Minnesota Needs A Climate Champion

Push utilities to clean electricity

Grade: B

The economics of clean energy have drastically improved. As the cost of renewable energies like solar and wind continues to plunge, the market is already moving in the right direction. Some Minnesota utilities have set goals for 100% clean energy, but not at the pace the climate crisis requires. These same utilities also propose to build fossil gas plants, threatening our progress toward clean energy. State action is needed to accelerate the transition to clean energy, stop new investments in fossil gas plants, and ensure that the environmental and economic benefits of clean energy are shared equitably.

What Governor Walz has done:

  • Proposed a 100% Clean Energy Bill which would require 100% clean electricity by 2040 with strong interim benchmarks, including a focus on jobs and equity, and other policies to support clean electricity. To his credit, Gov. Walz followed President Biden’s lead and accelerated the timeline of his earlier proposal to reach this goal by 2050. But this bill only covers electricity.
  • Convened the Midwest Governors Association process to support coal plant communities in transition.

What Governor Walz should do:

  • Make the 100% Clean Energy Bill a high priority for the administration in public communications and agency advocacy. This is a foundational policy for reducing emissions in the electric sector. 
  • Publicly oppose and direct agencies to oppose new fossil gas plants and pipelines proposed by utilities and energy companies such as Xcel Energy’s proposed Sherco plant and Minnesota Power’s proposed gas plants. New fossil gas plants do not fit into Gov. Walz’s 100% clean electricity policy goal and create risks for our climate, and our health.
  • Support removing waste incineration from the definition of renewable energy in Minnesota and accelerate the inevitable closure of incinerators like the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC), which pollutes in overburdened communities. The state should lead in zero waste initiatives. Trash incineration should not be considered a renewable resource like solar or wind nor a clean alternative to landfills. Incinerators reduce bulk but still send toxic ash to landfills. A national study found that incinerators produce 2.5% more atmospheric carbon than coal power plants. Further, incinerators have a devastating impact on the health of people nearby a facility. Incinerators are large emitters of toxic air pollution like heavy metals, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter that are linked to asthma, heart and lung disease and other health problems.

More benefits for all Minnesotans:

  • Clean electricity would create family-sustaining jobs for Minnesotans, particularly those most affected by the clean energy transition and those who live in areas of concern for environmental justice. 
  • Clean electricity would make our air cleaner and improve our health. Fossil-powered plants emit carbon, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and other pollutants that harm people’s health, and are disproportionately located in communities of color. Mortality rates among Black Americans that are attributable to power plant pollution are 25% higher than the population average and 12% higher than the rates for white Americans. These same communities are also more impacted by pollution from extraction sites and end uses of the fuels.
  • Closing the HERC and producing clean electricity without incinerators would improve air quality for all and specifically those living in North Minneapolis. The HERC in downtown Minneapolis is the largest municipal solid waste incinerator in the state. More than 48% of the residents who live near the HERC are people of color, and many live on a household income of less than $35,000 a year. North Minneapolis residents experience the highest rates of asthma-related hospitalizations in the state, more than five times the average.