The worst environment bill ever follows the worst energy bill ever

The worst environment bill ever, HF 846, passed the House floor 78 for and 52 against.

A large coalition of outdoor and environmental groups urged House members to amend the bill or vote against it. They shared their specific concerns in a letter to House members but to no avail. The bill as passed avoids dealing with real problems and would make it impossible for the Department of Natural Resources and the Pollution Control Agency to make any progress on water issues. The bill includes the pro polluter bill described in the March 8 post–New Republican strategy: redesign government for the benefit of polluters.

My floor comments outlining my opposition to the bill are here.

The worst energy bill ever passed the Minnesota House

Last night (Earth Day) the worst energy bill ever passed the House floor by a vote of 73 to 56.

Before final passage, Rep. Melissa Hortman moved to amend the bill to include legislative findings. Specifically the amendment would have added  “The legislature finds that: (1) climate change is real; and (2) human activity that increases greenhouse gas emissions contributes significantly to climate change.” The Hortman amendment failed 58 for and 71 against.

You can see Republican Majority leader Peppin encourage members to vote no because the amendment is “ridiculous.”

The worst energy bill ever is on its way to the House floor

The worst energy bill ever passed the Job Creation and Energy Affordability Committee Friday night. (April 10) Only one of the “worst of the worst” provisions described in the last post was changed. The bill would still repeal the quantitative state goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But instead the “affordability” goal proposed in the draft bill, the new goal would be the level in an approved Clean Power Plan, which under this bill would not happen in the foreseeable future. The bill would still allow either the Minnesota House or Senate to veto the Clean Power Plan that is now in the process of being developed by the Dayton administration to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The bill will travel to the Taxes and Ways and Means Committees before reaching the floor. It does not appear that the bill will change in any significant way in those committees,

The worst energy bill ever sabotages solar. And that’s not all.

Rep. Pat Garofalo has introduced his draft Omnibus Energy Bill.   Since he is Chair of the House Jobs Creation and Energy Affordability Committee, his bill is the Republican bill.

The Garofalo bill incorporates the energy-related ideas and bills that had been heard in his committee. Rep. Garofalo then found more bad ideas to include. This post would be much too long if it did more than scratch the surface. So it just covers the worst of the worst. Two of the worst of the worst were presented earlier in committee so there are earlier and more detailed posts about them. The earlier posts are noted below.

In summary, Rep. Garofalo’s bill would dismantle most of Minnesota’s efforts to promote renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by repealing the laws that support these efforts. He totally sabotages solar.

In 62 pages he does a lot more, like proposing to make gifts to coal, the Koch brothers, and people wealthy enough to buy electric cars.

Before the worst of the worst, the back story needs to be told. The fight brewing in Minnesota is just one of many happening across the U.S. In an article entitled “Utilities wage campaign against rooftop solar,” The Washington Post reported on the campaign by utitlites and its fossil-fuel supporters to stop residential solar. The Post says that legislation to make net metering illegal or more expensive has been introduced in legislatures in nearly two dozen states. The Los Angeles Times article, “Koch brothers, big utilities attack solar, green energy policies” links the effort against net metering to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Koch brothers.

The worst of the worst:

One, the bill would repeal the quantitative state goals for reducing green house gas emissions and says the state should reduce green house gas emisssions “in an affordable manner.” Whatever that means.

Two, the bill would allow either the Minnesota House or Senate to veto the plan that is now in the process of being developed by the Dayton administration to significantly reduce carbon emissions in our energy sector by 2020 and 2030. The plan is being developed in response to the EPA’s proposed rule on carbon. Since the bill would allow the House or Senate to veto any other carbon reduction plan that might be developed, the bill is not a negotiating tactic, rather it’s designed for gridlock. (The post, “Coal: the Republican answer to global warming,” has details.)

This new strategy of trying to give the legislative branch veto power over an action taken by the executive branch is a product of ALEC, which gets a lot of its financial support from the fossil fuel industry. (The post, “New Republican Strategy: redesign government for the benefit of polluters”, has details.)

Three, the bill would repeal current law prohibiting (1) importing electricity from new coal fired plants in other states, and  (2) long-term agreements to purchase power from sources that would increase statewide carbon dioxide emissions. These  prohibitions were part of the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007 and were designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Left in the law is a prohibition of construction of new coal-fired plants in Minnesota. The upshot is that electricity from new coal-fired plants would be imported from other states where Minnesota has no control over emissions. (The post, “Vote repeals a critical part of landmark 2007 Next Generation Energy Act”, has details.)

Four, the bill would repeal the energy improvement program that has successfully reduced inefficiencies by electric users.  We do not know how much inefficiency is embedded in all of the things we do that require energy. It does seem that our utilities are dependent on a lot of inefficiency for their revenue.

Five, the bill would repeal the moratorium on new nuclear power plant construction.

Six, the last thing to highlight is by no means the least. The bill comes down hard on all things solar. It would allow the solar energy standard to be met  “through the use of solar energy or any other more affordable eligible energy technology” which, of course, is intended to gut the solar standard. The bill would also end the solar energy incentive program and change net metering.

The argument used by utilities and its fossil fuel friends against net metering is that it shifts costs to other rate payers. The anti-solar folks brought a witness from Boston to Rep. Garofalo’s committee who made that argument. However, he was very selective in the data he used and excluded the solar benefits of reducing air pollution and greenhouse gasses. Our Pollution Controal Agency estimates that air pollution costs Minnesota $30 billion a year. The “b” is not a typo.

A welcome story on an unwelcome problem, contaminated drinking water wells

Tony Kennedy of the StarTribune uses Governor Dayton’s visit to Worthington to raise the issue of drinking water contamination from farm chemicals citing the problem in a town just west of Worthington. Governor Dayton’s trip to Worthington centered on buffer strips to protect surface waters. Minnesotans are well aware of surface water problems. The media has covered the story well. But the same can’t be said about the wide spread contamination of both municipal and private wells by those same farm chemicals. The issue is just barely coming to light. I am hoping for more media coverage. We need a public discussion before we can get to problem solving.

MPR’s timely report, “Minnesota farm lobbyist flex new political muscle”

In the last blog post, “Pollinators: under attack by lobbyists and legislators alike,” one of the examples I cited was the adoption of a Senator Dahms amendment to delete key language supporting pollinators. According to MPR, Senator Dahms’ amendment to remove the definition of a “pollinatory lethal insecticide” from state statute “has the backing of the pesticide industry.” It seemed like the attacks on pollinator friendly legislation were coordinated. The MPR report adds weight to that observation.

The quote from Rep. Rick Hansen is further telling, “(t)he money is the pollution in the system here in the Minnesota Legislature and it’s getting worse.”