Sunday, January 2, 2011

Arkansas Legislative Update: Sustainability Bills Before the 2011 Arkansas Legislature

The 88th General Assembly of the Arkansas Legislature convenes on January 10, 2011.  While the dominant characteristic of the 2011 session is that it contains the largest incoming class of legislators in the State’s history, the 2011 Arkansas Legislature will also consider several pieces of legislation with the potential to significantly impact the Arkansas sustainasphere.

HB 1027: The Sustainable Energy-Efficient House Program.  This ambitious bill is designed to promote energy conservation in private residents.  It proposes to set green energy efficiency standards for all new residential construction, and for “major renovations” to existing homes.  The cornerstone requirement of the bill is that all new construction and major home construction shall be certified by the Arkansas Energy Office to show at least a ten percent reduction below the baseline energy consumption.

HB 1050: The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Financing Act.  This bill would allow electricity and natural gas providers to finance energy efficiency improvements to private residences and rental properties.  If it passes, residential consumers finance a wide variety of “energy efficiency and conservation measures” with a long-term, low-interest loan from their electricity or natural gas provider.  Eligible improvements include insulation systems, storm doors and windows, HVAC modification or replacement, and the installation of solar- and wind-powered systems.  Energy audits are also covered. Notably, consumers could arrange to repay loans received through an additional charge on their utilities bills, and repayment obligations stay with the improved property, not the consumer.

HB 1036 and 1037: Tax Exemptions and Credits for Purchases of “Renewable Resource Equipment."  This bill tandem would give make purchases of “renewable resource equipment” exempt from sales and use tax, and would give purchasers a tax credit of 20% of the purchase price against the purchaser’s income tax.  “Renewable Resource Equipment” is defined as “a system, component of a system, mechanism or series of mechanisms, support service, or a combination of these items that use a renewable resource as a source of energy or that offset or replace the consumption of a traditional energy source, including without limitation, electricity or natural gas.”

HB 1043: The Reusable Shopping Bag Act.  This bill would require most supermarkets and similar retailers to stop using plastic shopping bags.  See my previous post on this bill, "Will Arkansas Ban Plastic Shopping Bags" (December 6, 2010). 

Viewed together, it is difficult to consider these five pieces of proposed law as much of a sustainable legislative package.  But these bills are all in the very earliest stages of legislative gestation.  They are all flawed for various reasons, but they also all have the potential to drive interesting and significant innovation in the Arkansas sustainasphere.  I will be tracking these, and similar bills, as the legislative session progresses.  Stay tuned.

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