It’s been a busy few days for clean energy support here in Nebraska, the state that claims not only swing Senate vote Ben Nelson but also the fourth largest potential for wind energy in the country. Today, the Omaha World Herald, one of the country’s most successful newspapers, printed an editorial in strong support of a wind energy bill currently before the state legislature. This followed a Saturday OWH op-ed from seven prominent state clergy opposing Lisa Murkowski’s Dirty Air Act, which Senators Nelson and Johanns both currently co-sponsor. Also on Saturday, 45 faith activists gathered at a local Catholic university for a four-hour forum on how to green congregations and support climate change legislation.
The subject line of a recent 1Sky e-mail blast was “Murkowski's not finished -- and neither are we.” They’re right – as long as Senator Murkowski keeps trying to prevent the EPA from preserving the Clean Air Act, we need to keep standing in her way. Nebraskans have taken note. On Saturday, seven Jewish, Christian, and Unitarian ministers co-authored an Omaha World Herald op-ed calling on Nelson and Johanns to do just that:
In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court finally ruled that the EPA has the responsibility to regulate such pollution and that a failure to do so constitutes a violation of the Clean Air Act. To comply with this ruling, the EPA proposed new rules last year to enforce the Clean Air Act and limit air pollution from greenhouse gases. The Dirty Air Act — as written by energy lobbyists, introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and co-sponsored by Sens. Nelson and Johanns — would block those rules from taking effect.
Sen. Nelson says he supports the Dirty Air Act because of the “enormous costs and the detrimental impact on jobs and businesses” that new EPA rules would impose. We disagree and do not believe that job creation and public health are values in opposition to one another…
Some may question why we as faith leaders have chosen to speak out on what is often seen as a political issue. We support laws that benefit public health because all of God's children are created in God's image and should not be neglected. We support job creation because of what the Bible says in Proverbs: “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him.”
Interesting fact about the World Herald: according to Wikipedia, the paper “has for many years been the newspaper with the highest penetration rate -- the percentage of people who subscribe to the publication within the paper's home circulation area -- in the United States.” Its readership is further helped by the fact that it is the only major paper still printing two editions a day and that it owns the valuable URL omaha.com.
With numbers like those, when the World Herald speaks, Nebraska politicians should take note. They should especially take heed of today’s editorial, “Wind energy bill proposes sound course.”
Some of the questions asked by committee members during the public hearing centered on what protection landowners had if a wind farm went belly-up in the 10-year period before it was required to set up a decommissioning fund. Given the 90 percent contractual requirement, that doesn't seem likely. However, there is a small amount of risk involved. Several landowners said it is a chance they'd gladly take. As Jim Young of rural Kimball County noted, “It's less risky than farming.”
In the amendment to LB 1048 that will become the final bill, Sen. Langemeier outlined an unusual method of taxing wind energy facilities that would stretch out the tax benefits over 20 years. The provision exempts wind-related equipment from the state's personal property tax. Instead, it substitutes a “nameplate capacity tax,” applied to each megawatt of wind farm capacity, not each megawatt actually produced. The taxation method seems reasonable…
LB 1048 would reinforce a sense of cooperation, a willingness to work out problems and a welcoming atmosphere for investors and developers. That's Nebraska, and that's a fine outcome.
Finally, a crowd of 45 people gathered at the College of St. Mary on Saturday, the region’s only Catholic girls school, for “Sustainable Faith: An Interfaith Forum on Climate Change and Clean Energy.” I organized the forum on behalf of Repower America so I’m a bit biased here, but I was thrilled by the attendance and by the crowd’s passion. A lot of great networking happened, and we heard from some great speakers, including the Rev. Dr. Chuck Bentjen of Beatrice, director of the ELCA-NE’s Justice and Advocacy Ministries; Fr. Bert Thelen, S.J. from Omaha’s Creighton University; the Rev. Dr. Ken Moore of Lincoln, the regional minister for the Disciples of Christ and board president of Nebraska Interfaith Power and Light; and Deacon Betsy Blake Bennett of Grand Island and Hastings, an Episcopal minister and philosophy professor. We watched the documentaries “Coal Country” and “Preaching for the Planet,” and talked about what we can do to use our voices of faith to pass this legislation and save lives. It was a great event and hopefully just the start of a lot more to come in Omaha, Lincoln, and beyond. If you're interested in PDFs of the conference handouts, please e-mail email@example.com.
Ben Nelson – are you listening?