Critics of Wisconsin’s clean energy bill are calling for a sharper focus on specific job creation numbers and a detailed explanation of how much the proposal will cost.
“The cost is something we need to know and taxpayers need to know,” said state Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon. “I don’t think anybody’s against green jobs, but I’m not quite sure how many there are going to be.”
Fitzgerald joined state Reps. Michael Huebsch, R-West Salem; Phil Montgomery, R-Green Bay; and Scott Gunderson, R-Waterford, in sending letters this week to the secretaries of the state departments of Commerce and Natural Resources and to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin requesting cost and job tallies associated with the bill.
The bill, based on recommendations made in 2008 by the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming, is in committee in the state Senate and Assembly. The omnibus bill sets a course for Wisconsin’s future energy consumption, establishing renewable energy goals through 2025 and requesting changes to state building codes and vehicle emission standards.
The bill also encourages development of green energy power plants, and that’s a problem because many utilities don’t need the plants, said Todd Stuart, executive director of the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group.
“There’s already a ton of capacity at utilities around Wisconsin,” he said. “There are some cases here where if it weren’t for these mandates to build more renewable energy, there might not be major power plants built for another 10 years.
“Will there be jobs as a result? Of course there will be jobs. But if we’re going to make significant investments to the state’s infrastructure, we want numbers to inform the decision.”
Stuart said his group reviewed PSC documents, including analyses of the most recently approved power plants, and surveyed private utilities to arrive at a $16 billion estimate for power plant and transmission construction prompted by the bill.
“Is that exact?” he said. “No. But you start looking at some of these different factors, and the numbers get close to that mark.”
It’s too soon and unfair to sum up the costs of the bill, said state Rep. James Soletski, D-Green Bay.
“I doubt it’s going to be $16 billion,” he said. “And the reason I doubt it is because the legislation isn’t done yet. We’re in the hearing process now. We’re listening to what people’s concerns are.
“What’s out there now is not what’s going to be coming up for a vote on the floor, and I know that because there are amendments I want to see made.”
Soletski, one of the bill’s four co-sponsors, said there will be a cost analysis attached by the time the Senate and Assembly vote on the bill.
PSC spokesman Tim Le Monds said the commission just received the lawmakers’ letter and intends to respond.
Spokesmen for Commerce and the DNR were unavailable.
There’s nothing wrong with asking for specific numbers, Soletski said, and there’s nothing wrong with healthy debate. But, he said, criticism is meaningless if bill opponents don’t offer solutions.
“Look, I want to see the numbers too, and we’re working to get them,” he said. “But I also want input, not people standing on the sideline chucking stones at the back of our heads while we’re trying to do something.”