Net Metering Reform Passes Special Session

On Friday, June 12, Governor Dayton called the Legislature back to St. Paul for a Special Session to pass state agency financing bills that he had vetoed following the Regular Session. Early in the day, the jobs/energy bill passed both the House (78-47) and Senate (50-14) with bipartisan support.  The net metering reforms supported by MMUA and MREA did not receive significant debate in either body.

As a reminder, the new provisions will allow co-ops and municipal utilities to charge an additional fee to recover the fixed costs of providing service to distributed generation customers.  The fee must be based on the utility’s most recent cost of service study.  Additionally, municipal or cooperative customers may now choose to be compensated for their net input with a per-kWh bill credit that carries over month-to-month but could be set by the utility to expire at year’s end.

MMUA Government Relations staff thanks members for their outreach to legislators—this is a notable victory for consumer-owned utilities!

Environment Bill Provides Drama

The agriculture/environment bill was by far the most contentious issue of the Special Session.  Going in, DFL Senate Majority Leader Bakk told the Governor that he didn’t know if the agreed-upon bill had enough votes to pass the Senate.  Indeed it did not, narrowly failing 33-32 the first time it was considered. (Bills require 34 votes to pass into law).  After several hours of caucus negotiations, and despite the agreement not to alter the framework of the agreement, the bill was reconsidered and amended on the Senate floor.  Two of the more controversial provisions relating to the elimination of the MPCA Citizen’s Board and sulfide mining solid waste were removed.  The bill then passed.

Needless to say, the House did not appreciate the Senate’s attempt to move away from the “deal,” so it amended the two provisions back into the bill and sent it back to the Senate.  The old adage “third time’s a charm” proved to be correct when the environment bill was again debated around midnight.  The Senate Republicans were persuaded to support the bill, and it finally passed 38-29.

While the regular session bill that was vetoed by the Governor was trimmed back to reach the “deal,” some helpful policy for municipal utilities remained in the bill:

  • MPCA must consult with a non-state entity to do a 15-city cost analysis of recently adopted and proposed water quality standards. The analysis must consider the costs of meeting current standards, the costs of upgrades and costs of meeting new standards, as well as the incremental improvement in subsequent water quality.
  • Until rulemaking is completed for new sulfate standards to protect wild rice, permittees will not be required to spend money on sulfate treatment technologies.  The MPCA also cannot list waters as impaired until rulemaking is complete and wild rice waters are identified.  Rulemaking is required to be completed by January 2018, after which permits can be reopened to include limits reflecting the new sulfate standards.
  • Utilities are exempted from the application fee to cross public lands, so long as the line/cable is under 100 kilovolts.

It’s Finally Over!

The Governor quickly signed all of the bill passed in the Special Session into law, therefore avoiding a partial government shutdown and officially concluding the business of the 2015 Legislature.