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House committee votes to stay green

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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Bill to end RGGI in Delaware tabled

A bill to end Delaware's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative died in committee following a lengthy hearing. The House Energy Committee voted 4-3 to table House Bill 86 on May 11. Three of the bill's 20 sponsors are members of the Energy Committee. Nearly half the bill's sponsors were Sussex County legislators.

Sen. George Bunting, D-Bethany Beach, was one of the primary sponsors of HB 86. He said the decision to table the bill was political. "I was hoping it would be opened back up for a good debate," Bunting said.

Bunting was a member of the original committee in support of

RGGI. "I still think it had a lot of merit initially," he said. Bunting said he is believes the program accomplished what it set out to do and is now burdening businesses with high energy costs.

Bunting said he is considering sponsoring the same bill in the Senate with Sen. Michael Katz, D-Centerville. "At this point, it's dead in the water," Bunting said.

Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark South, chairman of the Energy Committee, said the hearing for HB 86 was informative, but he believes RGGI is a successful program. "I think RGGI is doing what it was intended to do," Kowalko said. He said he did not support HB 86, but he did not finalize his decision until after the bill was heard. "It's not black and white," he said.

Kowalko said he failed to support the bill because he believes investments in green energy save

money in the long run. He also said there is a direct correlation between lower healthcare costs and lower emission levels. "In a way, RGGI is almost an economic driver at a low premium," Kowalko said.

Rep. Jack Peterman, R-Milford, spoke at a press conference in Dover May 10, in support of terminating Delaware's part in RGGI. Peterman, who spearheaded HB 86, said the bill is not needed. Peterman said a report from Caesar Rodney Institute showed three Delaware power plants -Edge Moor, Indian River and Delaware City - will produce 30 to 40 percent less carbon dioxide by 2014. RGGI's goal is to reduce emissions 10 percent by 2018.

RGGI is an effort made by 10 states in the northeast and mid-Atlantic to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The initiative aims to reduce carbon dioxide pollution from power plants 10 percent by 2018.

Proponents of the bill argue Delaware has surpassed the 10. percent goal, reducing emissions by 41 percent. The bill says high electricity costs are causing potential employers to leave the state or set up shop elsewhere. According to the bill, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Maine are also considering ending their participation in RGGI.

Delaware invests RGGI revenue into the Energize Delaware Appliance Rebate Program. According to RGGI's website, the program saves Delaware more than 1.9 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year, saves consumers more than $366, 000 per year and prevents nearly 2 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson, R-Milford, said before the hearing he supported the bill, but he expressed doubt HB 86 would make it to the House floor. "The bill's not faring too well in

the House," Simpson said.

Simpson said he has received letters from many constituents who oppose RGGI. "I think it's a good time to take another look at that whole initiative," Simpson said. "I think we've achieved our goals."

Simpson said his only problem with ending Delaware's participation in the program is reassuring those in the private sector, who made investments in solar and wind energy, fhat they would receive energy credits they are entitled to for their investments.

Original Publication Date: May 20, 2011

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