Capitol Update for January 19, 2007 – Great Lakes and Energy

Posted by .

This week’s dispatch from John Tuma:

Great Lakes first win and a little more on Energy

Great Lakes Compact.

This year the MEP team has stated lightheartedly that we have 3 1/2 priority issues for the 2007 legislative session.  In addition to our big three issues of Clean Water Legacy, dedicated investments in our Great Outdoors, and Clean Energy Minnesota, our organizations have directed us to make a concerted focus on Great Lakes issues over the next couple years.  MEP has maintained an active presence on Great Lakes issues with the long-standing regional office in Duluth where ever active community organizer Julie O’Leary has weighed anchor for our team. 

One of the leading state legislative issues for Lake Superior (and our “half” major priority) is the passage of the “Great Lakes Compact”.  Our commitment to passage of the Compact is certainly not a half priority, but a full focus.  The Compact is an agreement reached by the governors of the states within the Great Lakes watershed to legally protect these waters from large-scale diversions outside of the Great Lakes watershed.  In order for this agreement to become legally binding, it must be ratified by each of the state legislative bodies and by Congress.

Minnesota is on track to possibly be the first state to ratify this important piece of legislation to protect our Great Lake, Lake Superior.  The Compact Ratification Bill is HF110 chief authored by Representative Tom Huntley (DFL-Duluth).  This bill made it past the first legislative hurdle by receiving unanimous approval by the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday.  HF110 now moves on to its last House committee stop, the Government Operations Committee.  It is scheduled to be heard in that committee on Wednesday, January 24 at 8 a.m. in room 200 of the State office Building.

The Senate will take up its version of the Great Lakes Compact, SF38 authored by Senator Ann Rest (DFL- New Hope), this coming Monday in the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.  The hearing is scheduled for 12:30 in room 107 the capitol.  All indications from the legislative leaders are that this bill will be wrapped up by early February.

Clean Energy Minnesota.

The debate on energy marches forward this week.  The Governor presented his State of the State address in the House chamber on Wednesday.  The cheering and clapping wasn’t as raucous as past State of the State addresses by Governor Pawlenty.  His speech focused on four major initiatives.  In addition to property taxes, education, and healthcare, he highlighted his “Next Generation Energy Plan”.  The Governor’s speechwriters did not provide us with many memorable quotes as he compared Minnesota to being a little bit more “awake” on energy issues than other states.  Apparently we have “made the coffee and eggs” while other states have “slept” on the issue.

The Governor’s plan has a few differences from the MEP Clean Energy Minnesota plan.  The Governor’s plan calls for a 25% renewable energy “objective” for electricity generation by 2025 instead of the 25% standard by 2020 promoted by Clean Energy Minnesota.  It also does not restrict the counting of Greater Minnesota hydroelectric generation and allows utilities to escape from under the objective by showing a “good-faith” effort.  The Governor’s plan also has initiatives regarding global warming, conservation and promoting the next generation of ethanol from prairie grasses.

The Senate legislative leadership has made it clear they want to push a separate bill dealing only with the renewable electricity standard (RES) early on in the session and follow up with a more comprehensive bill dealing with global warming, conservation and ethanol.  Senate leadership has given an indication that they expect a vote on the RES by Thursday of this next week.  That would occur in the Senate Energy, Utilities, Technology and Communications Committee, which meets in room 123 of the Capitol at 3 p.m. this coming Thursday.

This committee heard testimony this week on our energy network and the RES.  Bob Ambrose of Great Rivers Energy surprised the committee in a response to a question as to whether he thought utilities have the infrastructure and technology in place to reach a 25% renewable energy standard.  He responded that his father was an engineer with NASA in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy announced that the United States would place a man on the moon and safely return him to Earth within a decade.  Ambrose told the committee that frankly his father and the rest of the NASA engineers had not figured out exactly how they were going to accomplish this when the President set this ambitious goal.  Nonetheless, when given the clear goal, they rolled up their sleeves and found a way to make it happen.

It appears at least some of Minnesota’s utilities are willing to take the challenge to move Minnesota boldly into a leadership position on producing clean renewable energy.  Mr. Ambrose’s response to the committee made me curious as to exactly what President Kennedy said in his special address to Congress on May 25, 1961.  Though I appreciate Governor Pawlenty taking the leadership as a Republican governor, his speechwriters might have taken a lesson from JFK.  Not that the “awake for eggs and coffee” speech wasn’t cute, but here are some excerpts from the Kennedy speech:

“Now it is time to take longer strides–time for a great new American enterprise–time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on Earth…

I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshaled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment…

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth…

Let it be clear that I am asking the Congress and the country to accept a firm commitment to a new course of action–a course which will last for many years and carry very heavy costs..

If we are to go only half way, of reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all…

This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts. It means we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated costs material or talent, wasteful interagency rivalries…”

If you plug in the words “clean renewable energy” for “space” and a “25% RES” for “placing a man on the moon” you have one powerful energy speech.  To my good friend the Governor, it’s fine that we are awake and having our eggs and coffee, but if you want to rise to the level of JFK national leadership on clean renewable energy you’ll need to be prepared to inspire Minnesota to take “longer strides” without “reducing our sights in the face of difficulty.”  I know the MEP members are ready to help in that bold new mission.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)