Renewable industries team up to push for farm bill funding

These solar panels at Heidel Hollow Farms in Pennsylvania were installed with financial assistance from the USDA. (Photo via USDA)

These solar panels at Heidel Hollow Farms in Pennsylvania were installed with financial assistance from the USDA. (Photo via USDA)

©2013 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission

By Amanda Peterka

The solar, wind and biofuels industries are urging the 41-member bicameral farm bill conference committee to provide rural energy programs nearly $1 billion in mandatory funding.

In a letter Monday to conferees, more than 100 renewable energy and farm organizations said they supported language contained in the Senate version of the bill, S. 954, that would guarantee $900 million in funding over the next five years for the bill’s energy programs. They said the programs, while a relatively small part of the farm bill, are critical for tapping the nation’s renewable energy and bio-based product potential.

Rural energy efforts run low on fuel as farm bill expires

Chuck Bushman's chicken barn near Castalia, Iowa, has 360 solar panels. (Photo via ELPC)

Chuck Bushman’s chicken barn near Castalia, Iowa, has 360 solar panels. (Photo via ELPC)

©2013 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission

By Amanda Peterka

Chuck Bushman Farm flipped the switch earlier this year on 360 solar panels spread across its chicken barn in Castalia, Iowa.

Each panel is capable of generating 240 watts of power for the supplier of organic milk and chickens. Some days, the solar panels are able to produce more power than what is needed, and the farm banks it for when the demand for electricity exceeds what the panels provide. The farm also has smart meters for the chicken coop and the rest of its buildings to monitor where electricity demand is highest.

The Department of Agriculture provided the funding for the project through its Rural Energy for America Program, whose mission is to help farmers and ranchers install renewable energy technologies and improve energy efficiency. Since its creation in 2002, the program has given rural landowners grants and loans for about 7,000 projects in all 50 states.

Rural advocates pressure Congress to fund farm bill programs

(Photo by Tim Lindenbaum via Creative Commons)

(Photo by Tim Lindenbaum via Creative Commons)

©2013 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission

By Amanda Peterka

Renewable energy and chemical advocates are putting pressure on congressional agriculture leaders to support robust funding for rural energy and biofuel programs as leaders head into a conference committee on the farm bill.

In a letter this week, 50 renewable chemical companies and trade organizations said the farm bill’s seven energy programs were vital to boosting farmers’ incomes and making America more competitive. The companies include biofuels giants Poet LLC and DuPont Co., as well as several smaller companies working to produce both renewable chemicals and fuels.

Environmental groups rally to support power plant rules

(Photo by Eben Regis via Creative Commons)

(Photo by Eben Regis via Creative Commons)

©2013 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission

By Jean Chemnick and Elana Schor

After three years of playing defense, beating back GOP bids to blunt U.S. EPA’s authority over carbon emissions, environmentalists are ready to up their offensive game in support of the climate action strategy President Obama will lay out today.

Long before the White House’s plans became public this weekend, green groups began quietly reorganizing a project that coordinated political message, strategy and grass-roots lobbying during conservatives’ ongoing attacks on EPA.

The new campaign, called the Climate Action Coalition (CAC), will have no easy task ensuring that greenhouse gas rules for new and existing power plants can survive industry and Republican opposition. But the environmental strategists behind it say they have learned numerous lessons from the collapse of cap-and-trade legislation a few years ago.

Tax writers warm to giving renewables parity with fossil fuels

(Photo by David Ingram via Creative Commons)

(Photo by David Ingram via Creative Commons)

©2013 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission

By Nick Juliano

A proposal to allow renewable energy developers to take advantage of a tax structure that has long been popular among fossil fuel companies is gaining traction among lawmakers tasked with overhauling the tax code.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), who is leading a working group examining energy tax provisions, praised the idea of opening master limited partnerships (MLPs) to renewable energy companies. The structures have been popular among oil and gas, pipeline and coal companies as a way to attract investors, but current law does not allow renewable companies like wind and solar developers to use them.

Legislation allowing wind, solar and other renewable energy companies to establish MLPs will be reintroduced in the House and Senate later this month, and the idea has emerged as a key focus of the renewable energy industry and policy watchers as Congress pursues its overhaul of the tax code.

EPA official: Carbon rules for existing power plants ‘on the table’ in 2014

(Photo by Michael M. via Creative Commons)

(Photo by Michael M. via Creative Commons)

©2013 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission

By Jean Chemnick

Acting U.S. EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe said on a call with reporters Wednesday that the agency would collaborate with states to curb greenhouse gases from existing power plants in an effort that would start in fiscal 2014.

On the call to discuss EPA’s new budget proposal, Perciasepe said the agency continues to review comments on its proposed new source performance standard for future power plants. The agency faces a statutory deadline Saturday to finalize the rule, but EPA hasn’t sent it yet to the Office of Management and Budget for review.

When the new power plants rule is finished, Perciasepe said, EPA looks forward to “working with states on existing sources, but we’re not there yet.”

He added, “But that’s certainly something that will be on the table in this next fiscal year.”

Wind tax credit debate simmers amid ongoing ‘fiscal cliff’ talks

A wind farm near Ainsworth, Nebraska. (Photo by Jerry W. Lewis via Creative Commons)

©2012 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission

By Nick Juliano

The ongoing war of words over the “fiscal cliff” that intensified this week left unanswered one of the most important questions for energy watchers: What will happen to a suite of expired or expiring tax credits?

The debate over those incentives, including the wind production tax credit and subsidies to promote energy efficiency and alternative fuels, has largely simmered on the back burner amid the broader debate over across-the-board tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled to take effect in January. That is still the case, although observers continue to believe they have a good chance of being included in a year-end cliff package, if there is one.