City of Red Wing kisses Xcel Energy butt… to raise your electric bills

The City of Red Wing, Minnesota, contains various harmful facilities owned by Xcel Energy (Northern States Power Company of Minnesota).

These include two nuclear power reactors, two garbage burner units, and an nuclear waste cask parking lot.

Of course it’s no secret that utilities tend to accumulate great political, economic, and psychological power in the places they operate.  A place like Red Wing, where Xcel pays a lot of taxes and employs many residents, can become, and has become, a caricature of a self-governing community.  I’m not sure the Minnesota Legislature is a lot better.

Utilities are facing a world of change, of technological obsolesence, a world of existential threats, which are making them ever more aggressive and unscrupulous.  How, with electricity getting cheaper at the wholesale level, can they keep screwing their customers with rate increases?

Roughly speaking, Xcel not only owns innumerable local officials, but seems to own basically all of the Republicans in the Legislature and at least half of the Democrats, not to mention most of Minnesota’s mainstream reporters and NGOs.   Xcel’s chokehold on Minnesota is impressive in a horrible sort of way.

Xcel is pushing a pair of nuclear subsidy bills that would give it a whole new channel to reach into ratepayers’ pockets with little regulatory review.  I wrote about them here:

How bad are these bills? Well, at a Senate committee hearing , only Xcel and an IBEW guy spoke in favor. Opposed were the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, Xcel Large Industrial Customers group, Sierra Club, Environment Minnesota, Citizens Utility Board, Minnesota Department of Commerce, and TakeAction Minnesota (NE). (And lots more were ready to testify but testimony was arbitrarily cut off after 20 minutes.) Hearing minutes here:

Basically, no informed person, not an Xcel stooge, with the public interest in mind, would support these bills.

John Marty, former Senate Energy Committee Chair, spoke eloquently against the bill.  All the Republicans voted for it, plus half the DFLers, these two: Sen. Erik Simonson (represents Duluth) and Se. John A. Hoffman (represents a Coon Rapids district).  Hoffman boasted of his support for the nuclear ripoff in his constituent email newsletter.  Sen Mike Goggin, an Xcel employee, recused himself from *voting* but not from discussion.

Xcel, of course, has a whole portfolio of legislative, regulatory, legal, and other scams in the pipeline.  Few if any of these are reported on in meaningful ways so most people have no idea….

But lets go back to Red Wing, where the City Council, on the guidance of staff, is set to endorse the nuclear ripoff bills on April 23th.  Here’s the Council packet item.  There are no names on it but it was written by top Red Wing bean counter Marshall Hallock.  Note how the ripoff bills are given meaningless labels:  “Providing an Additional Regulatory Option by Which the Public Utilities Commission May Consider Investments Made at the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant.”  This is NOT the actual caption of the bills (in packet).

Do Red Wing officials reading this bumf know that Xcel already has more than adequate means to soak ratepayers for any nuclear investments, and that the only likely effect would be to increase their constituents’ electric bills?  It’s hard to say.  None of the seven City Council members nor the Mayor show observable independence of mind, at least with regard to Xcel.  It’s clear from the staff memo that there was no due diligence; no attempt to consider other points of view.  And they are rolling out this butt-kissing, anti-constituent move although they know Xcel is running other scams aimed at reducing the taxes Xcel pays to the City.

Another amusing item is called “Alignment with Strategic Plan.”  It’s customary in Red Wing that any scheme, no matter how absurd, will be promoted to the Council as consistent with the “Strategic Plan.”  But do you really think that residents were ever told that the “Strategic Plan” included ripoff electric bill increases?
Get this “Alignment:”  “Community Vitality: Xcel as a place where people of all ages want to live and work …”  Seems to me that the next step here would be to rename “Red Wing” to “Xceltown.”

You can try to communicate with the City Council (I have no luck but you might):

Red Wing City Council Regular Meeting
Monday, April 23 2018 6:00 PM
City Council Chambers, 315 West 4th Street, Red Wing, MN 55066
The Xcel ripoff resolution is Agenda Item 9c.

Contact information.

Alan Muller

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