Update on Xcel ripoff nuclear bills

This is a follow-up to the March 22. 2018 post entitled  “Xcel Energy–the most abusive special interest in Minnesota?” and subtitled “Action Alert:  Oppose Xcel Energy ripoff legislation.”

A hearing on Senate File 3504 , was rescheduled for March 27th at 1:00, in Room 1150 Minnesota Senate Bldg.  Energy and Utilities Finance and Policy Committee

If you would like to speak, contact Committee Administrator Darrin Lee at 651-293-2962 or darrin.lee@senate.mn.

There is a “delete all” amendment to the bill, meaning all the wording below the heading is replaced.  Here it is.  This will probably be presented as a “compromise” that addresses peoples’ concerns.  For orgs inclined to roll over after token opposition, the new version might be just the ticket.  But it really doesn’t change much–the changes are mostly cosmetic.  Mainly, the “Carbon Reduction Facilities” (note that this applies only to nuke plants, not other sources of low or zero-carbon electricity) business is partially tied into the existing “Resource Plan” procedures.  There is mention of “intervention” rights but these already exist anyway.

Nothing in this new wording should alter opposition to these bills.

Committee hearing

Our information is (it could change):

So far about 20 people have indicated they want to testify against1 SF3504.  2-3 want to testify in favor.  Thirty minutes will be allowed for each side.  That would mean that supporters of the ripoff would get ten to fifteen minutes each, while opponents would get around one and one-half minutes each.  Is this the way things commonly work in the Minnesota Legislature?  I don’t know, but it seems to me in general that opponents of proposed bad policies are often treated disrespectfully.

More fundamental problems with this bill is that it’s intended to authorize essentially unlimited future funding for the Monticello and Prairie Island nukes without prior considered discussion of whether keeping them going make sense.

Because alternative electricity sources are cleaner and cheaper, nukes are being closed, or are demanding huge public subsidies to stay open.  Such scams are being promoted in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.  They all lack merit as sound policy but have behind them the bloated political clout of electric utilities.  SF3504 is Minnesota’s version of such a scam.

According to opensecrets.org, Xcel spends about two millions dollars per year on lobbying and in 2017 had twenty-one registered lobbyists, far more than any other entity in Minnesota.  Is it any wonder, then that the Minnesota Legislature too often dances to Xcel’s tune?

Back to the nukes themselves and whether we really need them

Forbes magazine, in “Nuclear Subsidies Are Bad Energy Policy,” (read the whole article, Sept. 12, 2017) notes that:

Nuclear power has been doomed by cost escalation, while gas, efficiency, and renewables continue to get cheaper. And subsidizing nuclear plants isn’t popular in the states where ratepayers would have to foot the bill. Recent headlines tell the story:

  • “Subsidies for Nuclear Reactor Projects Waste Taxpayer Money,” U.S. News & World Report, August 17, 2017 (here)

  •  “Poll: Overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians oppose nuclear bailout by Legislature,” The Beaver County Times,  August 16, 2017 (here)

  • “Nuclear Subsidies Distort Competition And Increase Power Prices,” Investors.com, May 31, 2017 (here)

  •  “Manufacturers oppose proposed $7 billion nuclear power subsidy,” Albany Business Review, August 1, 2016 (here)

Just yesterday, an article appeared in the Guardian:

“Wind, solar, and storage could meet 90–100% of America’s electricity needs”

The author is John P. Abraham, who teaches at the University of St. Thomas.

(The underlying paper is here but free access to the full text is lacking for many of us.)

Mark Jacobson at Stanford has been making similar arguments for several years, but the details need fleshing out, and that’s what Minnesota should be investing in:  Planning for the future not dancing to the tune of status-quo special interests.

What to do: 

Testify at the hearing if your schedule and the stability of your stomach allows.

Let the Senate Energy and Utilities Finance and Policy Committee know how you feel about Senate File 3504 .  You might email the Committee Administrator and ask him to share your views with the members:  Darrin Lee, Darrin.Lee@senate.mn, 651.296.2962.  And contact your own Senator and Representative.

Alan Muller

 

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