Earlier this month I attended an Environmental Issues and Green Jobs Town Hall Meeting in Bensalem. I had intended to expand it with related articles and other materials but time has not allowed this at present. That will have to go in another post at a later date.
As always, these are rough notes, and being interpreted a little over 20 weeks after the event. In trying to get the gist and yet maintain the authenticity of the comments made, some detail is lost. Apologies in advance for any errors or misinterpretations.
May 7, 2008, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Bensalem Municipal Township Building
The focus of the meeting was two bills currently in the Pennsylvania legislature. One is House Bill 2200 (bill text / PennFuture fact sheet):
House Bill 2200 is landmark energy conservation legislation that will save families and businesses money and create jobs. It will move Pennsylvania to the national forefront of the clean energy economy, protest our environment, and reduce the need to build new power plants and transmission lines.
The bill creates new electricity conversation program sin each utility service territory that would give business and residential consumers the tools to save about 20 percent on their electric bill. Without such programs, demand for electricity will increase at the current rate, about 1.5 percent each year.
The other is Special Session House Bill 1(bill text / PennFuture fact sheet):
Special Session House Bill 1 (SHB 1) provides $850,000,000 for the development of solar and wind power, energy conservation, green buildings, and rebates to consumers who replace old appliances with new energy efficient ones. The funding would come from a clean energy bond, financed by a portion of the existing gross receipts tax.
The bill ensures critical investments in clean energy technologies such as solar and wind power, and in energy efficiency and green buildings. In order to compete with other states that are also vying to attract clean energy businesses, these incentives must be available soon, over the next four to six years, when many clean energy companies will be making business decisions about where to locate.
John Hangar, President and CEO, PennFuture spoke first. He said both bills have passed in the house and are now in the senate (update, on May 13 a hearing was scheduled). Sen. Tomlinson is chair of the committee they will be introduced into.
Mike Russo, President of Local 4889, United Steelworkers spoke next.
Many Gamesa workers were under or unemployed before working at Gamesa. The Polycom plant may be located on the same site. It will be the largest US solar collector east of the Mississippi.
Rick Ewing of the Lower Makefield Township Environmental Advisory Council took the floor. He talked about energy audits and finding simple things to do to reduce carbon footprints.
Bensalem Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo was not on the program but spoke anyway. His nephew is State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo. He said the new police building is likely to be solar. They are also looking at smart cars and rain gardens.
Governor Ed Rendell arrived looking tanned and wearing glasses and a flag pin. The previous Friday he received an email from a local company saying they were moving out of Pennsylvania because they didn’t know what would happened when the utility rate caps came off in 2010. The only way we can meet the energy demand by 2025 is to conserve or find new energy sources (or both). One simple way to reduce energy use is to keep air pressure in your car tires at the correct level and keep car oil filters clean.
HB 1202 invests in home grown alternatives, biofuels and ethanol. For biofuels, Pennsylvania is producing 40% of all of the biofuels produced in the US. The rise in food costs is due to the increase in fuel costs, not using corn for ethanol. A bill in the US senate will shift to cellulosic ethanol. The ethanol plant in Clearfield County is producing part corn and part cellulosic ethanol.
[blogger's note: As usual the governor was very well prepared with facts, figures, and details that it is very difficult to write down accurately while he is speaking.]
Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (who also took the stage) scheduled a hearing on 5/13 and said this bill is a priority.