The LEC just completed a busy week at the Capitol and at the Electric Generation Conference.
As our legislative update, we continue to track the legislative process on the relevant bills quite closely. We continue to be in decent shape, however this week legislators will officially vote Governor Burgum’s budget requests down, and replace them with bills of their own. In practice, this doesn’t change our outlook much, if at all. Our R&D pieces were always going to have to move as separate amendments, and this does not change that. We’ve been in touch with the relevant appropriators and have received good feedback, and right now we still think we will received our funding requests.
Over the past two weeks, Mike Holmes and I have testified several times about our R&D activities, and the questions that were asked indicated a continued interest in the progress of our efforts on CO2, but also (from Democrats) an indication that we need to demonstrate that we are aware that we have challenges that are not solved by eliminating the Clean Power Plan. This is exactly the type of work we are doing in the Public Affairs Committee—the concept that we must continue to press forward to solve the economic/market based challenges is every bit as relevant as solving the CO2 challenges. That message has been received well, and sets us up as forward looking.
At several hearings I was able to talk about the “grand vision” that we have for the coal industry, of large scale demonstration projects that will necessitate hundreds of millions of dollars, and legislators did not push back against that. I think they know what we are asking for, and the timelines involved.
There is going to be continued pressure regarding some of the wind bills—as a member of Empower Commission I testified in favor of a bill that would equalize much of the tax code, leveling the types of exemptions available to wind and coal. One of our property tax exemptions does not expire, but the same wind exemption does expire. Empower agreed that neither should expire. However, that bill is gathering some opposition and places some of our members (and me, honestly) in some awkward places so if you are interested in the wind issue please give me a call, or speak with your government relations rep. We continue to meet at least weekly as a government relations committee.
Brian Kalk announced that he would be leaving the PSC and beginning work at the EERC to replace Mike Holmes. Our Government Relations team is evaluating how to best engage, but if any of you have aspirations to be a PSC Commissioner or know of anyone who does, let me know!
In other LEC business, our Investment Advisory Committee met for its quarterly update, and our investments are performing adequately.
The highlight of next week will be many CEOs from the major members will be meeting with Governor Burgum to discuss R&D and the future of coal.
Also next week, the Minnesota State House and Senate will host a hearing on energy R&D on January 31. Mike Holmes and GRE will talk about R&D breakthroughs.
We continue to make great use of our radio spots, and had Brad Zimmerman on this week. Next up will be a discussion about challenges of mining lignite in cold weather. These keep our profile high in the local region and serve to remind people that we are always working for them.
On that point, Kay returned from the EGC and said this year, more than many other years, members expressed support for our public affairs leadership—they know we are driving the conversation about coal in a positive way and know exactly what the LEC is about—a good testament to Kay and her membership efforts, but also to the increased participation in our radio interviews, newspaper articles, etc. from members of your companies.