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Energy and climate division approves its finance bill

The House Energy and Climate Finance and Policy Division concluded the bulk of its business Thursday, approving its omnibus finance bill by a 9-5 party-line vote.

HF1986, sponsored by Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls), was introduced on Tuesday. As amended Thursday, it would appropriate $26.2 million in the 2020-21 biennium from the General Fund to the Department of Commerce and the Public Utilities Commission for energy resource operating expenses and various projects, many of them related to increasing the use of renewable energy sources. It would also allocate $63.6 million from the state’s Renewable Development Fund for similar purposes over the same period.

[MOREView the spreadsheet]

Gov. Tim Walz has recommended $54.9 million in appropriations from the General Fund and the Renewable Development Fund over the next biennium for energy projects. The Senate Energy and Utilities Finance and Policy Committee passed its own omnibus bill, SF1692, Wednesday and referred it to the Senate Finance Committee. Sen. David Osmek (R-Mound) is the sponsor.

The House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to take up HF1986 Monday.

Over the course of Thursday’s meeting, the bill underwent some revisions.

An author’s amendment tweaked some funding totals, spread a portion of “Solar for Schools” funding over two years, reduced funding for a University of Minnesota climate model projection study by $3 million, and added $62,000 in grants for electric vehicle charging stations. It also reconfigured what part of the budget would contain the $56.8 million in appropriations for the Petrofund, or Petroleum Tank Release Cleanup Fund.

Republican members offered 15 other amendments. All were defeated, save one to specify the $547,000 for a University of Minnesota climate model projection study would be a one-time appropriation.

Among the amendments defeated, the one that provoked the most discussion was proposed by Rep. Dave Baker (R-Willmar), which would have laid out details on a community solar garden program and have it sunset in 2022. Baker expressed concerns about costs of the program: “We’re being very careless with ratepayers’ pocketbooks. … I want to do more solar, but just not at these really high prices.” It went down on a 9-5 party-line vote.

The division’s Republican lead, Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R-Ghent), offered most of the amendments, including one that would have required the commerce commissioner to submit a report on the cost of litigation between the Commerce Department and the Public Utilities Commission (defeated on a voice vote). Another would have eliminated the University of Minnesota’s climate model projection study and the state’s Conservation Improvement Plan and put the $606,000 saved into the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (defeated on an 8-5 party-line vote).


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