Youth ask Dayton, Smith to forge ahead on renewable energy

Dayton cropped
Claire Mathews-Lingen, left, and Gov. Mark Dayton react to a question from a student attending a youth lobbying event. On the podium are 1,000 postcards from young people around the state urging the passage of a new renewable energy standard.

Young climate change activists flooded the governor's reception room today to implore state leaders to set a new renewable energy mandate.

Minnesota is set to surpass its current law of 25 percent renewable energy generation by 2025. A bill introduced this week would increase that to 50 percent by 2030.

While the bill has bipartisan support, it so far has little momentum. That's in stark contrast to 10 years ago, when lawmakers from both parties joined with Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty in setting ambitious goals to address climate change.

Some of the students expressed frustration with the Trump administration's attitudes toward climate change. President Trump has vowed to roll back Obama-era regulations targeting coal-fired power plants.

But high school senior Claire Mathews-Lingen and the other speakers encouraged Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to forge ahead on the state level.

"Even with the current political landscape, we cannot let this conversation fade. Clean water, a healthy environment and a secure climate-resilient future are not partisan issues," said Mathews-Lingen, a policy intern with the group Climate Generation.

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith told the students boosting renewable energy would be an economic win for Minnesota.

"We don't have to choose between having a strong economy that benefits everybody and having a climate that isn't literally driving us over the edge. We can do both of those things if we work together. And if we think we can't do it, then we for sure won't. But I think we can," she said.

Smith said making sure those employed by the fossil fuel industry can transition into new jobs is paramount. She said that's why Gov. Dayton signed a bill to replace soon-to-be-retired coal generators in Becker with a natural gas plant.

After meeting with Dayton and Smith, several dozen students fanned out to talk to their legislators about the renewable energy proposal.