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What is wrong with Senate Bill 1030?

SB 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...


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.

Trash Incineration

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

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.

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 logging.

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:

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