The Nebraska Legislature is back in session as of Wednesday, January 3rd, and State Senators have already introduced 506 bills. The Legislature is only in session for 60 days this year, which means that we have to be diligent in getting good conservation bills passed and anti-environment legislation stopped.
We have already put nine bills and one constitutional amendment on our Conservation Watchlist for their potential impact on Nebraska’s environment. Here are some of the most important conservation bills that have been introduced so far this session:
Renewable Energy & Public Power:
LB722: Introduced by Sen. Wayne
This bill would require “certain public power and irrigation districts” to meet a 20% renewable energy generation requirement by the year 2020. This bill seems to primarily affect the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), as the requirement would only apply to public power districts that have more than 50% of all of the total number of counties in Nebraska in their territory. This bill would be good for Nebraska, considering NPPD lags far behind the other major public power districts in the state in terms of renewable energy generation. While the Omaha Public Power District and Lincoln Electric System are looking at having 50% of their energy come from renewable resources, NPPD is around 10%. At this point in the legislative session, with the information available, NLCV is supportive of this bill.
LB723: Introduced by Sen. Wayne
This bill would increase the capacity limit of distributed renewable energy systems, such as a residential solar project. Right now, a residential solar system’s size is limited to 25kw. This bill would increase the size that the solar project could be to 100kw. Passage of this bill would be good news for renewable energy supporters in Nebraska. At this point in the legislative session, with the information available, NLCV is supportive of this bill.
LB752: Introduced by Sen. Brewer
This bill would prohibit Public Power Districts from acquiring right of way for electrical power lines for the purpose of allowing a third party to utilize the infrastructure. This bill would limit the options Public Power Districts have for meeting the needs of their customers, and could potentially limit the extent to which wind energy can be developed in Nebraska. At this point in the legislative session, with the information available, NLCV is opposed to this bill.
LB762: Introduced by Sen. Hughes
This bill would extend the Waste Reduction and Recycling Incentive Fund’s scrap tire recycling program to 2024. Funds for this recycling initiative currently expire in 2019. At this point in the legislative session, with the information available, NLCV is supportive of this bill.
LB769: Introduced by Senator Quick
This bill would adopt the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact (MIPRC). The MIPRC’s goal is to improve passenger rail in the Midwest. States included in the MIPRC footprint include Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wisconsin. Transportation is plays a major in air pollution in the United States. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “27% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions is from transportation, and transportation is the second leading source of GHG emissions in the United States, just behind electricity.” And the impact of the transportation sector is only growing. The EPA states that “between 1990 and 2015, GHG emissions in the transportation sector increased more in absolute terms than any other sector.” Passenger rail can serve as a cleaner transportation option than car or plane, if used effectively. At this point in the legislative session, with the information available, NLCV is supportive of this bill.
LB808: Introduced by Senator Harr
This bill would rename the Community Gardens Act and add language that better incorporates urban agriculture. In addition to providing local food options, urban agriculture and community gardens are tools that communities can use to moderate the environmental impact of rainfall, erosion, temperature change, and solar radiation in urban settings. At this point in the legislative session, with the information available, NLCV is supportive of this bill.
LB973: Introduced by Senator Crawford
LB974: Introduced by Senator Vargas
LB975: Introduced by Senator Howard
LB973, LB974, and LB975 all relate to redistricting in Nebraska. LB973 would require that the new districts be drawn using state-issued computer software; LB974 would require that the redistricting utilize politically neutral criteria, including prohibiting the use of political affiliation, demographic information, or previous voting data; and LB975 encompasses both as part of its Redistricting Act. All three Senators listed above (Crawford, Vargas, and Howard) are listed as co-sponsors on each piece of legislation. Racial and partisan gerrymandering have a long history in the United States, and are used to limit the political power of whichever group is not in power during the time of redistricting. At this point in the legislative session, with the information available, NLCV is supportive of these bills.
LR269CA: This resolution proposes to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot during the November 2018 election that would “authorize the Legislature to delegate complete or partial sovereignty to one area of the state.” More information needs to be gathered before we understand the full scope of the legislation, but NLCV has concerns with this proposed Constitutional Amendment.
State Senators have the first ten days of session to introduce bills, and have already started to hold hearings. We send Legislative updates every Monday with the most up-to-date information and action alerts. To receive these emails, sign up to receive the legislative update here: http://bit.ly/2DbBJAo