Saturday, March 17, 2012

PASEIA Update from Harrisburg - HB1580

It’s been a little over two months since House Consumer Affairs Committee Chair Representative Robert Godshall (R-Montgomery) held a hearing on HB #1580. Since then, PASEIA and SEIA have been working with our chief sponsor, Representative Chris Ross (R-Chester) on a compromise amendment with the hopes of getting the bill voted on. First it has to go through Godshall’s Consumer Affairs Committee and ultimately be voted by the full House before it goes off to the Senate. At least, that’s the current plan. After two months of hard, hard work, we are beginning to see the fruits of our efforts but we are certainly not home yet. We have had a series of good meetings with the Chairman of the Public Utility Commission, Robert Powelson and several of the commissioners about the new compromise amendment. The amendment is the reason we are picking up a little momentum on the bill which until lately has been completely stalled. It is being seen favorably because it is addressing several of the concerns over the bill that we keep hearing over and over. The PUC chairman suggested another amendment but this time it is one I think we can (or should) all support. We are working to finalize that language and should have a final version later this week. The new amendment adds consumer protection language to the bill that would require solar developers to inform potential solar customers about the volatility of pricing SRECS. Since PASEIA’s code of conduct includes language about solar installers giving honest, accurate information on SREC pricing, this seems like a no-brainer.

Getting the PUC Chairman on board is a huge step forward for the industry and this wouldn’t have happened without the compromise that was crafted recently. We are also getting help for the Governor’s Energy staff. PASEIA completely understands that most of us would prefer to close the borders to out of state projects, but if we stayed with our original position, it was made crystal clear that the Governor would not sign the bill. Thanks very much to the solar folks for continuing to support PASEIA in this difficult negotiation. A legislative victory will help us work from a position of strength in other government arenas going forward .

We’ve also been working on the Senate side, meeting many of the senators and their staff, and getting them up to speed with Sen. Argall’s SB1350, as well as HB1580 – to date, we have 18 Senators in support of the bill. The main difference between Ross’ bill and Argall’s bill is the closing of the borders language – SB1350 still includes that language.

We are not asking members to take any particular action right now except if you haven’t paid your dues or followed through on your pledge to help us, it is vitally important you do so today. We need you to follow through on your commitments. We are asking others to do so. We are looking at a June horizon at this point and if we don’t succeed by the end of June, it is highly unlikely we will try again in the Fall. The legislature will be out most of April but we have the rest of March and the first week of April to continue to make progress before they break for the Primary. We are working both the House and Senate simultaneously right now but we’re not asking you to come out to Harrisburg at this point. We know your time is valuable so we are relying on our lobbyist and a few of the solar companies who have donated much time to this effort.

Our efforts don’t stop at the legislature or even the PUC. We are working with others including meeting with the PA Chamber of Commerce and the state Energy Association of PA who are long-time opponents of giving solar energy any “special treatment” (their language). We think we are making progress and should know more in the next few weeks. We are also hoping to re-energize the environmental community now that the Marcellus Shale impact fee has passed. We are beginning to talk to the unions. After all, jobs are involved and union members have also benefitted from solar.

As always, PASEIA needs your support in whatever way you can give it. If you can’t give time, give money. If you can’t give money, give of your time. There are always things to do to strengthen our position and our trade organizations. If you asked me a month ago if the bill would pass, I would have said the odds were getting slim, but this is a new day and things may be turning around. If they do, we’ll need your support. Hang in there. We are.

Please help us win this!! Contributions can be made on line at

Maureen Mulligan and Ron Celentano