Republican “Clean Energy First” bill falls short

The Republican-led Energy and Public Utilities Committee this week devoted time to discuss the “Clean Energy First” bill, which attempts to move the state toward prioritizing clean energy. DFL critics call it a weak and insufficient response to the climate crisis, with some saying the bill could even move Minnesota backwards.

The bill would move Minnesota toward “clean energy first” by strengthening the state’s preference for carbon-free and renewable energy when utility companies need to replace or increase power, and by providing a flexible list of what types of resources can be counted as clean energy.

Several amendments were turned down that, if passed, would have made the bill more environmentally palatable. Various controversial provisions remain in the bill, including the lifting of Minnesota’s decades-old moratorium on new nuclear power and allowing nuclear energy to be counted as a carbon-free energy resource. Other allowable “carbon-free” resources that have drawn criticism include the burning of municipal waste, carbon capture and storage technology, and hydropower. Additionally, the bill has no “carbon-free by 2050” goal.

Ninety seven percent of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming and climate change. Collectively, there is roughly a decade to make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions or Minnesotans will face decades more of ever-worsening climate impacts. If the Legislature is to curb the worst effects of climate change, the Republican energy bill falls well short of the kind of response needed.

The bill is expected to be brought up again for further discussion and a final vote by the Energy and Public Utilities Committee next week. (SF 1456)

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