Two years ago, when regulators gave Entergy Louisiana the green light to buy power from a new utility-scale solar plant in West Baton Rouge Parish, the power company’s CEO hailed it as a win for customers and for the environment.
But the push to build solar plants in Louisiana has been drawing increasing scrutiny since then, mostly from farmers who fear being crowded out of land leases by solar companies with deeper pockets.
In recent months, several parishes have issued moratoriums on utility-scale solar projects. And some legislative leaders took aim at solar developments in the recently ended legislative session, asking the Louisiana Economic Development agency to halt property tax breaks for such projects.
Just about everyone involved hopes a bill passed by Sen. Bret Allain, R-Franklin, to require the state Department of Natural Resources craft regulations for utility-scale solar plants will help resolve the issues. Still, proponents of solar worry the pushback will have a chilling effect on the nascent but fast-growing industry.
It’s unclear exactly what impact the resolutions passed by lawmakers will have in the meantime. House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, sponsored a resolution that asks the Louisiana Economic Development agency, called LED, to halt tax incentives for solar projects through the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program until next summer.
Anya Hudnall, a spokesperson for LED, said the agency will “begin discussions on the extent of the potential impact” and let the Board of Commerce and Industry, which votes on industrial tax breaks, review it.
“LED and Gov. (John Bel) Edwards are generally supportive of and encourage and invite renewable energy investments in our state as we work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with full recognition that Louisiana is on the frontlines of climate change,” Hudnall said.
Senate President Pro Tem Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, passed another resolution calling for a public hearing, which is tentatively scheduled for June 29, where farmers and others concerned about solar developments can air their grievances.
Mizell, who didn’t respond to requests for comment, said during the debate over the issue in the Legislature that farmers in her area of…
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