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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Shane Mekeland (R)

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Efforts to squash Becker gas plant must be stopped

Tuesday, June 15, 2021


By Rep. Shane Mekeland

As other states experience major energy issues, Minnesota House Democrats and environmental extremists are looking to undermine our state’s ability to produce affordable, reliable energy on a stable grid. 

Specifically, they are looking to repeal a 2017 law that was enacted to replace coal plants being shuttered in Becker with a natural gas-fired power plant on the same Sherco property. This legislation passed the Legislature with bipartisan support as a stand-alone bill to make up for lost coal energy by providing Minnesotans with more reliable, affordable energy via natural gas in Becker.  

The bill which became law was authored by former Rep. Jim Newberger (my District 15B predecessor) and Sen. Andrew Mathews. It was signed into law by a Democrat governor, Mark Dayton.  

Now, due to opposition from extreme environmentalists, we understand Xcel Energy is considering alternatives to the commitment that was made to Becker. If House Democrats such as Rep. Dan Wolgamott and the activists get their way, we may never realize the local benefits of this gas plant, which is crucial to our grid's stability, providing baseload support to protect Minnesota from energy shortages other states have experienced.  

On any given day, roughly 80 percent of our state’s energy currently comes from coal, nuclear and natural gas. We already are struggling to meet demand and cannot afford to shutter coal plants without compensating with more natural gas baseload capacity. 

In fact, during our recent heatwave, the regional grid operator for Minnesota and 14 other states issued a “Maximum Generation Emergency Warning” due to unplanned power outages, higher-than-normal temperatures, and electricity demand that was higher than expected. This alert to power plant operators indicated the supply of electricity on the grid was getting short, and they needed all units on standby, ready to produce electricity when called upon. 

In other words, we already are flirting with disaster and cannot afford to make ourselves even more vulnerable to energy shortages by reneging on the Becker gas plant. While serious damage has been caused by mass power outages in states with more moderate weather, a failing grid could be downright catastrophic during one of our state’s infamous cold snaps in the dark of winter. 

The economic hit to our area also would be significant if the gas plant in Becker is squashed, eliminating our best chance to make up for local jobs/economic losses caused by our coal-fired units being forced to close. Xcel accounts for approximately 75 percent of the Becker tax base and failing to replace coal plants at Sherco with a gas plant would be devastating for local taxpayers. 

Nothing has changed in the four years since that good bill to construct a gas plant in Becker passed on its own merits, again, with bipartisan support. Yet the radical left now wants to kill this project and limit our energy options. House Democrats recently passed an omnibus bill which repeals the 2017 Becker gas plant statute. I offered an amendment to the preserve the project but House Democrats, including Rep. Wolgamott, voted against it. 

While this is concerning, I remain passionate about seeing this project to the finish line and appreciate the work Sen. Mathews is doing in a conference committee to help stop Rep. Wolgamott and fellow House Democrats from rescinding the gas plant from law. Legislative options are under consideration for now and into the future to ensure access to a reliable, affordable energy grid in Minnesota.  

As I continue working on the legislative side of this issue, I encourage people to reach out to Xcel Energy and area Democrat legislators to let them know where they stand on this issue. It would be nice to see other nearby legislators, such as Rep. Wolgamott, recognize the importance of this plant in our region and help us push back against the liberal, metro-centric agenda that’s being pushed on Greater Minnesota. So far, that has not happened. Public input also can be provided to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on this issue (Docket 19-368) by visiting  

Our energy plan should be an all-of-the-above approach to provide Minnesotans with affordable, reliable energy on a stable grid. The Becker gas plant would help in that regard, and I will keep fighting to make it happen.