Tentative Agreement Reached on Special Session

On Wednesday, Governor Dayton and legislative leaders announced that they had reached a “tentative” budget agreement to call a special session.  Several budget bills passed by the Legislature in the 2015 Session were vetoed by the Governor (education, agriculture/environment, and jobs/energy), so leaders have spent the past several weeks negotiating new packages.

One of the last issues resolved by the leaders was the jobs/energy budget bill.  The agreed-upon language was released late Wednesday night and an overview hearing on the bill will be held this afternoon (Thursday).

Renewable energy advocacy groups had been putting significant pressure on the Governor to oppose the net metering reforms supported by the co-ops and municipal utilities—which would allow these utilities to charge an additional fee to recover fixed cost of distributed generation.  However, their efforts were unsuccessful, and this provision was included in the agreement.  Language allowing co-op and municipal utility distributed generation customers to choose a per-kWh bill credit (which could expire at year’s end) was also included.

The jobs/energy agreement bill did not include any increased assessments upon utilities. It also funded the Office of Broadband Development and provided $10.58 million for the Border-to-Border Broadband grant program.

There were a few other energy policy provisions in the bill:

  • Allowing competitive rate schedules for energy intensive, trade exposed industrial customers of Minnesota Power and Otter Tail Power
  • Multiyear, performance based rate plans for IOU’s (e21 Initiative)
  • Allowing rate recovery for IOU natural gas extension projects
  • Studying the possible move of some duties from DER to the PUC
  • The MPCA will submit a report on their 111(d) state implementation plan to the legislative energy committees for review (not approval)


What’s Next?

The Governor and leaders of all four legislative caucuses met to discuss the framework agreement today.  It was hoped that all four leaders would sign the agreement at this time and the special session would be called.    However, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk has suggested that there may be difficulty securing enough DFL votes to pass the agriculture/environment bill.  The Governor must now meet with the Senate DFL Caucus tonight and urge them to support the agreement and not attempt to amend the bill.  The Governor has reiterated that he will not call the special session until all caucuses agree to the terms of the special session but is hoping to secure this agreement in time for a Friday special session.

MMUA is urging members to contact their state legislators and urge them to support the jobs/energy bill and its net metering provisions to get them over the final threshold.