Fresh Energy is excited to welcome Laura Wagner as our new Session Associate, Legislative Affairs to support our clean energy and climate priorities during the upcoming 2024 Minnesota legislative session. In her role, Laura will help to advance policies that transition Minnesota’s economy to be carbon-neutral by 2050.
“I’m excited to join Fresh Energy for this year’s legislative session and dive deeper into complex policies,” says Laura, who will be spending January through May at the Capitol to track committee hearings, meet with legislators, and advocate for transformative policy change for a clean energy future.
Laura recently graduated from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs with a Master of Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy and was an intern at the Metropolitan Council, where she focused on climate adaptation projects, and worked with the Minnesota Environmental Partnership during the 2023 legislative session.
At the Metropolitan Council, Laura reported on how both the Council and local municipalities could better implement resilience, mitigation, and adaptation strategies. Specifically, she reported on how local organizations can use asset-based management to develop climate solutions, which looks at how a community’s strengths and existing resources can best tackle climate challenges. One real-life example of this is St. Paul’s wastewater treatment plant, which releases heated effluent into the river, which could potentially be used to efficiently heat St. Paul buildings instead.
Laura has hands-on experience with Minnesota climate policy: she spent last year’s monumental 2023 legislative session in Minnesota working with the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, a coalition of environmental organizations. “It was great to have hands-on experience during a momentous legislative session,” says Laura. “It was great experience to watch committee hearings, write action alerts and sign-on letters, and really feel like I was a part of a historic session.”
Laura hails from Minnetonka and grew up spending her summers going to the beach at Lake Minnetonka to swim and go boating, then spend the winter ice skating on the lake.
“Lake Minnetonka holds a special place in my heart, even if it’s a lake with environmental challenges,” says Laura. “But that also provides a good educational opportunity, too, because I became interested in the invasive species that affect the lake.”
Laura received her undergraduate degree in environmental science, expecting to start a career in wildlife biology or similar role based on her interests in the health and longevity of ecosystems and experience in field research. She minored in marine biology and spent a semester in Hawaii, learning about its marine environments first-hand, how environmental policies affect its ecosystems, and how climate change is already affecting Hawaii’s inhabitants and ecosystems. She also spent a summer in Sitka, Alaska, advocating for sustainable, local fishing practices with the Alaska Longline Fisherman’s Association.
“I really learned how important policy is to make change and protecting our environment,” says Laura. “That was the lightbulb for me. Even though science and research are incredibly important to understanding how climate change is affecting our ecosystems, I became really interested in how powerful policy can be in affecting meaningful change.”
Laura is excited to kick off her career in environmental policy with Fresh Energy. Outside of work, she enjoys going for nature walks, cooking and baking, traveling up to the North Shore, and spending time with friends and family.