Energy on the move
One of the early bright spots in the Alabama State Legislature for the environment is a package of energy-related bills.
Each of the past three years, the Joint Legislative Committee on Energy Policy has introduced and passed energy legislation. Thus far this year, several bills have gotten the most attention. The Public Interest Energy Research and Development Grants Program (HB80/SB194) passed the House unanimously. It will create an executive agency to research and develop bioenergy and fossil fuel energy sources for the state.
The legislature passed this legislation two years ago, only to have it vetoed by Governor Riley, who believed the role of the program was already being fulfilled by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.
Another bill (HB127/SB288) would allow trucks with vehicle idling technology to exceed the state weight limit by 400 pounds. Such a change in law would allow trucks to install this technology and reduce emissions by increasing fuel efficiency. The bill has passed the House, and is moving quickly through the Senate.
However, bills that would impact average citizens have yet to move and will likely get resistance in a difficult budget year. One of Conservation Alabama’s “priority legislation” is the sales tax holiday on Energy Star appliances (HB125). That, along with a bill that would provide an income tax credit for installation of energy efficient equipment (HB126), are awaiting action in the House Education Appropriations Committee.
In past years, these bills have drawn opposition from the Alabama Education Association because the proposals would take funding from education coffers, although at a minimum level. With the state budget having more questions than answers, these otherwise worthwhile bills may be a hard sell this year.