Legislation Aims to Rollback Utility Commission Authority in Historic Fashion

February 9, 2017

Justin Fay – justin.fay@sierraclub.org
Ricky Junquera – ricky.junquera@sierraclub.org

Fast-tracking Xcel Gas Plant; without consideration of public’s best interest.

Minneapolis, MN – Today, the Minnesota House passed, and Governor Dayton announced his intention to sign, legislation that exempts Xcel Energy from the long-standing authority of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to evaluate whether new power generation is in the public interest. Instead, this bill would give Xcel Energy sole discretion whether to build a new 786-Megawatt gas plant in Becker, Minnesota.The legislation will be taken up by the Senate in the coming weeks before advancing to the Governor’s desk.

Sierra Club Minnesota issued the following statement in response:

“Legislation to exempt Xcel Energy’s proposed gas plant from standard consumer protection publicly undermines the authority of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Authorizing Xcel Energy to replace two retiring coal units with a $1 billion gas plant, while avoiding basic demonstrations that the plant is in the public interest, undoes long-standing precedent; replacing a balancing of interests with a process that gives a giant check to Xcel.

The mission of the Public Utilities Commission is ‘to protect and promote the public’s interest in safe, adequate and reliable utility services at fair, reasonable rates.’ Xcel Energy and state lawmakers are choosing to let shareholders benefit at the expense of ratepayers across the state.

Sierra Club, along with many other stakeholders, has participated extensively in PUC proceedings over the years and believes Minnesota’s Commission is a best-in-class example of a regulatory body that weighs diverse interests in search of the best outcome. State lawmakers have opened the door to bypass the PUC every time a company decides it would be more expedient to make a decision to build a new coal plant or a new nuclear plant in a corporate boardroom rather than in the public venue specifically designed for this work.

We stand ready to defend the Public Utilities Commission from further rollbacks to their authority to act on behalf of Minnesotans, and encourage state lawmakers and the Governor to do the same.”


About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.7 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.