A Wisconsin lawmaker is trying to derail a global-warming bill that is based on recommendations he helped make.
State Rep. Phil Montgomery, R-Green Bay, said he does not trust Democrats to produce a bill that mirrors recommendations from the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming on which he served.
“There’s a huge disconnect from me serving on the task force,” he said, “to someone else crafting a piece of legislation.”
So Montgomery on Tuesday went to the state’s Government Accountability Board to protest a settlement last year between We Energies and two environmental groups over the construction of the utility’s Oak Creek Power Plant and Elm Road Generating Station. As part of the settlement, the three parties agreed to support a bill based on recommendations from the task force.
It sets a dangerous precedent for environmental lobbyists to force a utility to support a bill no one has seen, Montgomery said.
However, the Government Accountability Board on Wednesday reported the state’s lobbying law does not prohibit such an agreement.
Keith Reopelle, senior policy director for Clean Wisconsin Inc., called Montgomery’s actions unfortunate and said Clean Wisconsin, the Sierra Club and We Energies agreed to support the recommendations because all three groups had members on the task force. If the bill differs from those recommendations, Reopelle said, everyone has the right to review it.
“I don’t know what his motivation is,” Reopelle said of Montgomery. “We’re talking about new industry and new jobs. This is a bill about reinvestment, and he’s trying to raise a red flag when all utilities, environmental groups, farm groups and labor groups found agreement.”
Montgomery said if We Energies’ support of the bill came only so it could complete its project, then it was like “negotiating at the end of a gun.”
But Brian Manthey, We Energies spokesman, said that was not the case.
“Everyone on the task force reached agreement on the recommendations,” he said. “It is something we support.”
Despite his involvement in crafting the recommendations, Montgomery said he is worried about what could end up in state law, including a goal for the state to produce 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.
Although Montgomery was a chief architect of the state’s 10 percent by 2015 goal, he said “25 by 25” might be unreasonable for utilities and businesses.
“There’s a cost that’s going to go with this, and the economic ramifications are scary,” he said. “People keep talking about how this is going to be a jobs creator. Well, show me the numbers.”
The task force’s report did not produce estimates on how many jobs the recommendations would create. But even in fields such as solar power that are poised to get more construction work, expectations for job growth are not high.
“We’ve doubled the amount of work we’ve done in the past four years,” said Chris Collins, spokesman for Madison-based H&H Solar Energy Services Inc. “But I think we’ve only added about three staff people in that time, maybe five or six installers.”
Nevertheless, state promotion of solar power will expand the market and could lead to more jobs.
Montgomery said he wants to help job growth in Wisconsin but will continue to fight the global-warming bill sight unseen.
“I want my input now,” he said, “not after the damn thing’s built.”