Senate Assembles and Passes New Energy Policy Omnibus

On Thursday, Sen. John Marty (chair of the Environment and Energy Committee) crafted a second energy policy omnibus on the Senate floor (SF 1735).  He noted that many of the provisions contained in his first policy omnibus—40 by 30 RES and 2% CIP—were too controversial to move forward this session.  He hoped to create a policy omnibus of non-controversial energy provisions that could be passed into law.

The underlying contents of this bill would allow IOU’s to file for multiyear, performance-based rate plans (as discussed in the e21 initiative) and allow Minnesota Power to provide competitive rate schedules for energy intensive, trade exposed large industrial customers. On the floor, Sen. Marty offered the following provisions as amendments, which were adopted:

  • Allowing Otter Tail Power to also offer competitive rate schedules to EITE customers.
  • Implementing changes to siting solar farms, allowing counties or cities to site solar farms up to 25 MW in size and PUC siting authority for larger projects.
  • Exempting the repowering of large wind energy conversion systems from the certificate of need process.
  • A series of small initiatives to help move customers off of propane to natural gas.
  • Technical improvements to the Guaranteed Energy Savings Program.
  • Requiring IOU’s serving first-class cities (Xcel and MP) to file an electric vehicle promotion program with the PUC.

An amendment was also offered by Sen. Skoe, and adopted, which would allow investor owned natural gas utilities to file for rate recovery for natural gas extension projects.  The bill passed with a wide bipartisan margin, 59-4.

Since there is no House companion to this bill, and that body is carrying its energy policy positions in its economic development/energy omnibus budget bill, the future of this energy policy bill is uncertain.


Tax Conference Committee Begins

On Monday, the Senate debated the tax omnibus bill (HF 848) on the Senate floor.  This bill includes utility property tax reform, as detailed in several previous issues of The Capital Letter.  No amendments related to the utility property tax provisions were offered, with the floor discussion centering on additional tax relief GOP members would have liked to be included in the bill.  The tax omnibus passed on a bipartisan 42-25 vote.

Following the Senate’s action, a conference committee was appointed to work out the vast differences in the House and Senate tax bills.  Senators serving on the conference committee are:  Sen. Rod Skoe (chair, DFL-Clearbrook), Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope), Sen. Lyle Koenen (DFL-Clara City), Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis), and Sen. Paul Gazelka (R-Baxter).  House conferees include:  Rep. Greg Davids (chair, R-Preston), Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa), Rep. Bob Barrett (R-Lindstrom), Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R-Marshall), and Rep. Ann Lenczewski (DFL-Bloomington).

The conference committee began meeting on Wednesday, but at the time of publishing, had only reviewed the differences between the two bodies’ bills.  No action has yet been taken.


Energy/Economic Development Conference Committee Begins

The conference committee for the energy and economic development budget (SF 2101) was also appointed this week.  From the Senate:  Sen. David Tomassoni (chair, DFL-Chisholm), Sen. Dick Cohen (DFL-St. Paul), Sen. Dan Sparks (DFL-Austin), Sen. Vicki Jensen (DFL-Owatonna), and Sen. David Osmek (R-Mound).  House conferees include:  Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Lakeville), Rep. Bob Gunther (R-Fairmont), Rep. Joe Hoppe (R-Chaska), Rep. Jim Newberger (R-Becker), and Rep. Kim Norton (DFL-Rochester).

The conference committee held its first meeting on Wednesday, where it began to review the differences between the House and Senate bills.  That effort is expected to continue at its Thursday meeting.


Environment/Agriculture Conference Committee Appointed

The conferees for the environment and agriculture budget (HF 846) were named early this week.  Serving from the House are:  Rep. Denny McNamara (chair, R-Hastings); Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake), Rep. Tom Hackbarth (R-Cedar), Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau), and Rep. David Dill (DFL-Crane Lake).  Senate conferees include:  Sen. David Tomassoni (chair, DFL-Chisholm), Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville), Sen. Dan Sparks (DFL-Austin), Sen. John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin), and Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne).

At the time of publishing, a first meeting of this conference committee had not yet been scheduled.