Opponents say nuclear power is the most expensive kind of energy to build and there’s no safe place to store the waste. Despite those objections, a bill that could lead to building Minnesota’s first new nuclear power plant in decades got the approval from the House Committee on the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources late this morning. The bill, otherwise known as House File 9, would lift the moratorium that has prevented the Public Utilities Commission from issuing a certificate of need for the construction or expansion of a nuclear power plant. It has failed to pass through this committee twice before when the DFL held the majority in the House.
The Republican chair of the committee, Rep. Denny McNamara, said the bill “is not symbolic. This is about doing what’s right for Minnesota.” Others, including DFL Reps. Jean Wagenius and Bill Hilty, ardently opposed the bill because they believe it would be costly to the state economically and environmentally. The bill passed to the Commerce Committee with 10 ayes to 6 nays.
By making the nuclear issue one of the first bills likely to be passed in the House and Senate, the Republican majority is testing just how well the DFL minority will stay unified. A few DFLers have indicated they are open to lifting the ban, and might possibly vote with the Republican majority.
The real question is whether those same DFLers would vote to uphold a veto from Governor Dayton. A veto from Dayton is likely. During the campaign Dayton said, “It would be highly irresponsible to subject future generations for thousands of years to come to our irresponsible inability to develop alternative energies that are going to require them to inherit that waste with no resolution at all.”
Should there be a Dayton veto, House Minority Leader Paul Thissen is confident the veto will be upheld. “The Republicans are far from a veto-proof majority,” Thissen said at the start of the session, “and so I am confident that we are going to uphold any vetoes, the legislature is going to uphold any vetoes that Governor Dayton might issue.”