Lignite CEO Testifies Against 100% Carbon Free Legislation in Minnesota

On Tuesday, the Minnesota House Energy and Climate Committee heard HF1956 , authored by Rep. Jamie Long (DFL-Minneapolis), which would mandate that Minnesota utilities must provide 100% carbon free energy by the year 2050. The bill also includes an article that would codify language that would give preference to “clean energy” sources and require that whenever a utility proposes a resource plan to the Public Utility Commission to replace or add new power generation or enter into a new purchase power agreement, it must prioritize energy efficiency and clean energy resources over fossil fuels.

The committee listened to testimony from around 40 people including LEC utility members whom each testified in opposition to the bill. They put forth many concerns that the bill is not feasible using current technology, disregards the differences in utility energy generation resources and that the sweeping policy needs more work because it could put lives at risk by depending on intermittent resources during extreme weather events. It was also pointed out that under the definition of “clean energy,” that carbon capture use and sequestration, new nuclear plants or hydro plants over 100 megawatts are not included.

After almost four hours of committee work, the bill was laid over, without amendments, for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill. This means that the committee chair is likely to include all or part of this bill in an energy finance and policy omnibus with many other provisions from other bills they have heard this session. The omnibus must be taken up for action by the third committee deadline on April 12.

During the hearing, Lignite Energy Council President and CEO Jason Bohrer testified against the bill. Below is a transcript of what he said:

“Madame Chair and members of the committee, my name is Jason Bohrer and I am testifying on behalf of the Lignite Energy Council, a regional trade association whose members provide power to millions of customers in the Upper Midwest.

Our members currently provide affordable, reliable and dispatchable electricity from North Dakota’s lignite coal reserves while maintaining North Dakota’s status as one of only 14 states recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as meeting all applicable clean air standards.  North Dakota’s has demonstrated it is possible to have clean air, clean water and clean electricity from coal as part of a balanced portfolio of energy resources. 

North Dakota’s lignite power plants are quite simply the most affordable source of thermal baseload, dispatchable power in the entire MISO market.  The most recent pricing data shows North Dakota’s lignite plants are cheaper than even gas and nuclear power plants—all while being required to reclaim the land to the highest agricultural standards.

It is no secret that North Dakota and Minnesota have had disagreements regarding our respective energy policies, but that spirit of contention does not have to color our future together.   We recognize that what people across the region crave is reliable power for their homes, affordable power for their businesses and responsible power for entire economies, as well as clean air, clean water and a clean environment. 

Once we agree on those goals, we can plan on how to meet them.  Specifically, we see the goal that Minnesota has contemplated regarding lower CO2 emissions and tell you that we can help. You have heard of the exciting work that Minnkota is doing to capture CO2 from the Young Station.  The members of the Lignite Energy Council support that work—we are a funding partner—but it is just one project that we are excited about that will reduce CO2 or make our plants more efficient.  I am also Chairman of the Lignite Research Council—one of the largest R&D programs in the country.  We have millions of dollars per year at our disposal to dedicate to the goals we know we share with you—serving the needs of current customers while planning for the needs of future generations. 

However, that work is threatened by mandates that would force unproven technology into the marketplace—where the costs and risks would be borne by ratepayers. If this Committee wants to reduce CO2–we can help in a way that is seamless to your customers, painless to your economy and harmless to the environment.”