Seven Energy and Environment Takeaways from the Minnesota Elections
Based on information from the Star Tribune’s election coverage, it looks like the State Senate may remain in the hands of the Republicans, while the State House of Representatives will remain in the hands of the Democrats. Republicans maintaining an advantage in the Senate has important implications for energy and environmental policy in the state.
Here is how the election results affect the seven biggest energy and environment topics in Minnesota.
California Car Mandates: The retention of the Senate does nothing to change the Walz Administration’s attempt to force Minnesotans to comply with California’s car mandates. I would expect the announcement of these regulations will happen any day now, because the Walz administration was likely waiting to announce the rules until after the election to prevent them from becoming a campaign issue in critical swing districts. Now that it’s all over but the crying, I’d assume Walz to announce his intent to enact the regulations, and the Trump administration may not exist to stop it.
Minnesota Green New Deal: The Walz administration announced their intention to require 100 percent of Minnesota’s electricity come from carbon free resources by 2050, this isn’t likely to happen this session. This proposal was especially bad because it did not lift Minnesota’s ban on new nuclear power plants, and it did not consider the electricity generated by large hydroelectric dams in Canada to be “carbon free,” even though it is. As a result, this was essentially a wind, solar, and battery storage mandate, which is exponentially more expensive than using a mix of nuclear, hydro, and natural gas to reduce emissions while keeping costs low.
Clean Energy First: While we will likely avoid the worst of liberal green ambitions, we will need to keep our eyes peeled on attempts to pass a bill called “Clean Energy First.” This bill certainly has some provisions that are good, but it also has some provisions that ultimately give away the store by allowing Xcel Energy to get paid for retiring their existing coal plants before the end of their useful lifetimes, and allows them to build wind, solar, and natural gas to replace them. This would essentially give Xcel Energy a blank check with our names on the signature line.
Legalize it! Nuclear Power, that Is: Minnesota currently bans the construction of new nuclear power plants, which are by far the most reliable and lowest cost way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions on the grid. This should be an easy layup for both sides, but it likely won’t be. The Democrat-run House has nixed attempts to lift the ban and it’s not likely they’ll come around to legalizing it this session.
Line 3 Approval: Line 3 is a big issue, but there won’t be any changes here due to the election. The Walz administration will likely continue to delay the pipeline under energy-illiterate pretenses and run up the final bill for the company. With divided government, the project will be at the mercy of the Walz administration for the foreseeable future.
PolyMet: Nothing changes on PolyMet due to the legislative races. The permits are tied up in the courts and we’ll have to wait and see how it shakes out.
Twin Metals: The fate of Twin Metals could be in the hands of the electorate, but it will be the race for the Presidency that decides whether the project gets fair shake with regulators, or if the Biden administration picks up where the Obama administration left off by cancelling mineral leases and delaying projects to death by slowing up the permitting process.
Overall, the state is treading water but slowly losing ground to liberal special interests. The Governor can mandate California car regulations, and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will continue to rubber stamp wind and solar projects with little regard for the families and businesses that will pay more to keep the lights on.
Without a conservative governor, which doesn’t seem likely to occur, the gears of the administrative state will continue to churn Minnesota into a colder version of Illinois or California.