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Climate Change Legislation

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The Minnesota Senate Energy Committee is taking up bills that deal with global climate change. From what I can tell, there are 2 major bills - one advanced by Chair Prettner Solon on behalf of Governor Pawlenty and one authored by Senator Anderson. I'll discuss the Governor's bill now and Anderson's later if no one beats me to it.

S.F. 145 has H.F. 436 as its House companion bill (also introduced by that Energy Committee's Chair) and has many components Article 5 is entitled "Climate Change" and is summarized as follows

Defining nonrenewable resource power purchase agreement; modifying the certificate of need issuance standards, allowing the PUC to modify proposals for nonrenewable projects or nonrenewable resource power purchase agreements; requiring the commissioner of commerce to develop a climate change action plan in conjunction with the pollution control agency (PCA), departments of natural resources (DNR), agriculture, employment and economic development (DEED) and transportation (DOT) to identify and invite an independent expert entity to conduct a review of potential policies and initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

The bill first increases the power of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) by enlarging the scope of certificates of need. Previously, building large energy facilities required the PUC to find that it was necessary after weighing a number of other options. Now the PUC must also issue a certificate of need for a "nonrenewable resource power purchase agreement."

This includes any power purchase agreement (for instance, if a utility wants to buy power from Big Stone II) of more than 50MW or with a term of longer than 5 years if the generation facility is powered by nonrenewable fuel.

In order to get a PPA certificate of need, the utility must have arranged

(i) to offset the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from the nonrenewable resource through:

(A) capture and geologic sequestration of those emissions;
(B) the purchase of greenhouse gas emission reduction credits issued by a tracking and crediting organization approved by the commission; or
(C) another method approved by the commission after notice and opportunity to comment; and

(ii) it has explored the possibility of generating power by means of renewable energy sources and has demonstrated that the alternative selected is less expensive, including environmental costs and the costs of compliance with item (i), than power generated by a renewable energy source.

The PUC is also given power to modify proposals for nonrenewable projects or PPAs in order to require conservation or renewable energy projects.

The other major section of this article calls upon the commissioner of commerce to "conduct a structured, broadly inclusive stakeholderbased review of potential policies and initiatives that can be implemented in Minnesota to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from activities in this state." The plan will cover all sectors.

Governor Pawlenty previously announced his desire to bring in the Center for Climate Strategies. This is what they do:

We enable governors and other state leaders to lead state-wide climate action planning processes that result in a comprehensive set of effective policies, broad bipartisan stakeholder support, and successful implementation. We help achieve results with our process that would likely have been impossible for states to otherwise realize.

The commissioner of commerce will coordinate this plan's development and present it by Jan 1, 2008.

Senator Anderson's bill is a bit more complicated, but I hope we have some information up about it within the next few days.