SAINT PAUL, Minn. – On Saturday, May 15, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed legislation authored by Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL – South St. Paul) to help handle tree waste in Minnesota. The bill enables District Energy St. Paul to continue using wood from trees cut down to prevent the spread of emerald ash borer as a fuel source. Xcel Energy will continue purchasing some of the electricity the plant produces.
“Minnesota is home to approximately one billion ash trees, which makes our state particularly vulnerable to emerald ash borer,” said Rep. Hansen. “Infected trees are expected to generate 265,000 tons of waste wood this year, and we must have a place for it to go. This bipartisan bill will help communities dispose of tree waste and deal with the devastation wrought by emerald ash borer.”
The legislation represents a compromise between District Energy and Xcel Energy. It extends a contract between the two parties set to expire in 2022 until December 31, 2024. The new two-year agreement allows District Energy to keep converting tree waste into fuel for biomass energy, a portion of which will be purchased by Xcel Energy. The legislation creates savings for Xcel Energy customers, with an energy price about 33 percent lower than the current rate, and directs both parties to examine electrification options.
Cities, counties, and businesses across the metropolitan area are cutting down infected trees to prevent the spread of emerald ash borer and protect residents and property from falling branches. As a result, the amount of waste wood has increased significantly, growing from 163,000 tons in 2015 to over 255,000 tons last year. Since tree waste can’t be sent to a landfill or openly burned, transporting it to District Energy to be made into fuel is currently the only option. Without this legislation, communities wouldn’t have a way to safely dispose of waste wood.
The bill passed both legislative chambers with bipartisan support and is now on its way to Governor Walz for signature.