Senate Republicans reject DFL improvements to energy omnibus

The 2022 omnibus energy bill received its second committee stop this week when it was heard by the Senate Finance Committee. Despite several DFL attempts to make the bill better for low-income Minnesotans and for preparing the state for federal infrastructure funding, Senate Republicans continued to dig in their heels and refused to add any new spending to the bill.

The bill, which spends only $4.3 million from the state’s $9 billion budget surplus, does not include any funding to help permanently lower Minnesotans’ energy bills by investing in weatherization assistance. A DFL amendment would have invested $30 million in the state’s weatherization assistance program, which is available to Minnesota households making 200% of the federal poverty guidelines or 60% of the state median income level. This funding could have provided assistance for thousands more Minnesotans, but it was voted down on a party-line vote, with all Republicans on the committee voting against it.

A second DFL amendment would strengthen the state’s position to unlock federal infrastructure funding for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, which is going to require significant investments as more and more automobile manufacturers announce their intentions to move to fully electric vehicle models in the next decade. It too was rejected on a party-line vote.

The last amendment offered by DFLers would require the state to initiate a robust stakeholder process to create a plan that will help the state achieve 100% carbon-free electricity by the year 2040. With the recent report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stating that it is ‘now or never’ if we hope to avoid catastrophic climate impacts resulting from greenhouse gas emissions and subsequent global temperatures rising, forming a state-level plan to help do our part to cut greenhouse gas emissions is the bare minimum the state could be doing to ensure we do not pass the tipping point leading to irreversible climate effects. Despite the realities our communities face with climate-related severe weather, Senate Republicans rejected this amendment as well, claiming it is unnecessary at this time.

Senate DFLers have been leading on policy proposals to help Minnesota families cut their energy costs and reduce energy consumption in the state, and we will continue to do so despite the resistance of Senate Republicans. The bill was laid on the table and is expected to be included in a larger omnibus bill that contains policy and funding related to jobs and higher education. (SF 4269)