Energy, enviro issues to surface at Capitol

Legislators are making plans for the start of the 2013 session, and some environmental issues will get a lot of attention.

Asian carp and other invasive species, silica sand mining, groundwater supply and waste management are likely to be hot topics.

Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, who will chair the Finance Division of the Environment Committee, is inviting experts on key topics to educate committee members before they even start to consider bills.

"A lot of the problems we face are just practical problem-solving, and you have to understand a problem well before you can have a good solution," Wagenuis said. "Science helps us with that."

Wagenius spoke at a legislative preview organized by the Environmental Initiative. She said the state should speed up mapping groundwater systems, given recent problems with drought and low lake levels.

The incoming chair of the House Energy Committee, DFL Rep. Melissa Hortman of Brooklyn Park, said she wants to encourage more use of rooftop solar. She wants to make it easier for more people to get paid retail rates for solar power they produce on their rooftops.

"If you're a commercial property owner and have warehouse roofs that you'd like to put solar on and sell the power back to the utility, right now you're prohibited from doing that at the scale you might like to," Hortman said.

Hortman said utilities need to be sure the grid is ready for more solar energy, and deciding how to pay for more solar power could be contentious.

Other energy topics likely to come up include burning waste to produce electricity, planning for transit, and a revolving loan fund for energy conservation.