Terrible news this morning: Governor Dayton has chosen to support the Xcel-driven "ignore the PUC and invest millions in new fossil fuels" bill, which is typically (and euphemistically) referred to as the "Becker bill."
For the record, the City of Minneapolis opposes this bill.
Here's the context. Xcel has decided - with the strong and vocal support of the City and environmental advocates - to close the Sherco coal plants. That's a win for the environment.
They approached the Public Utilities Commission to get permission to build a new natural gas plant in Becker. The City, environmental advocates and advocates for low-income people fought this idea. The PUC agreed with us, and ordered Xcel to go through the normal process in which they study alternatives, including renewable sources like solar and wind.
For whatever reason, Xcel wants to circumvent that process. So after the Republicans won the legislature, the leadership at Xcel saw an opportunity, and had written a bill to be allowed to go around the normal PUC process and build this new natural gas plant. That bill is moving through the legislature now, and will likely pass both the house and senate.
The only way to stop this would have been for Governor Dayton to provide veto the bill - but this morning he let everyone know that he won't be doing that.
This is a loss for the environment.
It's also bad for ratepayers, because we will bear the costs of this plant - which has not been proven, through the normal process, to be the most cost-effective option in the long term. It's bad for the PUC process, because it's now clear that elected leaders will undermine it anytime it provides an effective voice for ratepayers and the environment.
So it is odd that the Governor says that he "will strongly oppose any attempts to weaken, bypass, or influence the PUC,” in a statement supporting... an attempt to bypass the PUC.
It is also, in my opinion, a failure by Xcel to meet its commitments to help the City of Minneapolis reach our climate action goals. Investing millions of dollars in new fossil fuel generation is the wrong way forward.
It shows that the company's commitment to fighting climate change is superficial. If the people of Minneapolis had a democratically controlled electric utility, I'm pretty sure it would not act this way.
I also just have to share how disappointed I am in the legislature, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. I'm disappointed to see so many DFL votes for this awful, anti-consumer, anti-environmental bill.
And the Governor and Lieutenant Governor's statement is completely confused, and falls into the dishonest trap of treating this as a choice between coal and natural gas, which it is not.
It is a choice between natural gas and renewables. It is a choice between burning dirty fossil fuels and using clean energy. It is a choice between supporting planet damaging global warming or being serious about fighting climate change.
I agree with Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith that "we need to transition away from carbon, and keep energy reliable and affordable, and create jobs, and make Minnesota more competitive.”
This bill is completely opposed to those ideals. It does not "transition away from carbon," it spends millions of dollars locking us into carbon-intensive electricity generation for decades, and has not been shown to be more affordable.
I also agree with her that "the decisions we make today will shape our state’s future for decades." But unfortunately, this bill, and the legislature and Governor's decision to support it, will shape our state's future for the worse, and for decades to come.
Lastly, it's important to note that the senate bill, while bad, is much less bad than the house bill (and the original Xcel proposal.) It includes the reintroduction of some ratepayer protections, including steps requiring integrated resource planning and a rate case.
For more on this, see: http://cubminnesota.org/provisions-to-protect-ratepayers/