Hoping to avert another government shutdown, Congress reached an agreement on a $1.1 trillion budget for 2016, with compromises from both sides of the aisle. The move has major implications for the environment, throughout the country and in New York State.
Most notably, the Land and Water Conservation Fund received three more years of life, following its expiration in September. Though the move has garnered praise from environmental organizations, it has received criticism for failing to fund the act indefinitely. The bill allocates $450 million to the fund, an increase over its previous level of $300 million, but only half of its earlier, fully-funded budget.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund, established in 1965, uses revenue from environmentally harmful oil and gas drilling and repurposes them for local governments to buy and preserve land and resources. It operated uninterrupted for 50 years until September, when its funding at last ran out.
In addition, Congress is working to pass $700 billion worth of tax breaks, including subsidies to green energy companies. The move will help to bolster wind and solar projects throughout the country. Further, the package would incentivize other environmental practices such as biofuels and electric vehicles.
Under the legislation, solar companies could claim tax credits at 30 percent of the price of a solar array. The credit will also apply to home solar kits. Solar credits will remain in place until 2019, at which point the rate will decrease to 10 percent by 2022. Wind projects did not fare quite as well, with a rate of 2.3 cents for each kilowatt-hour generated in effect for just one year. The wind subsidies will expire altogether in 2020. Nonetheless, the news led to an increase in stock prices for wind energy giant Pattern Energy Group.
“With any compromise, however, there are parts of the deal that have caused it to be labeled as a mixed bag. Though there are provisions that will boost renewable energy, removing the 40-year-old oil export ban could result in increased domestic petroleum production and has environmental groups seriously concerned about the consequences.”