The Old Disappearing Legislator Trick

And Other ‘Magic’ with the Global Warming Bill

When the MacIver Institute called the end of this legislative session the ”silly season,” who knew it would include the “old disappearing legislator trick?”

Last week State Representative Ann Hraychuk suddenly disappeared from the Assembly Special Committee on Clean Energy Jobs, which was considering the state Global Warming bill. Republicans wondered where she was. Turns out she was off the committee.

Democrats said her removal from the committee was the result of a Republican request to make the committee membership less unbalanced. Republicans, strangely enough, don’t remember making such a request. They suggested that the Democrats were trying to shield Hraychuk from an unpopular vote.

Hraychuk said she was taken off the committee when she expressed concerns about a substitute amendment being introduced just two days prior to the committee vote.  Reading a bill before passage is just so passé.

Such haste in the pursuit of passing the global warming bill was evident in the actions of the Democrat-controlled Public Service Commission, which took a unique interest in the pending legislation. In the hours after the substitute amendment was introduced, the Public Service Commission quickly passed judgment on the 150 page substitute announcing it would save Wisconsin energy ratepayers $1.4 billion between now and 2025. The Evelyn Woods speed-reading graduates echoed the bill’s proponents flawlessly in their enthusiasm for the global warming bill. Or, was their quick analysis more ‘magic?’

Interestingly, the PSC analysis claims the substitute amendment would result in greater savings in energy costs than the original bill because the substitute lowers the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) for six energy providers and two wholesalers. It does not answer the question that if lowering the minimum required renewable portfolio standard will result in lower utility costs, why would having any renewable portfolio standard mean lower utility costs than if there was no standard?

The PSC analysis also still relies on passage of a federal carbon emissions tax to justify their claims of lower rates for electricity. It says,

Although bills increase over time for the average ratepayer under all scenarios, they increase more under the status quo than under the CEJA or CEJA Sub scenarios if CO2 compliance costs equal $10/ton or more.

Some in the legislature just aren’t buying the PSC analysis, including State Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker (D-Weston), who remains “adamantly opposed” to utility rate increases. When asked by WisPolitics if the current version of the bill does that, he said yes. He also said he does not believe the global warming bill currently has the votes to pass the State Senate.

Despite Decker’s belief the Senate will not pass the bill, Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan has scheduled a vote on Tuesday for the bill. It will be interesting to see if the Hraychuk story was a harbinger of trouble for the bill in the Assembly, too.

Business groups are not impressed with the PSC analysis, either. The Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group (WIEG) says the 25% renewable energy requirement will raise utility rates, despite what the PSC claims. Citing the necessary $15 billion in infrastructure investment that will be required to meet the renewable energy mandates, WIEG expects those costs will be passed along to consumers.

WIEG says utilities in Iowa and Minnesota are already raising rates to meet their renewable energy mandates. Otter Tail Power in Minnesota recently asked for a double-digit increase, with over half of that increase due to Otter Tail Power’s new wind power generation.

Rate increases are what legislators should reasonably expect. After all, no form of renewable energy as defined by the bill is cheaper than the current means of power production. If they were less expensive, power utilities would be using those renewable energy resources now.  By mandating use of the more expensive and less-efficient renewable energy sources, the state will guarantee rate increases.

Independent analysis of the state global warming bill has shown individual ratepayers can expect $1000 per year in higher utility costs.

Meanwhile, the provision allowing local governments to increase property taxes above the cap to finance energy efficiency projects remains in the bill, allowing local governments to raise local property taxes through the solar-paneled roof. The bill will likely result in 43,000 jobs lost. People building their homes will face new standards set by the state’s commerce department, raising those costs.

This bill is anti-employer, anti-consumer and anti-taxpayer. If there is one provision in the bill that sums up what Democrats are trying to do, this gem from the PSC stands out:

…the [substitute amendment] ensures that for the first four years following enactment an amount equal to 0.2% of electric utilities’ annual operating revenues will be devoted to grants and loans for certain, specified, small-scale, distributed generation (DG) renewable projects, with a preference for agricultural waste digester projects.

Yep. There’s a lot of bovine excrement about this bill. No wonder Democrats in the legislature are having a hard time making votes appear.

By James Wigderson
Special Guest Perspective for the MacIver Institute