Legislative Committee January Report

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Welcome to the first post from the North Star Chapter Legislative Committee! We are the volunteer leaders who direct the Minnesota Sierra Club’s work at the State Capitol, and we have been busy at the Capitol already in this session of the 2011-2012 State Legislature. Justin Fay, the Chapter’s full-time Legislative and Policy Coordinator, reports below on two key issues for the Sierra Club and its allies; the moratorium on building nuclear power plants and the carbon offset requirement for new coal plants. We also have some opportunities coming up for you to talk with your legislators face to face on priorities that matter to you.

The chapter’s top priorities in this session are preventing bad effects to Minnesota’s great outdoors from toxic sulfide mining, a state standard for solar energy production and safeguarding transit funding. Much of our effort will also be to defend Minnesota laws like the nuclear moratorium and the coal offset requirement and to make sure that efforts to streamline environmental review do not reduce the environmental protections such review affords now.

We look forward to hearing from you on issues of concern to you at the Minnesota State Legislature. We work on your behalf!

Nuclear Moratorium Repeal
The nuclear moratorium repeal legislation (SF4 – Koch) was heard on Tuesday and Thursday last week in the Senate Energy Committee. On Tuesday, the committee heard testimony from organizations and citizens on both sides of the issue – testifying on behalf of our coalition were Dr. Arjun Makhijani from the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and Steve Morse from the Minnesota Environmental Partnership. Supporters of the legislation were led by the Nuclear Energy Institute and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.
 
On Thursday, the committee adopted an amendment that was offered by Sen. Howe to require a study on the long-term costs of nuclear waste storage in Minnesota – however the study is not required until the Public Utilities Commission begins the process of planning for the decommissioning of one of Minnesota’s two nuclear power plants. After the amendment was added, the bill was passed out of committee on a voice vote. The bill now goes directly to the Senate floor, where it could conceivably be considered as early as this week.
 
In the House, the repeal legislation (HF9 – Peppin) has now been schedule for its next hearing in the House Commerce Committee on February 9 (2:30pm, State Office Building Basement).

Preventing New Coal Pollution
The bill repealing Minnesota’s existing requirements that utilities offset the pollution from any new coal plants (HF72 – Beard) was heard in the House Environment and Energy Committee on Thursday. Nancy Lange from the Izaak Walton League, Barb Freese from the Union of Concerned Scientists and Jon Hunter from the American Lung Association represented our coalition; Great River Energy and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce testified in support of the bill. Public testimony ran long and the committee did not finish their consideration of the bill; the committee will take the issue up again on Tuesday (8:15am, Room 5 State Office Building) when they will wrap up any remaining public testimony, consider amendments, and take action on the bill. The Senate companion has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

Meet your Legislator
The North Star Chapter held an in-district meeting for Sierra Club members in the 58th Senate District at the offices of the Minneapolis Urban League. Senator Linda Higgins attended and a lively discussion provided her constituents from the Sierra Club a chance to give their view points to her directly. Another in-district meeting in Senate District #44 is happening on February 3rd. To attend, please RSVP here.

Post image some rights reserved by TBoard on Flickr

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