Public power policy development bill bracketed

Senators gave unanimous consent April 1 to bracket a bill that would require the Nebraska Power Review Board to broaden its public purpose evaluation.

Under LB965, introduced by Malcolm Sen. Ken Haar, the review board would be required to consider additional costs and benefits to consumers in addition to cost, feasibility, convenience and necessity. Haar said Nebraska’s electricity rates are on the rise while national rates are decreasing.

“[This bill] changes the intent of public power to include prudent consideration of all costs and benefits … for the common good of all Nebraskans,” he said. “It’s our obligation to have oversight on this. It will allow us to look at all the costs and benefits, including economic benefits and jobs for the entire state.”

A Natural Resources Committee amendment would remove language that would have required the board to consider health and environmental factors such as the impact of climate change when reviewing applications.

Haar offered an amendment to the committee amendment, which would have removed references to the Nebraska Power Review Board from the bill, while retaining the intent language.

Papillion Sen. Jim Smith opposed the bill, calling it a mandate that would hurt working families.

“Of the 8,000 megawatts generated in the state, 30 percent is already carbon-free,” he said. “If we go down this path, it’s going to force faster implementation of renewables at a cost to Nebraskans.”

The amendment failed to be adopted on a 20-19 vote.

Haar filed a motion to reconsider the vote on his amendment, but ultimately requested that the bill be bracketed until April 17.

Senators obliged with no objection, ending debate on LB965 for the session.

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