House bill would give Legislature final say in carbon-reduction plan

A Minnesota House committee approved a bill Monday that would give the Legislature the final say on any state plan to reduce carbon emissions.

Later this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will set carbon reduction targets for each state to help address climate change. State officials will then come up with a plan for meeting those targets, perhaps by reducing the use of coal or deploying more wind and solar energy.

Monday's bill would require the Legislature to sign off on that plan.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Newberger, R-Becker, addresses a new federal plan that aims to, by 2030, reduce carbon emissions from power plants across the country by about 30 percent.

All 11 Republican members of the Job Growth and Energy Affordability Finance Committee voted in favor of requiring legislative approval. Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, says he's worried that the federal plan would increase the cost of electricity.

"We have to proceed with a lot of caution here with regards to how much we can expect rate payers to pay for this stuff," he said.

But Rep. Sheldon Johnson, D-St. Paul, opposed the bill, saying lawmakers shouldn't interfere with the existing process to come up with a plan.

"This is the perfect example of where you want a deliberate process of stakeholders to come up with a plan that makes sense," he said, "and [is] in the best interest, public policy-wise, for the state rather than expecting individual legislators to understand the nuances of this kind of very complicated issue."

The bill was approved on a mostly party-line vote.