With most committee deadlines having passed for initial action on environmental and energy-related bills, businesses are now sizing up how several important proposals were changed prior to the committees’ approval.     

For example, the Energy & Technology Committee’s HB 5385 no longer exempts manufacturing facilities from provisions in the bill that require the measurement and public disclosure of energy consumption data for buildings.   

While most businesses are working hard to be more energy efficient, many find the concept of mandatory public disclosure of energy usage troubling.

More storm damage

The committee also added many new provisions to the governor’s storm-response bill (SB 23), including performance standards and stiff penalties for telephone companies--even though their ability to repair infrastructure damage greatly depends on the repair of electric utility lines. 

The most punitive energy bill affecting both electric customers and their electric suppliers (HB 5542) now could cause a further increase in electric rates (through an increase in the “systems benefits charge”) to reimburse residential customers for the cost of refrigerated medications lost due to spoilage after a 48-hour power outage.

And that’s in addition to the original proposal concerning reimbursements for food spoilage after such an outage–for residential customers only. There is no recourse inn the bill for businesses’ loss of products or supplies—as it also seeks to legislatively limit ratepayer compensation of utility company employees.

Positives added

Many environmental bills also were modified before being approved by the committees from which they originated.    

Several positive measures were added by the Commerce Committee to HB 5342 –measures that would improve state brownfield programs and administration.  

And the Environment Committee narrowed its bill (HB 5343) authorizing new water company rate structures for encouraging conservation to “outside or other discretionary water uses.” This protects businesses that have few if any options regarding the amount of water they use or when they use it for production purposes. 

Legislators and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection agreed with CBIA’s position on HB 5343 that a section of the original bill that would have set a legislative foundation for a sweeping new spill-reporting law should be removed. 

The bill now establishes a deadline of Jan. 1, 2013, for DEEP to report and make recommendations on revising statutes that relate to brownfield remediation and development as well as the state’s cleanup standard regulations.

Storage tank funds

Meanwhile, the fervent debate over how to address the state’s failing Underground Storage Tank Cleanup Fund continues. SB 375 nearly died in the Environment Committee before the approval of a last- minute amendment that stripped the original bill in its entirety and substituted bonding authority in the amount of $8 million to restock the fund.  Further revisions to this bill are expected in the coming weeks.

For more information on these or other environmental or energy-related bills, contact Eric Brown at 860.244.1926 or eric.brown@cbia.com.