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Governor signs biofuel bill in Newton

Credit incentive program extended through 2024

Published: Wednesday, May 25, 2016 11:32 a.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, May 25, 2016 11:52 a.m. CST
Caption
(Jason W. Brooks/Daily News)
Gov. Terry Branstad signs SF 2309 at the Newton plant of REG on Tuesday, extending biofuel tax credits until 2024. The group behind him includes, from the left, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Rep. Dan. Kelley of Newton and Sen. Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids. REG Vice President of Manufacturing Brad Albin is standing next to the governor, and next to Albin is Sen. Chaz Allen of Newton.

Continuing with other recent efforts to show his commitment to renewable energy, Gov. Terry Branstad signed a bill Tuesday that pleases many in the biofuel business — and he was able to sign it in Newton.

Branstad took advantage of nearly picture-perfect weather conditions to come to the Newton plant of REG, or Renewable Energy Group, to sign SF 2309. The bill, which had overwhelmingly bipartisan support in the Iowa Legislature, extends and modifies biofuel tax incentives that were set to expire at the end of 2017. The bill extends them until the end of 2024.

“We’re pleased to be here in Newton to REG, which is the leader in biodiesel,” the governor said at the event. “We’ve come a long way in the past 20 years, and we want to continue to have Iowa be a leader in renewables, be it ethanol, other biodiesels or wind energy.”

Branstad was joined by Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds. Their trip to Newton was one of several bill-signing ceremonies slated for this week as Branstad approaches Sunday’s deadline for him to sign, line-item veto or pocket veto legislation.

The governor was initially slated to sign the bill in Mason City on Monday, but his office announced he was feeling ill and couldn’t make the trip, so a Newton visit was scheduled.

All four Jasper County state legislators voted in favor of SF 2309, including Democrats Rep. Dan. Kelley and Sen. Chaz Allen of Newton. Also at the event was Sen. Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids.

There were several REG representatives present, including Newton plant manager Phil Abels and the company’s vice president of manufacturing, Brad Albin.

Albin said there might be a point in the future when incentives might prove unhealthy for the growth of the biofuel industry, but there is still momentum to seize in the next few years.

“We spend so much as a nation protecting foreign oil,” Albin said. “Petroleum has had incentives for 120 years. Renewable energy just makes sense.”

A number of modifications take place in incentives under SF 2309, many specific to the percentage of ethanol blend, sometimes varying between summer and winter. The Iowa Biodiesel Board announced earlier in the year extending the credit system beyond 2017 was its top priority in the 2016 legislative session.

Abels said there are 28 employees at REG in Newton, some of whom are college graduates. He said all his employees are technologically knowledgeable, and are trained in-house.

Albin praised the Legislature and the governor for supporting an industry that creates $2.3 billion annually in family income as a result of biofuel jobs.

“These are good-paying jobs — technical jobs — and our leaders understand this,” Albin said.

Contact Jason W. Brooks at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or jbrooks@newtondailynews.com