What’s going on in Saint Paul? Here is an update from Bill Glahn, former Director of Energy Security under Gov. Pawlenty. If you have ever wondered if your vote mattered, take a look at what the new legislature is working on:

It was a very busy week at the state legislature on energy and environment issues.

Environmental Permitting

Governor Dayton has announced he will sign into law the first bill introduced this year by the new Republican-majority House of Representatives, House File 1 (HF1).  The new law seeks to streamline the environmental permitting process at the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Pollution Control Agency.  The Governor and the new Republican majority demonstrated an ability to work together to pass important legislature.

The new law would, among other provisions, set a goal of issuing permits within 150 days of an application’s submission.  The bill passed both houses with large, bi-partisan majorities.

Earlier in the week, the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) released a report (http://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/ped/2011/envir.htm) that is none too flattering of the Agencies’ permitting efforts.  HF1 may turn out to be just the first of series of reforms in the area of environmental permitting.

Nuclear Power Ban

Bills to overturn the state’s 1994 ban on building new nuclear power plants are now being reconciled in conference committee, to merge the different versions passed by each house.  In the Senate, its bill passed by an overwhelming vote of 50-14.  The House passed its version by a bi-partisan majority of 81-50.  Gov. Dayton continues to express opposition to new nuclear power for Minnesota.

Minnesota is home to two operating nuclear power plants, the last of which was built in 1974.  Both plants are expected to operate past 2030. 

Coal Power Ban

Bills to overturn the state’s 2007’s ban on new coal-fueled power plants are progressing.  House File 72 had its first day of hearings in the House Commerce Committee.  The Senate companion, SF86, had its first day of hearings in the Senate Energy Committee.

The newly constructed Spiritwood plant in North Dakota is the subject of a cross-border dispute involving the 2007 law. 

LCCMR Cuts Projects

The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), which spends lottery dollars on environmental projects, received some unwelcome news this week.  New members Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings) and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria)—both environmental committee chairs in the Legislature—had to inform the Commission that the votes are not there in 2011 to pass the LCCMR’s pre-election-2010 slate of recommendations.