MN House Coal Caucus votes to keep bill about air pollution away from environment committee


It’s the sort of post-moronic (and moneyed) politics Bluestem has come to expect from Speaker Daudt’s majority, foreshadowed by the leader’s removal of “Energy” from the Environmental and Natural Resources committee to team it up with “Jobs.”

In Tuesday’s floor session, Minnesota House Environment and Natural Resources minority lead Rick Hansen ( DFL-South St. Paul) moved to have HF333 pulled from the House Ways and Means Committee and sent to the Environment Committee.

HF333, a bill that would require legislative approval of a state plan to comply with federal regulations regarding emissions from existing power plants, would be paid for by the state’s environmental fund. Implementing the lanuage would be be part of work of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). The “federal regulations” about air emissions is part of the implementation of the federal Clean Air Act.

Hansen also noted that plans for regulating power plant emissions are part of addressing climate change, another concern tasked to the Environment Committee.

In short, this bill has everything to do with environmental policy and funding. Bill author, Becker Republican Jim Newberger, opposed Hansen’s motion–prompting a remarkable line of questioning from Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley).

Newberger: . . .this is not a pollution control bill. Members please vote no on this motion.

Winkler: Representative Newberger, is air part of the environment?

Newberger: Thank you Representative Winkler. That’s a complex question and one that you obviously know the answer to. Of course it is.

Winkler: Well, Representative Newberger, you said that the air is part of the environment and this is an air pollution bill, this is a bill about polluting the environment. I think that Representative McNamara’s committee is based on some regulation or deregulation of pollution of the environment. I don’t quite understand how anyone could stand up with a straight face, on the floor, and say that a bill that deals with air pollution, doesn’t have to go to the Environment Committee since air is part of the environment.

And so members, I guess it kind of begs the question.

I understand that the coal industry favors the bill, and the coal industry doesn’t think that burning coal has an effect on the environment, but I think most Minnesotans do, so the question recurs once again to the body: do you want to follow the demands of an industry who has money to be made by moving a bill away from the Environment Committee, or do you want to do what’s right for the state and follow basic common sense about environmental impacts of burning coal?

And if you don’t think that belongs in the Environment Committee, maybe I’d suggest you’d get rid of the Environment Committee . . .anyway.

After more discussion, the House voted 55 for and 73 against the motion. Perhaps what’s most interesting about the vote is that four of the eight DFL sponsors of the bill voted for the Hansen amendment: Ben Lien (Moorhead), Paul Marquart (Dilworth), John Persell (Bemidji) and Mike Sundin (Esko) concurred that air pollution has something to do with the environment.

The other DFL sponsors of the bill–all Rangers–were joined by Gene Pelowski (DFL-Winona) in agreeing that air pollution is part of jobs and energy.

Xcel Energy’s coal-burning 2222 MW Sherburne County (Sherco) Generating Station,located near Becker, is arguably Representative Newberger’s most important constituent.

Here’s the entire discussion of the motion and the vote (Winkler gets started about 15:15:



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