(Saint Paul, Minnesota) Four hours and forty-six minutes after the second meeting of the day began, Minnesota lawmakers passed the omnibus energy bill during the Environment and Energy Committee meeting today. Chair of the Committee and chief author of the omnibus energy bill is Senator John Marty, who prefaced his introduction of the omnibus energy bill by forewarning his fellow lawmakers of climate changes, impending draughts, floods, and severe weather. Senator Marty stated, “Even though we don’t like to talk about it, we do have to change the way we do it (create energy).”
After making his introduction Senator Marty introduced his “40 by 30” plan, which would require forty percent of Minnesota’s energy to come from renewable energy sources by 2030. Marty argues that moving Minnesota to cleaner energy is beneficial for the environment and for jobs.
Questions and debate ensued for over two hours over the two numbers in question (40 by 30), and what would be considered a renewable energy source. It seemed one particular type of renewable energy source was greatly neglected, hydro. Senator Rosen asked, “Where did the forty percent come from? I think this is a fair question, if its been scientific, and why we cannot count hydro?”
At this point the lights shut off in the committee room, which is normally empty at that time of evening. A voice in the dark shouted, “Mr. Chair this is why we need hydro!” Bill Grant, who was testifying about the 40 by 30 plan heckled, “I knew excel didn’t like this part of the building.” The lights came back on, and Grant addressed Senator Rosen’s question stating, “The forty percent number comes from the legislature, (who)asked us to study forty percent specifically.”
A number of testifiers spoke out in favor of hydro, claiming that, “all renewables under any standards should count, without restrictions and without picking winners or losers.”
Ben Gerber of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce says that the Commerce opposes the forty percent – but thinks if the bill is to move forward it should include all energy options, including hydro (a non-carbon emitting resource).
Marty agreed that hydro was a good idea, but stated an amendment needs more time to be drafted before it can or should be added to the bill.
Senator Benson firmly advocated for natural gas being added in addition to the requirement for more natural resources, stating, “For a complete picture members, I would advocate we look at natural gas as a compliment to the renewable plan we are moving forward.”
Before the bill went to a vote and passed Senator Marty humbly yet confidently proclaimed, “I don’t think it’s a perfect bill, but I think it’s a good balance.”