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Anti-smokestack resolutions “disappeared” by Goodhue County DFL operatives

At the DFL (Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party for the edification of my non-Minnesotan readers) precinct caucuses on March 1, in Red Wing, Minnesota, various resolutions were presented, as is customary.  These are supposed to make their way up the organizational hierarchy of the party, and help determine the state “platform.”  It’s supposed to be democracy in action.

(The good news  from my point of view is that the precinct, in a generally conservative area, was overrun with Bernie Sanders supporters, and the state as a whole went for Sanders over Clinton.) Continue Reading →

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Minnesota: A wholly owned subsidiary of Xcel Energy? #1 in a series.

Utilities do it everywhere….

It’s in the nature of electric utilities to accumulate too much economic and political power.  They provide essential services, they have almost unlimited resources compared to potential opponents, and they send hundreds of thousands of mailings to all the households in their service areas.  Most are corporations whose management works for stockholders, not customers, but they often get people to forget that.  They almost always have undue influence on the commissions that are supposed to regulate them.

But “NSP” is something special

The chokehold that Xcel Energy (Northern States Power Company) has on the state of Minnesota feels unusual even by utility standards.  The obedience that Xcel seems able to extract from most of our public and private institutions in Minnesota–including the media–is extraordinary, and ramping up very aggressively from this already excessive level. Continue Reading →

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Promised updates on details of mega-horrible bills….

This is the promised further detail on the “mega-horrible” bills being heard in a Senate committee at 4:00 pm this afternoon (Thursday, March 19th.

For the utility “deregulation” bills

see Carol Overland’s Legalectric.org post, “the problems with SF 1735″ .  Overland has been practicing utility regulatory law for a long time and knows the history behind the present scams.  This is complicated stuff that just can’t be reduced to sound bites, but here are two anyway:  (1) Utilities, expecially Xcel Energy, can pretty much afford to buy off everybody, and (2) Nobody in Minnesota government or politics seems to be publicly standing up for ratepayers, the environment, or the public interest.

Attorney General Lori Swanson has the authority to act on behalf of the public.  Ask her to do so:  (651) 296-3353 or 1-800-657-3787, Attorney.General@ag.state.mn.us.

[Note:  There is a “delete-all” amendment to S. F. 1431 which we received at 10:30 pm.  This new version does not seem to correct any of the problems people are objecting to.  It has new sections, some of which seem to raise new concerns.]

[Update:  The AG’s office DID appear at the hearing and oppose both the original bill and the delete-all amendment.  Kudos to Lori Swanson.]

For the “Energy Omnibus Bill, S.F. 1431,” see below

Continue Reading →

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RED ALERT: oppose mega-horrible utility deregulation bills

Well, I’ve been trying to warn about this.  On March 9th I wrote:

“The breadth and depth of NSP’s [Xcel’s] current efforts to gut the utility regulatory process and impose its will on Minnesota energy policy is breathtaking.  Stand by for more details on this.  And: expect some really horrible legislation to sneaked through the Minnesota Legislature.”

The really horrible bills are here: Continue Reading →

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Renuking Minnesota?

monti1[1]Above: The Monticello reactor.  Note the tall stack used to vent cancer-causing radioactive gases.

(Please forgive the personal notes in this post.  So often we debate the technical merits of nuke power, without sufficiently considering the human side, the human impacts, of the decisions getting made.)

I’ve had more of a relationship with the nuclear industry than seems ideal.  In Delaware, I can look out a window and see the domes of three reactors.  In 2000, I wrote in an alert:

“Parts of New Castle County (DE) are in the “ingestion zones” (= within fifty miles) of 7 nuclear reactors (Limerick 1 and 2, Peach Bottom 2 & 3, Salem 1 and 2, and Hope Creek). While the nuclear industry has always claimed that it’s radiation output is too small to cause health problems, more and more reports are linking proximity to nuclear facilities to breast cancer, leukemia, childhood cancer and birth defects, and other health problems.”

Continue Reading →

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Citizens’ Board does a good thing; Powers of Darkness push back; Action Alert

Feedlot Action Alert, and: Update: “Strange nonsense at the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (and the MPCA)”

In June I did a post critical of the MN Environmental Quality Board and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, suggesting that the environment of Minnesota isn’t being protected very well.  The email of this post had a higher readership than any other I’ve written.  One friend called it “very depressing.”  It garnered me some disapproving looks from EQB and Citizens’ Board members.  What’s happened since?

(The rest of this post relates to the MPCA and it’s Citizens’ Board.  In my view the EQB is looking like a train wreck, but that’s for another post.) Continue Reading →

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Minnesota’s “Legislative Energy Commission” vs public participation

The Minnesota Legislature has a “Legislative Energy Commission” (LEC) made up of Senators and Representatives. The law establishing it says:  “The commission shall continuously evaluate the energy policies of this state and the degree to which they promote an environmentally and economically sustainable energy future.” Continue Reading →

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Permanent shutdown of Vermont Yankee nuke plant announced–Monticello should be next

Xcel’s Monticello nuke plant deserves the same fate, ASAP

This is significant to Minnesota as Vermont Yankee is similar in age and design to the Monticello nuke and also to the four destroyed Fukushima-Daiichi reactors that seem to pose an expanding threat with the passing of time.  (VT Yankee is a couple of years older, slightly smaller and has had more high-publicity scandals.) “Fukushima radiation leaks reach deadly new highExposure to emissions would be fatal within hours, say Japanese authorities, as race to build frozen wall begins. Continue Reading →

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Minnesota Energy bills not ready for prime time

Two “omnibus” energy bills, SF 901 and HF 956 are wending their way through the Minnesota Legislature.  These bills are being heavily promoted by a coalition of industrial and environmental groups calling itself the “Clean Energy & Jobs” campaign.  A description of the bills from the point of view of the Clean Energy and Jobs folks is here, on the site of the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society.  Lots of people are being urged to contact their legislators in support of these bills.  Sounds good, doesn’t it?   And it many ways it is, but there are enough problems in these bills as they presently stand to potentially do more harm than good. Continue Reading →

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Letter to John Marty, Chair of the Energy and Environment Committee of the Minnesota Senate (and one of MN’s most respected legislators)

March 22, 2013

Dear Sen. Marty:

Thanks for chatting with me last night (Thursday) after what must have been a long and tiring meeting.

I’ve been around energy policy debates long enough to have a sense of how hard it is to make substantial changes really happen.  You’ve taken on a big project, one we all have a stake in, and I would very much like to see it succeed with solid, change-making legislation. Continue Reading →

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