Last week the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), held a hearing on the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012 (CESA). Witnesses offered a variety of perspectives on the bill.

As discussed during the hearing, the EIA’s Analysis of the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012 projects an increase in renewable generation, a decrease in carbon emissions, and a hike in electric rates compared to a business-as-usual scenario.

Dr. Karen Palmer of Resources for the Future supported many of the EIA’s findings, but added that the small utility exemption — which exempts energy retailers with sales less than 2,000,000 megawatt hours — would “provide an incentive for groups of electricity consumers to create their own small utility, an unintended consequence of the bill.”

Duke Energy’s Keith Trent gave a favorable opinion of the proposed legislation, and said that arguments that the CESA picks winners and losers is a “fallacy,” adding “the utilities, working with the states will decide how best to meet their obligations under a federal Clean Energy Standard, using the resources that are most appropriate.”

James Dickenson with the Jacksonville Electric Authority worried that the standard would play geographic favorites, giving an advantage to utilities “that are situated to take advantage of geographic assets that more readily support development of solar, wind and hydropower.”

Thomas J. Gibson, president of the American Iron And Steel Institute, spoke of his concern about maintaining the competitiveness of the American industrial sector in the face of rising electricity prices. He also voiced concerns about the regional affects of the policy, noting that steel-producing states, like Ohio and Indiana, would be disproportionately affected because of their heavy reliance on coal. Gibson also pointed to the need for CESA to be better coordinated with EPA regulations, such as the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule, warning that the goals of each may in some instances be contradictory.

Read the full testimony here.

Do you agree with the witnesses’ assessments of the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012? How would you have advised the Committee?

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