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Re: [hreg] Solar energy legislation in the Texas legislature

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  • Lourdes Aguinaco
    I heard on the radio that Gov. Rick Perry has stated he will open up a special session.   Is there a way we can send a note or something to the Gov. to
    Message 1 of 24 , Jun 4, 2009
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      I heard on the radio that Gov. Rick Perry has stated he will open up a special session.


      Is there a way we can send a note or something to the Gov. to request that the solar legislation be added to the session?  Is there already a petition or something that we can sign up for?


      Lourdes Aguinaco
      Director of Community Relations
      Akari Energy
      510 Bering Drive, Ste. 300
      Houston, TX 77057
      Phone: (713) 869-4656
      Fax: (713) 869-2656
      Toll-Free: (866) 972-2656

      --- On Wed, 6/3/09, Jim & Janet <jhd1@...> wrote:

      From: Jim & Janet <jhd1@...>
      Subject: [hreg] Solar energy legislation in the Texas legislature
      To: hreg@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Wednesday, June 3, 2009, 3:04 PM

      Texas must have the guts, vision and leadership to explore something new and implement a long term policy strategy.  To do so will take a collaborative approach across industries, educational institutions, government, non-profits and citizens. 
      While a lot of belated insight has been presented on this site since the end of the regular session, it fails to address the true underlying reason that the renewable legislative package that was so carefully crafted, and compromised on, failed. It could be blamed on the voter ID skirmish or any number of other distractions that occurred during the 2009 session, as well as the 2007 and the 2005 sessions.
      During the 2007 session, one where I and dozens of other TREIA members and renewable energy advocates and supporters, had converged on the State Capitol, spent days visiting legislators and their staff, at the Capitol and in less formal settings, began optimistically promoting the final version of what seemed like a well balanced and compromised package of pro-renewable energy legislation.
      After I returned to Fort Worth and my usual routine, I was contacted by a senior reporter from the Fort Worth Star Telegram and asked my professional perspective on some issue or another involving renewable energy. After answering the reporters question to his satisfaction, I mentioned the just completed "blitz" by TREIA and its legions of RE supporters at the Capitol. [I can use spin as well as the next guy.]
      I mentioned that I was frustrated and alarmed by the news article I had seen in the ST weeks before stating that TXU had in the neighborhood of 60 paid lobbyists at the Capitol that session. [Recall that this was the same timeframe during which TXU was pushing for the approval of the licensing of 11 new coal-burning power plants in Texas. Recall too that the Governor fully supported fast-tracking the bill to approve them before new EPA restrictions kicked in.]
      The reporter said, and I paraphrase; Jim TXU has currently got over 120 registered lobbyists at the Capitol.
      It suddenly became clear why, during that same TREIA blitz when someone asked if RPS legislation was included in the package of bills we were supporting and promoting, we were told that, again paraphrasing, the issue of the RPS should not even be mentioned during the legislative session because it would never see the light of day.
      The lobbying industry clearly understands the philosophy behind the bumper sticker that says "America doesn't need a third party-America needs a second party".
      There is a "3rd branch" of the legislature, the special interest lobby, which is so powerful, so well organized and well funded that their demands on legislators are almost without fail, supported over the wishes of their constituents. These well paid representatives of special interests will attempt to obstruct a bill from receiving support to carry it and discourage co-signers. Should that fail and a bill come about as proposed, a contingency plan would be in place. Committees would be influenced in advance to keep certain legislative subsets out of bills that otherwise would be approved.
      If that failed to stop a measure from moving ahead, severe steps may have to be implemented. And you can bet those Plan Bs and Plan Cs are in place long before the opening gavel drops.
      Voter ID was a perfect example of this strategy. Opponents used chubbing to delay passage of the bill while supporters blocked the option to reschedule votes on other bills that would otherwise die in the standoff. While this game of chicken was purely along political party lines, Legislators had no qualms about refusing to compromise and committing devastating acts of near treason to gain their political ends.
      Now\, think back several weeks to the scandal in the British Parliament where it was discovered that members were abusing their financial privileges. That nation was outraged. Thousands protested in front of their local Parliament buildings and confronted members at their homes and offices demanding their resignation. It worked.
      Years ago, French farmers drove their tractors and blocked major roads in downtown Paris to protest government actions against farmers. Loads of manure were dumped on the capitol steps to show their disgust. The farmers got what they wanted.
      What happens in the US when citizens are outraged at politicians? We read all the blogs and emails we agree with then go back to stare at the television to be informed what the official facts are. And by the 2011 legislative session, all but a handful of activists will have forgotten about their disdain generated during this session and the cycle will be repeated.
      Your Legislator lives, and maintains an office, in your local district. Is it too much trouble to walk into that office and tell the Legislator or their staff lackeys exactly how disgusted you are with their behavior? Can you announce angrily that you regret voting for them (even if you didn't) because of their support of corrupted legislative policies? Can you demand that they push for a special session to address the important bills of which they deliberately blocked passage?
      You could but why bother. TREIA, Union of Concerned Scientists, SEED Coalition, Public Citizen, ACEEE and all those other big non-profit groups will take care of it. After all you sent them a contribution last year, what else do they expect you to do. Or, I wrote a letter to my legislator or I signed an online petition in support of something once. If you think that simply voting will change things, go back and read the bumper sticker.
      Get mad, stay mad, organize, protest, confront the businesses that hire the lobbyists and publically expose and boycott them. Publically oppose politicians who worked against the best interest of the public good which is most all of them. Demand that local politicians support renewable energy (are you listening Southlake?) Get "important" people angry with you, that's the only way to make them remember and respect you. Smitty excels at this tactic.
      Join two or three of the above named organizations and go to their meetings and events. When you look at how long and hard they work promoting the public good, you will be amazed and hopefully motivated to join in their largely unrecognized effort.
      Change won't happen until tens of thousands of Americans get mad enough to make it happen. Our elected public servants won't do it for us unless they are pressured to do it.
      Jim Duncan
      Texas must have the guts, vision and leadership to explore something new and implement a long term policy strategy.  To do so will take a collaborative approach across industries, educational institutions, government, non-profits and citizens. 


      I take your comment to heart – I do know that TREIA has done a lot of work on renewables.  My experience, however at trying to get involved with TREIA around solar is that they are horribly resistant to change, do not study other solutions and for the last 10 years, have proposed the same solar solution, session after session to the Texas legislature, namely “non-wind.”  When I tried to dialogue with them on the in-efficacy of this policy for solar, I was basically silenced.  They are not inclusive of new people, new ideas and new studies. 

      I do not propose to have the solutions, but I did an enormous amount of research on solar policy for my master’s thesis on solar policy at UH law.  I discovered that in Europe and elsewhere there are 20 year studies analyzing and comparing which policies work for solar, which do not and why.  The results of those studies are extremely conclusive.  Texas is a perfect example of the failure of a Renewable Portfolio Standard to deploy solar.  TREIA refuses to consider such studies.

      I am critical of how we in Texas generally approach solar, especially our legislature and current governor.  Governor Perry frequently addresses groups claiming that “ Texas is number one in the country in wind and number two in solar.”  (TREIA has published his comment as well.)  While the first part of his statement is true, the second, in the context of generation from renewables is dead wrong.  Texas generates 99.9% of renewable energy from wind alone.  The Texas resource for solar may be second in the country, but its generation with that resource is just about last.  The Texas legislature takes an ineffective shot-gun approach to addressing solar.

      Texas as a state needs to study the experience of other states and other countries in implementing solar.   Texas needs to formulate a cohesive, long term policy for solar if it wants to truly bring solar industry and generation to Texas .  For the next legislative session, Texas should not rely on the Federal Government to present the solar solutions; Texas must have the guts, vision and leadership to explore something new and implement a long term policy strategy.  To do so will take a collaborative approach across industries, educational institutions, government, non-profits and citizens.   


      From: hreg@yahoogroups. com [mailto: hreg@yahoogroups. com ] On Behalf Of Andrew McCalla
      Sent: Wednesday, June 03, 2009 6:57 AM
      To: hreg@yahoogroups. com
      Subject: RE: [hreg] Solar energy legislation in the Texas legislature

      Tyra and Stephen,

      On this point you are both way off the mark. 

      I can personally vouch and account for TREIA’s efforts at this most recent legislative session, if not over the period of its existence.  While not focused exclusively on solar legislation (it is a Renewable Energy trade association, and despite my solar bias, there are others), TREIA spent more time than you can possibly imagine (clearly) on educating, strategizing, organizing, and supporting decision makers and action takers who were involved with these now ill-fated bills.

      Andrew H. McCalla

      Meridian Solar, Inc. (TECL:24461)
      4109 Todd Lane, Suite 900

      Austin , TX 78744

      P: 512.448.0055 ext. 103
      D: 512.410.3872
      F: 512.448.0045
      andrew@meridiansola r.com
      www.meridiansolar. com

      This communication, along with any documents, files or attachments, is intended for the use of only the addressee and contains privileged and confidential info rmation. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of any info rmation contained in or attached to this communication is strictly prohibited.  If you have received this message in error, please notify the sender immediately by e-mail reply and destroy the original communication and its attachments without reading, printing or saving in any manner.

      From: hreg@yahoogroups. com [mailto: hreg@yahoogroups. com ] On Behalf Of Tyra Rankin
      Sent: Tuesday, June 02, 2009 12:56 PM
      To: hreg@yahoogroups. com
      Subject: RE: [hreg] Solar energy legislation in the Texas legislature

      Thank you Steven, for having the courage to speak the truth.  I thought I was alone in recognizing that TREIA was not interested in supporting solar for Texas . 

      Que Lastima, indeed… everyone looses.


      From: hreg@yahoogroups. com [mailto: hreg@yahoogroups. com ] On Behalf Of Steven Shepard
      Sent: Tuesday, June 02, 2009 11:02 AM
      To: hreg@yahoogroups. com
      Subject: Re: [hreg] Solar energy legislation in the Texas legislature

      Thanks for the update.
      Another shot in the teeth for renewable energy here in Texas . 
      Que lastima.

      Thanks ASES and TREIA for throwing your entire support behind Texas big wind projects, large energy corporations, utility interests and generally neglecting solar and small wind.    We can see the fruits of your labor and the lack of support for renewable energy dealers across the state.  Lets see if the utilities will continue their donations to you so they can use your non-profit status as a front for their bogus green interests.  I guess grass roots support for renewable energy may be necessary after all.

      And the game goes on and on.  The band is playing while the ship sinks.
      Hey, but I'm not bitter.

      From: Jim & Janet <jhd1@earthlink. net>
      To: hreg@yahoogroups. com
      Sent: Tuesday, June 2, 2009 9:35:02 AM
      Subject: [hreg] Solar energy legislation in the Texas legislature

      ----- Original Message -----

      Sent: Monday, June 01, 2009 11:52 PM

      Subject: [hreg] Solar energy legislation in the Texas legislature

      I assume that useful solar energy legislation died in the last session. Am I correct?

      Thanks, Bill S


      Here's the reply via NTREG

      ************ ********* ********* *******

      > --- On Tue, 6/2/09, Jason Coffman wrote:
      > So what ever happened here? From what I can see,
      > this was never voted on. Was it killed in committee?
      > I see it went to committee on 5/30, but I don't see a
      > vote or anything that was supposed to happen on 5/31.

      Jason and everyone,

      This is a long reply, but well worth reading....
      At the moment, it's bad news, but may not be permanently so.
      This is a complicated situation. I was hoping to wait a few more days before reporting on the outcome, because there's a microscopic glimmer of hope it could yet change.
      However .. since you've asked .. here's where we stand:
      You're correct. The key solar bills we were watching never came up for a final vote, killing them (for now).
      Of 208 pieces of legislation introduced in the 2009 session dealing with solar and/or renewables in some form, only one made it to Governor Perry's desk -- a bill allowing homeowners to finance the purchase of solar energy equipment through the state, then pay for their purchase over the next 20 years by an increase in their property tax. With no other incentives, it may be difficult to motivate people to use this program when the up-front cost is so high.
      Now for the [possibly] good news.
      Many vital legislative actions also failed. Case in point: the vote to continue the Department of Transportation didn't happen.
      Legislation failed that would keep the Texas Dept of Transportation funded. The DOT will essentially be shut down if lawmakers don’t vote to keep it funded. That alone virtually guarantees a special session.
      Now then, Governor Perry is the only person with the authority to call a special session.
      He is also the only one who can set the agenda for the special session.
      *IF* he does call a special session, and it's a virtual certainty he will (if only to address the DOT situation at the moment), it opens the door for an opportunity to influence him to include other bills, such as solar. It also opens the door for him to include the voter ID bill, which is at the very heart of all the dissention in the first place.

      Many "IFs" here.

      *IF* Governor Perry calls a special session...

      *IF* he can be persuaded to include the solar bills in that session...

      *IF* the bills get consideration in that special session...

      *IF* the outcome is positive ...

      Only then will we stand a chance to see the solar bills become law.
      There are *many* people and organizations who will be working on behalf of solar energy to get the key "solar" bills included in if/when Governor Perry calls a special legislative session. These are folks you may have heard mentioned ... such as the Texas Solar Energy Industries Association, the Texas Solar Energy Society .. Environment Texas .. and many others.
      Realize too solar is one of possibly dozens of issues, all of which will have advocates and detractors pushing for, or against inclusion in a special session .. *IF* one is called.
      Will it happen? I don't know. All we can do is wait. If Gov Perry *does* call a special session, we can try again this summer to influence our legislators. If not, it'll be two more years.
      In closing, I'd like to add a comment I feel is indicative of what may be the mindset of at least SOME of our legislators:
      I spoke with an aide in Representative Terri Hodge's office a few days ago, during the waning days of this session. She (the aide) told me Rep Hodges was not in favor of the solar bills.
      I asked "Why?".
      Her aid told me she opposed the solar bills "because it would raise the cost of electricity to residential customers to finance the equipment".
      When I asked the aide if she knew how much it would raise a monthly residential bill, she admitted she didn't know. So I told her - only 20 cents a month. The aide's reaction? "Is that all?". Apparently Rep Hodge was also under the impression the increase would be large, but by then it was too late.
      Representative Hodge had been told it would raise electric bills. Apparently she hadn't been told how little the increase would be. Less than a penny a day.
      I have to believe this is indicative how other legislators' understanding of the situation must be.
      Energy is a complicated issue. One of the staunchest opponents to the solar bills is Representative Sylvester Turner of Houston .
      Why? I don't know.
      In closing .. the solar bills didn't die because they were bad bills. In fact, they passed the Senate on overwhelmingly supportive vote counts. 26 to 4 in one case. 27 to 3 in the other (if memory serves correctly.) They came out of committee with a unanimous vote in one case .. and only one member voting in opposition in the other. The support was there.
      So why did the solar bills (like so MANY other bills) .. fail?
      The solar bills failed to become law because our elected officials reverted to partisan bickering over one bill. "Voter ID." Rather than set the ID issue aside and deal with other legislation .. such as solar .. it became a "prevail at all cost with my point of view" no matter what the cost. Good legislation became the victim in the process.
      I've included three links below to news articles with additional detail on the overall outcome.
      My suggestion: Print them all. Use them for "bathroom" reading material. It's enough to make you sick.

      http://greeninc. blogs.nytimes. com/2009/ 06/01/solar- push-in-texas- fails/
      Same link: http://tinyurl. com/lhdusv

      http://blogs. wsj.com/environm entalcapital/ 2009/06/01/ texas-kills- solar-bill- on-last-minute- motion/
      Same link: http://tinyurl. com/kl8hfr

      http://www.chron. com/disp/ story.mpl/ hotstories/ 6453502.html
      Same link: http://tinyurl. com/maxfk9

      Will keep you posted.


      P.S. If Yahoo messes up any of the long links above, use the "Tiny URL" link I've provided. It's the same link as each of the originals, just shorter.

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