What is wrong with Senate Bill 1030?
would institute a sort of "renewable
portfolio standard" in Pennsylvania. Fifteen other states now have
these laws which require that a certain percentage of energy come from
renewable sources. Pennsylvania politicians have dropped the word
"renewable" and replaced it with "advanced energy" in order to become
the first state to include fossil fuels in such a policy. SB 1030 would
require that 15% of the state's electricity come from "advanced"
sources by 2020.
Why is this a problem? Read on...
UPDATE: SB1030 HAS BEEN AMENDED TO MAKE IT EVEN DIRTIER!
New coal power plants are now to be promoted
The coal industry is promoting 'integrated combined coal gasification technology' as an advanced energy source. Coal has no place in a renewable energy bill. Pennsylvania is already one of the nation's dirtiest in power plant pollution and does not need more coal power plants!
Renewable energy is required, but is voluntary on the part of the utilities
The Public Utility Commission, on their own iniative, or at the request of an electric company, if they determine that there is not enough renewable energy available to meet the RPS, can lower the obligation or recommend to the legislature that it be eliminated.
Very little new renewable energy is included, especially for wind
SB 1030 forces wind to compete with cheap existing hydroelectric power and other dirty sources, like the burning of unfiltered toxic landfill gases, and coal mine methane. At least 90% of the renewable energy requirement can be fulfilled by already existing energy technologies for the first 'cleaner' tier. This is if only 1/3 of the region's hydroelectric power is considered "low-impact," (for which there is no longer any limitation on the capacity of a hydroelectric dam, which was formerly limited to 40 megawatts). New wind power must also compete with a large amount of existing in- and out-of-state power generation,
leaving little market for new wind power. Developers of new wind energy will have a hard time competing against existing and dirty power sources.
Waste Coal and Coal-Mine Methane
Both waste coal burning and coal mine methane burning are included in Senate Bill 1030’s definition of alternative energy.
Burning waste coal is far dirtier than burning regular coal. Waste coal
burning doesn't make waste coal piles go away. For every 100 tons of
waste coal that are burned, 60-80 tons of toxic ash are produced. This
toxic fly ash is discarded near the waste coal piles in deposit areas
that are not required to have liners to protect groundwater from
contamination (liners are not required for power plant waste, though
our household trash receives this precaution when dumped in landfills).
The toxic fly ash contains many chemicals, which can leach into the
surrounding soil and water supply. Pennsylvania already has 14 waste
coal burners, with more proposed around the state. In addition, waste
coal burning adds pollutants and greenhouse gases to the air by
releasing carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and PAHs.
Cheaper and safer options for remediating waste coal piles exist.
SB 1030 also includes the burning of coal-mine methane, a
fossil fuel. Coal-mine methane is methane that is trapped inside active
or abandoned coal mines. A similar source, coal-bed methane
has been linked with soil and well water contamination, increased risks
of mine fires, buildup of explosive gases under buildings and homes,
subsidence, noise pollution and decreased property values. SB 1030's
definition of coal-mine methane is loose enough that full-blown
coal-bed methane operations may also be able to qualify.
All existing trash incinerators will now be included in the
legislation, creating an economic incentive to keep these
highly-polluting facilities operating. Trash incineration competes with
recycling and is a major source of air and groundwater pollution
through the formation of dioxin and the release of toxic metals and
acid gases as well as highly-toxic ash. This is also an environmental
racism issue in Harrisburg and Chester, PA.
Landfill gas burning is included in Senate Bill 1030. Further, the bill
does not require filters that would filter out the toxins found in
Landfill gas is roughly
half methane. The remainder of landfill gas is mostly carbon dioxide
with varying amounts of nitrogen, oxygen and assorted contaminants
known as "non-methane organic compounds”. Many of these are toxic
chemicals like benzene, toluene, chloroform, vinyl chloride, carbon
tetrachloride, and 1,1,1 trichloroethane. Many of these are highly
toxic chemicals, some of which can become even more toxic when burned.
If landfill gas is to be included in the renewable energy bill, it must
include a requirement for these toxic chemicals to be filtered out of
the gas before it is burned. The current bill does not require filters.
Animal Factory Farming
A loophole in the bill, defining "agriculural wastes", allows direct incineration of animal waste, like highly-polluting poultry waste incineration. Energy from burning gas from animal waste digesters can also be counted, with no limitations on the size or capacity.
The bill encourages additional confined animal feed operations
to be developed in Pennsylvania, which already has many hog factory
farms, and provides incentives for the existing ones to increase the
amount of waste they are burning so that utilities will buy energy from
them. Using animal waste methane for energy is polluting, releasing
nitrogen and sulfur oxides, particulate matter and carbon monoxide into
the air. Sierra Club recently passed a national policy
stating that animals waste digesters cannot be considered renewable
energy sources if they are on factory farms. Read more about digesters here.
Dirty Biomass Energy
The vague definition for biomass energy could allow for some inappropriate energy crops to be used.
The bill allows for energy to be generated from sources which include
genetically-modified plants and trees, trees which hasve been used to
suck contaminants out of toxic waste sites, or crops which have been
exposed to sewage sludge, wastes-based fertilizers, or halogenated or
metal-containing pesticides/herbicides. Planting trees to burn them for
energy should not be allowed in the bill. The current version of the
legislation also now allows the burning of wood wastes from pulp and
paper mills and the lumber industry, including highly contaminated
waste streams (like those containing lots of chlorine from paper
bleaching). This will also increase logging of our forests by
increasing demand for wood products that must be made up by new
Energy Conservation & Energy Efficiency
The bill contains several incentives for reducing overall energy
use. However, the definitions have problems. Certain combustion
technologies are defined as energy efficiency devices. Energy
efficiency should be limited to the purpose of the bill, which is for
electric demand reduction.
Abuse of Rivers
Pumped storage of hydroelectric energy is allowed to be
considered a "load management" technology, even though it's an
energy-wasting way to damage river ecology, in order to provide extra
electricity at certain times of day. This contradicts the low-impact
hydroelectric definition in the legislation. Large hydroelectric power
is also now included in the legislation.
Many more problems
The technology-related problems above are only some of the
problems with the legislation. The amendment that would replace House
Bill 2250 would also allow trash incineration to qualify and would
prohibit local governments from using zoning, ordinances or any other
regulations to limit any alternative energy in any way (including all
of the polluting technologies described above).
There are also many consumer-related problems, such as a lack
of protections against the consumer fraud of double-counting. Without
one of the 6 types of double-counting protection, green pricing
programs (people and institutions who are currently voluntarily paying
more for "green" energy) could suffer. There are also transparency
issues and problems with where penalty money would go.
For details on these problems, see: