For those who may not know, ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group funded by the Koch brothers and their big fossil fuel friends. ALEC has been particularly interested in undermining solar energy. The fossil fuel industry worries that solar energy will become as cheap as wind energy which is already outcompeting fossil fuels. If renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels then the assets held by the fossil fuel industry will become less and less valuable.
The project that Rep. Garofalo takes credit for killing was designed to develop inexpensive, high-efficiency solar energy by using a new photovoltaic material and roll-to-roll manufacturing technology.
This project was one of six relating to solar energy that was recommended for funding by the Legislative Citizens Commission for Natural Resources, the group that recommends grants from lottery proceeds. Each of these six projects was deleted from the LCCMR package by the Republican controlled Environment and Natural Resources Committee in the House.
Here is what the five other projects that were deleted would have accomplished:
Create a research-based energy storage guide for small renewable energy generators;
Develop a new clean technology system to absorb and store solar energy during the daytime so the solar energy can be used at a later time;
Evaluate the use of solar for both generating farm electricity and for using the
shade from the system to promote animal welfare and increased milk production;
Determine whether targeted distribution of clean energy generation can replace or defer the need for transmission upgrades;
Develop and test the potential for robots to manage weeds in pastures as a way to reduce herbicide use.
You can see what Rep. Garofalo did last year in the April 12, 2016 post titled “Cheaper, more efficient solar. Rep. Pat Garofalo says no. Chalk up another gift to fossil fuel folks.”
If that isn’t enough, there’s more. The Republican lead Environment and Natural Resources Committee also eliminated LCCMR recommended grants that mentioned climate change.
This morning the Republicans published their spending targets. With the target given to it, the environment and natural resources committee that proposes the budgets for the various environmental agencies will spend $94 million less for the environment in the next two years than it spent in the last two years. I fully expect that there will be less for renewable energy too, but since that budget is covered in another bigger budget, we don’t yet know the exact dollar amount. Cuts here and from other budgets will allow the Republicans to vote for an enormous $1.4 billion tax cut package.
In addition, with its cuts to EPA, the Trump budget would translate to an estimated $10.5 million cut per year from MPCA’s current federal funding of about $22 million per year
Minnesotans–that is you and I–have 256,000 acres of right of way along 12,000 miles of trunk highway that provide habitat for monarchs and other pollinators and nesting birds such as pheasants. The right of ways also allow wildlife to travel.
While enforcement hasn’t been great, a 1980’s law designed to protect the habitat value of the right of ways says that right of ways can’t be mowed except in the month of August.
HF 124, now waiting a final vote on the House floor, allows farmers and other individuals to mow the entire right of way at any time of year and sell the hay or keep it for themselves. To make it crystal clear that the Minnesota Department of Transportation cannot determine how right of ways are to be managed for safety or public benefit, HF 124 prohibits MnDOT from requiring a permit to mow.
MnDOT is strongly opposed to HF124. The Farm Bureau, MN Farmers Union and the Cattleman’s Association strongly support it.
Another bill on a fast tract gives farmers who irrigate rights to water that no one else has. One would not be wrong to ask, what’s next?
The author of HF 124 says that there are other opportunities and public funding for developing habitat.
That’s true. Governor Dayton is working to find $150,000,000 to match $350,000,000 federal dollars for permanent conservation easements. This $500,000,000 program will put easements on an estimated 60,000 acres or less than a quarter of the 256,000 acres of right of way that we already have.