Archive for the ‘Energy and Utilities’ Category

MN House Meltdown II – The Faust Nuclear Option

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

In Minnesota, new nuclear power plants are prohibited. In fact, for quite some time, there has been a little sentence in Minnesota Statutes that prevent the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the entity responsible for permitting new power plants, from issuing a “certificate of need” for a new nuclear power plant.

But things are changing. During the 2007-2008 Legislative session, Republican legislators tried to no avail to take the prohibition out of the statute so that the PUC could at least consider new nuclear plants. This year, however, the Minnesota Senate voted on a bipartisan basis to lift the nuclear moratorium. (Local DFL Senators Olseen and Fobbe voted to allow new nuclear plants; Sen Lourey voted no.)

Why this change of heart from some on the left? Well, it turns out that Nuclear power plants do not emit carbon dioxide, the hated colorless, odorless gas that occurs naturally, but is supposedly heating our planet. This fact puts environmental extremists in an awkward position. And, admittedly, it also puts conservatives in favor of new nuclear plants in a bit of a strange position, since one of the selling points for more nuclear comes from a page out of the environmentalists playbook.

It was the Minnesota House’s turn to take up the energy policy bill on April 30th. Since the amendment to lift the moratorium now had a chance to pass, the majority leadership decided to let a Democrat carry the amendment. So they chose Rep. Tim Faust (DFL – No Man’s Land). Prior to the debate on the energy bill, the rumor around the capitol was that there were between 65 and 70 votes in the House in favor of lifting the nuclear ban.

The Faust amendment took up much of the  debate on the energy bill, as many House members spoke to the issue, although Rep. Faust himself didn’t speak very long at all. In the end, the expected 65-70 votes for the Faust amendment turned into 60. The amendment failed 60-72. Local Reps. Faust and Eastlund voted yes. Rep. Bill Hilty (author of the underlying energy policy bill) voted no, as did Rep. Jeremy Kalin (DFL – North Branch) and Rep. Gail Kulik Jackson (DFL – Milaca). My understanding is that Rep. Jackson stated her support of nuclear power during her campaign. However, during her floor speech, she noted that she needed to “educate” her constituents about why we shouldn’t build more nuclear plants. 

It also shows poor planning on the part of the DFL House leadership by not having the votes lined up to pass one of its own members’ amendments (unless they intende to throw him under the bus). It also a lack of leadership on the part of Rep. Faust by under-performing the expected number of votes on his amendment.

Hopefully, the Senate position will prevail in the conference committee, and the PUC can at least consider another option to meet our future energy needs with a clean efficient and cost-effective option.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an employee of the Minnesota House of Representatives in the Republican Caucus. This blog is not paid for or sponsored by any legislative caucus, political party, candidate or candidate’s committee. Opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of any legislative caucus, political party, candidate or candidate’s committee.