The 2019 session of the Minnesota Legislature will convene on Tuesday, January 8 and with a new Governor, fresh leadership in the Minnesota House, and a significant number of first-time legislators, big changes could be in store.
So, where do energy and climate fit in Minnesota’s new legislative landscape?
The Minnesota House features a newly rebranded “Energy and Climate” committee—the first time ever that “climate” has appeared in the name of a standing MN legislative committee—chaired by Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL – Minneapolis). The Minnesota Senate, which was not on the ballot in 2018, returns Sen. David Osmek (GOP- Mound) as Chair of the Energy and Utilities Committee. And of course, the Governor’s office will now by occupied by Governor-elect Tim Walz, supported by (likely) a mostly-new team of cabinet officials at key agencies like the Department of Commerce, Pollution Control Agency and others.
State leaders will hope to improve on the disappointing end to the 2018 session, when key provisions were loaded at the last minute into a nearly 1,000-page omnibus bill that ended up being vetoed by outgoing Gov. Mark Dayton. Fortunately, there are no shortage of meaningful steps forward available to policymakers in the upcoming session.
Among the energy and climate items likely to be at the top of the list for discussion in 2019 are:
- Revisiting Minnesota’s renewable energy standard and long-term state energy policy goals. States around the Midwest and elsewhere in the country are signaling renewed interest in setting aggressive, forward-thinking goals to move forward on the path to 100% carbon-free electricity.
- Protecting and updating Minnesota’s energy efficiency programs to ensure continued cost-effective energy savings for Minnesota consumers, along with renewed focus on better serving low-income residents.
- Setting the stage for wider adoption of electric transportation options, including infrastructure for light-duty electric vehicles along with investments in electrified transit solutions.
- Updates to Minnesota’s nation-leading community solar programs, to remove barriers to participation and to build long term viability and affordability.
In addition to these critical policy conversations, legislators will be adopting a new state budget and may consider a significant public works bill, both of which have potentially significant implications for clean energy progress and reductions in greenhouse gases.
A final area of possible action in 2019 is administrative actions that may be proposed or enacted by the incoming Walz administration. While many policy changes require legislative action, there are significant opportunities for state agencies to drive carbon reduction and clean energy growth through executive orders, state agency rulemaking, and other mechanisms.
In whatever way these conversations unfold, Fresh Energy’s government affairs team will be working hard to develop and advance sound, pragmatic solutions to meet the historic challenges and opportunities that await state policymakers in 2019 and beyond.