Governor’s Energy Initiative

In a continued effort to lead the nation in climate change and global warming initiatives, Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced his 2008 energy plan last week with the goal of reducing greenhouse gasses and encouraging local renewable energy projects. In addition to passing the most aggressive renewable energy standards in the nation last session, Pawlenty’s new initiatives are designed to help Minnesota “continue to lead the energy revolution in a thoughtful manner that both protects Minnesota’s environment and economic prosperity,” according to Gov. Pawlenty.

By executive order, Pawlenty established a Clean Energy Technology Collaborative and declared that the state’s energy division be renamed the Office of Energy Security. The Collaborative, composed of fifteen appointees by the governor, will help ensure that Minnesota reaches its goal of obtaining 25% of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2025. They will include scientists and representatives from the Dept. of Agriculture, Dept. of Employment and Economic Development, the Pollution Control Agency, and Minnesota’s universities.

The new Office of Energy Security will be created to assist the public in accessing information and resources on energy and climate issues. Gov. Pawlenty appointed Commerce Dept. Deputy Commissioner Edward Garvey as the new director.

Pawlenty’s other proposals include the creation of a Carbon Market Planning Authority, housed within the Office of Energy Security, and the Minnesota Local Renewable Energy Initiative, which will assist Minnesotans in becoming more energy-efficient in their homes, farms and businesses with small-scale renewable resources. The Carbon Market Planning Authority, composed of six appointed members, will study the possibility of a carbon market exchange and a carbon market credit. Both proposals will be introduced by the Governor during the 2008 session.

While DFL leaders were generally supportive of the Governor’s proposals, some felt his initiatives didn’t reach broadly enough nor did it contain a transit funding component, which transportation advocates felt was imperative in reducing greenhouse gases. Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Minneapolis), chair of the Minnesota House Environment Finance Committee, is concerned that reductions in the transportation sector need to be more aggressively pursued than what the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group (MCCAG), a group created under the guidance of the Governor’s office, is proposing.

Sen. Ellen Anderson (DFL-St. Paul), chair of the Senate Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Budget Committee, stated that they are working on a parallel track with MCCAG and that while they may take some suggestions from the final report, there will be a separate carbon-reduction bill put forward, possibly including a cap and trade system for the state.

To view the Governor’s press release, go to http://www.governor.state.mn.us/mediacenter/pressreleases/PROD008626.html  

For more information on the energy proposals, click on http://www.startribune.com/politics/state/13877447.html  

Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group Makes Recommendations

The Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group (MCCAG), a diverse group of 56 members appointed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty last spring and representing business, environment and community organizations, put forward its final recommendations on ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and other contributors to global warming. Over the last ten months, the group considered upwards of 300 proposals that have been whittled down to approximately 50. The recommendations contain overarching proposals, as well as initiatives targeted to specific sectors, including transportation; agriculture, forestry and waste management; energy supply; and residential, commercial and industrial.

Among the most noteworthy recommendations is for Minnesota to join a regional “cap and trade” program. This means that overall carbon emissions would be limited, and companies could either emit up to their limit, or if they are a lower emitter, sell their excess emissions to another company that has the potential to release more emissions than they are allowed. Beyond agreeing that this is an approach that needs to be applied regionally and across all segments of the economy, the MCCAG members were divided about how to proceed with other aspects of implementation, including whether or not companies should be given an allowance of emissions or whether they should buy them at auction; if offsets could be counted against a company’s cap; and whether there should be a safety valve to suspend the program if prices became too high.

Beyond cap and trade, other controversial recommendations garnering attention include:

  • requiring automobiles sold in Minnesota to meet California Air Resource Board (CARB) emissions standards, which are currently being litigated;
  • setting carbon limits for new coal-fired power plants (with the exception of Big Stone II and Mesaba, since they have already begun the permitting process);
  • reducing speed limits to 60 mph on rural freeways and 55 mph in metropolitan areas; and displacing 35% of the state’s gasoline consumption with biofuels.

All of these recommendations have been forwarded to the Governor’s office for his review. In turn, he will forward the ideas he endorses to the legislature for its consideration. With a number of proposals on the table, the energy debate promises to ignite some sparks among members.

Important Dates

February 12, 2008: The legislative session begins

February 28, 2008: February Forecast is released

It is our understanding that the following committee deadline schedule is being considered by legislative leadership. This proposed schedule is subject to change and will not be agreed to or finalized until legislative leadership returns to the Capitol in February and adopts a final deadline schedule.

  • March 14, 2008: First policy deadline
  • March 19, 2008: Second policy deadline
  • March 28, 2008: Third policy deadline