day.

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April 22nd 2010

Matt Gregory - Thank you Sen. Haar and NfP for all your hard work! Today I'm proud to be a Nebraskan.