Will the third time be the charm for the Clean Energy First Act?
For the third year in a row, the House Climate and Energy Finance and Policy Committee has approved a bill that would require renewables to be the power source of choice when replacing a retired power plant. In neither 2019 nor 2020 did the potential change in policy make it into law.
The first step was taken Thursday when the committee approved the bill, as amended, by a 10-7 party-line vote. Replaced by a delete-all amendment that underwent a slight tweak in language, the Clean Energy First Act is on its way to the House floor.
The bill has no Senate companion, but Stephenson emphasized that Sen. David Senjem (R-Rochester) has sponsored corresponding legislation each of the past two sessions.
Stephenson said the bill’s three goals are carbon reduction, affordability and reliability.
“The clean energy revolution is well underway,” he said. “Today, it’s primarily driven by economics. Just look at the action of the market all around us. Our values and economics are in line with clean energy. The bill is designed to manage the consequences of these changes.”
In addition to requiring the Public Utilities Commission to choose wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric and other renewable resources for electricity generation, HF10 would emphasize employing local workers to build and maintain the facilities. The bill was deemed to have no fiscal impact on the state budget.
Two representatives of labor unions praised the bill’s local hiring and prevailing wage provisions, while a representative for non-union contractors opposed both.
Jessica Tritsch, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club, expressed concern that “last year’s Senate version called dirty energy clean. The Senate version could be a magnet for choices that would move our state backward.” Other testifiers objected to its omission of solid waste incinerators and carbon capture technology.
Republicans introduced 15 other amendments, all of which were defeated.
Rejected amendments dealt with such issues as carbon capture; obtaining iron, copper and nickel from Minnesota sources and protecting the interests of miners; allowing larger hydroelectric projects; allowing the state to store more nuclear waste; and making natural gas exempt from the law.
Rep. Jeremy Munson (R-Lake Crystal) unsuccessfully sponsored three amendments centered around the environmental and human rights impact of the mining and disposal of materials used in wind and solar energy.