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Posts Tagged ‘Bloom Energy’

Settlement stipulates that Delaware’s renewable energy program must even the playing field for out-of-state companies

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 21, 2015

 MEDIA CONTACT: Geoff Holtzman | geoff.holtzman@causeofaction.org | 703-405-3511

WASHINGTON – Today, Cause of Action is pleased to announce that a federal court in Delaware has approved a settlement agreement between our client, FuelCell Energy, Inc., and Delaware Governor Jack Markell and Delaware state utility officials regarding the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards Act (REPSA).

Under the terms of the settlement, Delaware’s Public Service Commission (DPSC) must now allow competition across state lines with respect to fuel cell manufacturers, in compliance with the commerce clause of the United States Constitution.

Cause of Action Executive Director Daniel Epstein issued the following statement:

“Today is a great day, not only for clean energy manufacturers, but for innovators and entrepreneurs everywhere who wish to compete on an even playing field. This settlement should send a message to government officials that fair interstate competition is a cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution. Cause of Action is proud to have played a role in reaching this agreement, and we will continue to fight hard in the name of economic fairness.”

BACKGROUND:

In a 2012 complaint filed in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, Connecticut-based FuelCell Energy alleged that it was disadvantaged by the DPSC‘s special tariff awarded under REPSA to an in-state energy manufacturer and the associated State financial support for establishing in-state manufacturing that was offered to only one select company by the Governor of Delaware, without any prior public notice or bidding process.

FuelCell Energy, a global fuel cell company that designs, manufactures, installs, operates and services efficient and affordable stationary fuel cell power plants, argued that Delaware’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards Act, which was amended in 2011, violated the commerce clause of the United States Constitution, which prohibits state laws that discriminate against out-of-state competition.

Under REPSA, the State of Delaware only allowed bids on a State fuel cell project from a fuel cell company that agreed to establish manufacturing in the State, and the State provided financial incentives to support construction of the manufacturing facility, resulting in a sole-source contract rather than a competitively bid contract.

In April 2014, the District Court permitted FuelCell Energy to proceed with its constitutional claim.

The settlement agreement that we are announcing today will level the playing field for all out-of-state fuel cell manufacturers wishing to compete for business in the state of Delaware. Prior to this settlement, out-of-state fuel cell power plant manufacturers were prohibited from bidding on REPSA-funded incentives for fuel cell power generation projects, a violation of constitutional prohibitions on state-legislated discrimination against out-of-state businesses.

Cause of Action is a non-profit, nonpartisan strategic oversight organization committed to ensuring that government decision-making is open, honest, and fair.

CRI’s views: Although CRI was not involved in this lawsuit, we were very much supportive of it. Bloom Energy is a perfect example of crony capitalism, where over half a billion taxpayer dollars were promised to a company whose technology was not only unproven to work, but actually was proven to be even more polluting than the alternative solution, which was to build more natural gas pipelines and transmission stations in Delaware. Bloom did not even have to go through a competitive process to obtain the grant; it was awarded to them.

We hope this lawsuit will serve as a notice to Delaware’s state government that crony capitalism is not the answer to providing clean, affordable energy to Delawareans. We should support proven, reliable methods such as natural gas and nuclear power to reduce our carbon emissions and keep electric rates affordable. For more information on our energy plan, visit caesarrodney.org and click on the Center for Energy Competitiveness tab under “issues”.

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Every year, the General Assembly finds a way to balance the budget, as they are required to do by our state constitution, or at least use accounting gimmicks to move spending around so future liabilities aren’t held against the current FY budget.

This year, the state’s “in a pickle”, so to speak, or maybe something to do with scrapple would fit better. There is a budget deficit in the neighborhood of $70 million, which increased after legislators caved to state employee demands not to pay additional expenses for their healthcare policies due to a wage freeze for most state employees, a freeze which has lasted for years. Not only did they not make this move at the request of Governor Markell, but they added $21 million to the deficit with money we don’t have to keep their constituents happy.

Meanwhile, the state wants money to pay for infrastructure spending, cleaning up the waterways, investing in startups/businesses to grow the economy, paying for increased Medicaid and public education expenses, services for the increasing number of senior citizens retiring into Delaware, and so on. As spending goes up, the state is collecting less from casino revenue and  personal and corporate income taxes than in previous years. You can see where we’re going to run into problems, and we’ve predicted for some time that the next governor of Delaware is going to have a serious fiscal mess to fix.

So what do our elected officials have in mind to balance the budget? Some new ideas include: raising state income taxes on top earners from 6.7% to 7.6%, increase Delaware’s per-gallon gas tax, motor vehicle fees, and taxes levied on wholesale fuel deliveries to fund new road and bridge improvements, increasing the gross receipts tax, reduce corporate income taxes, eliminating the estate tax, and actually cutting personal income taxes across the board.

“There’s not going to be a split of these issues that will give us the transportation money and we’ll figure this out later,” Lavelle told the News Journal. “I didn’t fall off the banana truck yesterday. I’ve been fooled more than once down there and it ain’t going to happen again.”

Did you see what was missing among these ideas? Ways to cut state spending. This is how our state does “the water dance,” similar to how many indigenous tribes around the world pray for rain; they do a symbolic dance and hope the sky will open up and rain will just fall and provide much-needed water to grass and crops so they will grow and life can continue. Replace the actual dancing with accounting “dancing” (tricks), and the rainfall with moneyfall, and otherwise the concept is the same.

Now some of this has already been done; we know the state Department of Education is about to take a big hit, as Legislators have become increasingly opposed to the Governor’s education plan, which includes Secretary Murphy. Race To The Top funds are phasing out and school district referendums continue to alternate between passing and failing, which means some districts have found themselves cutting back on spending and hiring while freezing wages for some district employees.

Yet when we see the final budget, which must be passed by June 30, where else will the state consider making cuts? Senator Lavelle went on record suggesting that tax increase were off the table unless the prevailing wage law is reformed or repealed. Will Delaware Democrats be willing to stand up to their union supporters and change the prevailing wage law?

Another way the state could make cuts is to get us out of RGGI, which is a regional cap and trade scheme. RGGI does not do anything for the environment, but it does increase our electric bills by an average of $50/year per household, and thousands more per year for most industrial businesses, who have most of the remaining few manufacturing jobs Delaware still has. Will the GA make an effort to pull us out of RGGI?

Delaware has plenty of room where cuts could be made, the only determination will be whether they make them or not. In the meantime, please visit caesarrodney.org

for the latest news and information you can use to learn about our state’s fiscal situation and click on the “Impact Delaware” link to learn more about how you can make a positive impact on Delaware.

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Legislative Hall in Dover, Delaware

This article originally appeared at the Watchdog.org website on January 20, 2015. Read the original at http://watchdog.org/193657/legislative-priorities-2015-delaware-way/

Last week was the first week the state Legislature was in session, but they will soon adjourn for budget and finance hearings before getting back to lawmaking in mid-March. Five new representatives and one new senator took their oaths of office for the first time, but this Legislature looks almost identical to the last one: the Democrats control the governor’s mansion, the House of Representatives 25-16, down from 27-14 last year, and the Senate 12-9, down from 13-8.

Notably absent from the last General Assembly were bills to make Delaware’s economy more free as the state—well-known as the “Switzerland of America” for its easy incorporation process and fair Court of Chancery—faces competition from Nevada and North Dakota for corporate business and from the Sun Belt for jobs. This year the Caesar Rodney Institute hopes to see legislation to address the following issues:

1. Education Savings Accounts: Delaware has “school choice”-IF your idea of school choice is to allow a child to transfer from one public school district to another (provided that district has room).While that’s better than nothing, that’s not really school choice.

CRI supported a bill last year called the “Parent Empowerment Education Savings Account Act” (PEESAA) which would have introduced Education Savings Accounts as an option for low-income and special-needs students who are the most likely to need additional services not being offered by the traditional public schools. This bill was tabled in the House Education Committee but we hope ESA’s and other bills encouraging school choice are brought up this year.

2. Prevailing Wage (PW): Delaware has an insanely wide range of wages a that business who wants a public construction contract has to pay its employees to get the contract.

Every January the state Department of Labor mails out its PW survey to union-friendly contractors and conveniently “forgets” to remind non-union-friendly construction companies to ask for, and return, the survey. This results in wage variance like $14.51 per hour for a bricklayer in Sussex County, but $48.08 per hour for the same job in Kent and New Castle Counties. Not to be outdone, boilermakers get $71.87 an hour in New Castle County, but “only” $30.73 in Kent County.

These high rates prevent many construction projects from being started and make those which are done more expensive for taxpayers. If the PW won’t be eliminated, we hope the state will instead use the U.S. Occupational Employment Statistics survey. This would reduce rates by almost 40 percent on average and free up nearly $63 million of spending from the State’s FY15 capital budget, including almost $18 million for more school capital improvements.

3. Make Delaware the next right-to-work state: Delaware is not a right-to-work (RTW) state and, between that and our inconsistent-as-applied PW law, many businesses outside the state choose not to move here. Incorporating and buying office space in Wilmington for some high-paying executive jobs is one thing. But Moody’s Analytics in late 2013 said Delaware was the only state at immediate risk of falling back into a recession and a lot of this is due to more businesses closing than opening in Delaware. Pass legislation to end forced unionization and support pro-job growth policies instead.

4. Tax and regulatory reform: Only five states have a Gross Receipts Tax, which is a tax on revenue generated before profit and loss is factored in. Three of those states have no further taxes on corporate earnings and the only other state (Virginia) that does has lower tax rates. Between this tax, high personal and corporate income taxes, franchise taxes, and overall over-regulation by state agencies, Delaware is increasingly threatening its “Incorporation Golden Goose” as Nevada and North Dakota work to take business from the state. This needs to be addressed.

5. Work to lower energy prices: Delaware has electric rates 25 percent higher than the states we compete with for jobs like nearby Virginia. We import close to one-third of our electricity from out of state, the highest rate in the nation. Some of this is due to our geography, but a lot of it is due to the state’s failure to build a network of natural gas pipelines from the Marcellus Shale to Delaware.

Coupled with the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) carbon tax scheme and taxpayer subsidizing of “green” companies like Bluewater Wind (gone), Fisker Automotive (didn’t build cars in Delaware), and Bloom Energy (still has not brought the promised 900 high-paying full-time jobs), Delaware cannot grow its economy if energy prices are high. We want the Legislature to pass natural gas pipeline extension and end participation in RGGI and subsidies for “green” companies.

What issues do you think the state Legislature should focus on this year?

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 green·wash·ing

noun \ˈgrēn-ˌw-shiŋ, –ˌwä-\

the practice of promoting environmentally friendly programs to deflect attention from an organization’s environmentally unfriendly or less savory activities; a superficial or insincere display of concern for the environment that is shown by an organization (dictionary.com definition)

For those of you who have followed CRI’s activities for the last two-plus years, you will recall how we have publicly opposed the state’s cronyist deal with Bloom Energy to hand a private “green” company $529 million in guaranteed state taxpayer revenue over a period of 21 years EVEN IF THE COMPANY GOES OUT OF BUSINESS OR RENEGES ON ITS OBLIGATIONS OR IF ITS TECHNOLOGY BECOMES OBSOLETE.

On Monday, October 20, 2014 NBC Bay Area ran a six-minute long investigation into Bloom Energy and whether the company was misleading the public about its technology. The video is below.

<script type=”text/javascript” charset=”UTF-8″ src=”http://www.nbcbayarea.com/portableplayer/?cmsID=279873632&videoID=rX70SdgdBmnB&origin=nbcbayarea.com&sec=investigations&subsec=&width=600&height=360″></script&gt;

From the article:

“The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit analyzed performance data provided to the state of Delaware for Bloom boxes that power 22,000 homes in the state. Delaware is home to the largest installation of Bloom fuel cells in the nation, where the technology has been in operation for more than two years.

According to the most recent data available, Bloom boxes have achieved the 773 emission rate just three months out of a 24 month period. The average emission rate is 823.

The company declined numerous requests to discuss their carbon emission rate in an on-camera interview, but in a conference call Bloom representatives said the 773 figure is achieved when the boxes are brand new, noting that CO2 emissions increase as the boxes age.

“If the thing emits more carbon dioxide than they say it does then this is greenwashing,” Leveen said.”

The bottom line: The only thing “green” about Bloom Energy is the taxpayer money flowing from hardworking Delawareans, and even those who are not working, into the pockets of multibillionare business cronies and their allies.

If you agree please visit us a www.caesarrodney.org and donate today!

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