St. Paul Ward 6 Candidate Forum on Energy Democracy

      Many thanks to the Saint Paul Branch of MN350.org for hosting the Ward 6 Energy Democracy Forum on Oct. 1 at the Arlington Hills Community Center. 

St. Paul 350 are grassroots volunteers committed to ending the pollution that is damaging communities and climate, and for speeding the transition to clean energy, while creating a just and healthy future for all of us. As more of our neighbors seek ways to respond to the climate crisis, St. Paul 350 has begun to organize meaningful actions for us to take together.
Ward 6 is the only open Saint Paul City Council race without an incumbent running for re-election. 
At the forum, there were 4 prepared questions read by two moderators from Ward 6, Patricia Enstad and Mike Hirabayashi. Also included were audience questions and closing statements.
Similar to Community Power's Minneapolis work in 2017, being in good communication with the forum participants ahead of time doubled as candidate education on topics including:
  • The St. Paul Climate Action and Resilience Plan—in particular pages. 16-24 for information about how climate change is affecting St. Paul communities
  • A Platform Vision on Climate Justice & Energy Democracy—prepared by the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy
  • Draft Resolution on the City of St. Paul’s relationship with Xcel Energy—This was valuable in providing a future Council Member background information about what the St. Paul 350 team is working on.

 

Watch the video at the link below: 

The 4 Questions: 

Environmental Impacts: Last week we saw more than 4 million students around the world lead a strike for climate justice. The climate crisis is global, but its effects are felt locally. What are some of the ways the changing climate is already affecting people in Ward 6 and how will you address them as a city council member?

Economic Impacts: In addition to the environmental damage we’re already facing from fossil fuel emissions, we also face increasing economic risks. For example, the city of St. Paul’s utility, Xcel Energy, is currently planning to build at least one new natural gas plant that could keep St. Paul dependent on fossil fuels beyond 2050. How does investment in new fossil fuel infrastructure put Ward 6 utility customers at risk, and what will you do about this as a city council member?

Equity impacts: We know that vulnerable communities are hurt first and worst by the effects of climate change, and St. Paul’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan identifies Ward 6 neighborhoods as some of the most at risk in St. Paul. How can energy democracy help address these and other inequities Ward 6 communities face, such as safe and affordable housing, living wage jobs, racial disparities, etc.?

Energy Vision: The climate crisis is global, but the effects are felt locally and the solutions can be too. Energy democracy means giving our communities the power to decide our energy future rather than staying dependent on the corporations and policies that created the current climate crisis. As a city council member, what is your vision for what energy democracy would look like in Ward 6?

 

Draft Resolution on the City of St. Paul’s relationship with Xcel Energy

Expressing the need for Saint Paul to advocate for the renewable, equitable, and locally-produced energy commitments expressed in the Climate Action and Resilience Plan, and to oppose new fossil fuel energy sources proposed by Xcel Energy.

Body

WHEREAS, the City of Saint Paul recognizes that the climate crisis caused by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels and other sources, is increasingly exposing Saint Paul residents to flooding, poor air quality, extreme heat events, loss of tree cover, economic hardship, and psychological stresses; and

WHEREAS, Saint Paul City Council members unanimously passed a Climate Inheritance Resolution calling for 100% renewable electricity for the entire city by 2030, and 25% of electricity created within city limits (RES 18-1361 version 1); and

WHEREAS, the City of Saint Paul is also responding to the existential threat of climate change by developing a Climate Action and Resilience Plan that commits the city to carbon neutrality by 2050 and reducing emissions from all sectors 50% by 2030; and

WHEREAS, the Climate Action and Resilience Plan projects that we will fall short of these goals, reaching only 44% reduction in emissions by 2030 and 73% by 2050 from business as usual (pgs. 48, 63).

WHEREAS, energy production and policies affect Saint Paul’s ability to meet the goals identified in the Climate Action and Resilience Plan, especially “improving equitable access to clean electricity” (pg. 48, 63); and

WHEREAS, a 2017 report commissioned by the McKnight Foundation and written by Gridlab at the University of Minnesota shows that Minnesota could retire the state’s coal plants, build no additional natural gas plants, and still meet energy demands reliably through clean, renewable energy sources while also reducing energy costs and tripling local clean energy jobs; and 

WHEREAS, the City of Saint Paul has innovative examples of locally-produced energy, such as District Energy St. Paul, North America’s largest cogeneration district heating and cooling system, fueled primarily by wood waste; Brookfield Renewable Power’s Twin Cities Hydroelectric Facility in Highland Park, which powered the Ford Plant and continues to produce enough energy to power 14,400 homes a year; and the potential for an estimated 800MW of rooftop solar within city limits (about 40% of the city’s total electricity consumption); and

WHEREAS, the City of Saint Paul has a franchise agreement with Xcel Energy for our electricity and gas, a corporation that leads the nation in carbon-free energy production among investor-owned utilities; and

WHEREAS, on July 1, 2019 Xcel Energy filed its 15-year Upper Midwest Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) proposing the closure of Xcel’s two remaining coal plants in Minnesota by 2030, adding 4000 MW of utility scale solar energy production,  and substantial energy efficiency improvements, but also proposing the acquisition and operation of a natural gas plant (Mankato Energy Center) and the construction and operation of a new gas power plant in 2026 (Sherco CC); and

WHEREAS, natural gas power plants burn fossil fuels that include fracked gas which can pollute water sources and degrade air quality at the point of extraction, and leak potent greenhouse gases such as methane throughout the distribution infrastructure in addition to the carbon produced when it is burned to generate electricity; and

WHEREAS, natural gas power plants have a projected life of 20–30 years, but rapidly increasing feasibility and affordability of renewable energy plus storage may render them uneconomical within a few years; and

WHEREAS, this proposal will make St. Paul dependent on energy from fossil fuels for 25% of our electricity through 2030 and beyond, unnecessarily putting St. Paul communities and our climate at risk at a time when renewable energy plus storage technology is already proving to be reliable and as affordable on a levelized-cost-of-energy-basis to new gas-fired generation; and

WHEREAS, in recent regulatory filings the Minnesota Department of Commerce ruled that “Overall, Xcel has not shown need or any net benefits to ratepayers for Xcel’s proposed (MEC gas plant) purchase” and the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office commented that Xcel “structured the proposed acquisition in an opaque backroom deal and in the absence of any competition, transparency or meaningful need for alternative analysis”; and

WHEREAS, in addition to environmental damage, burning natural gas has serious economic risks for an estimated 42,124 households in Saint Paul experiencing an energy burden (the percent of income spent on energy costs) of 4% or above who are especially vulnerable to volatility in fossil fuel costs and risks associated with stranded assets when power plants are forced to be retired early due to economic and/or environmental concerns; and these same households are also the most vulnerable to risks associated with the pollution that causes climate change; now there for be it

RESOLVED that the City of Saint Paul will submit official comment in the Public Utilities Commission review process of Xcel Energy’s 2020–2034 Integrated Resource Plan expressing opposition to the acquisition of the existing MEC natural gas plant (docket MEC 18-702) and the construction of a new Sherco CC gas plant in 2026 (docket 19-368); now therefore be it further

RESOLVED that the City of Saint Paul will advocate for including more renewable, equitable, and locally produced energy plus storage in Xcel Energy’s 2020–2034 Integrated Resource Plan so that our city can meet the bold commitments for reducing emissions and energy burdens as expressed in our Climate Inheritance Resolution (version 1) and Climate Action and Resilience Plan (draft 2).


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