Lawmaker wants Dayton to oppose clean energy plan

Sherco Plant
Coal is piled at the Sherburne County Generation Plant (Sherco) in Becker, Minn., October 2, 2012.
Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News 2012

The chairman of the state House energy committee has asked Gov. Mark Dayton to oppose the federal Clean Power Plan aimed at reducing emissions linked to climate change.

State Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, who oversees the Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee, argued in a letter that Dayton should join states like North Dakota and Wisconsin in opposing the plan, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued last month.

The Clean Power Plan calls for an overall 32 percent reduction in carbon emissions from power plants by 2030, but gives states flexibility in how they meet their targets.

Dayton's administration has been gathering input on how Minnesota should reduce power plant emissions, but Garofalo asked the governor to begin working with the Legislature immediately.

He said the Clean Power Plan does not give the state enough credit for the progress it's made already on renewable energy and asked the governor to work to make Minnesota's energy "both cleaner and cheaper."

Garofalo said he's especially concerned about the future of Xcel Energy's coal plant in Sherburne County, which he said is a significant employer and property taxpayer.

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"Shutting down facilities such as Sherco will have a devastating impact on workers and host communities, with no offsetting benefits," he wrote.

Garofalo is holding a committee hearing next week in Becker, where Sherco is located.

Clean energy groups have applauded the Clean Power Plan, saying the state should work to exceed the federal mandate and meet its own greenhouse gas emission goals established in the 2007 Next Generation Energy Act.

Meanwhile, Xcel Energy officials have said the utility is ready to move ahead to meet the federal emissions targets. In October, Xcel is expected to file plans with state regulators that could include early retirement options for one or both of Sherco's older coal-fired units.