Off Peak

Fortnightly Magazine - July 15 1997

Minnesota has lots of drafts, but no final plan.

So you think your state has been busy? In Minnesota, the 1997 legislative session saw more than a dozen new bills introduced on electric, gas and energy issues.

At the start of the session many expected that electric deregulation would play a major part in the legislative program. However, Gov. Carlson reports now that legislators will defer work on the issue until the 1998 session. Several electric industry deregulation bills were introduced at the end of the session, but when last we checked no hearings had been held.

Electric Retail Choice

Omnibus Energy Bill (Chapter 191) (em

s Requires task force to study deregulation and make recommendations to the Legislature by Jan. 15, 1998. (Only item passed so far on electric deregulation.)

s Utility customers with loads of 2 megawatts per hour or larger will enjoy reduced rates. (State public utilities commission must approve rates.)

s Utility property tax exemption for hydroelectric or hydromechanical power on a federally owned site.

s Calls for study of personal property tax on electric and gas utilities in the state.

s All electric generators must report annually mercury emission levels to the state.

Minnesota Energy Consumers Bill (H.F. 2149/S.F. 1950) (em Residential and small-business customers would get choice of electric suppliers, plus a 7.5-percent rate cut, by Jan. 1, 1999. All customers would have choice by Jan. 1, 2000.

Minnesota Responsible Electric Competition Act (H.F. 2238) (em Would prepare state to comply with a federally mandated deadline for electric retail competition. Would set standards for service reliability, safety, consumer protection and environmental safeguards.

UtiliCorp Model Bill (H.F. 2229) (em Bill sets standards for restructuring state's electric utility industry. Would require unbundling of electric rates as quickly as possible and full customer choice by Dec. 15, 2000.

Minnesota Electric System Public Benefits Protection Act of 1997 (H.F. 2238) (em Bill imposes a wires charge, with proceeds to go to renewable energy sources, universal electric service, affordable electric service, energy conservation and research and development. Requires that by 2009, 10 percent of electricity generated in the state come from renewable energy sources, among other environmental provisions.

Nuclear Waste

Nuclear Waste Fee Escrow Account (Chapter 201) (em Allows Minnesota to take full advantage of any relief granted by the federal courts in pending cases brought by states and utilities over the U.S. Department of Energy's nuclear waste disposal obligations. (Law passed.)

Minnesota Nuclear Responsibility Act of 1997 (S.F. 880/S.F. 843) (em Would have reactivated and reorganized the state's Nuclear Waste Council.

Taxes

Carbon Taxes (S.F. 110/H.F. 1110/H.F 1190) (em Would have subjected coal, mixed municipal waste and natural gas and liquid fuel to an "emission assessment" based on the fuel's known carbon content.

Utility Personal Property Taxes (H.F. 1298 and H.F. 2235) (em Both would have overhauled utility personal property tax. A study of such taxes was part of the Omnibus Energy Bill.

Wind and Biomass

Certificate of Need Exemptions (Chapter 198) (em Exempts the electric generating plant selected to implement the wind and biomass mandates of the Prairie Island legislation from the certificate of need proceeding.

Power Purchase Contracts (Chapter 176) (em Provides that upon petition of the utility, state utility commission reviews power purchase contracts or investments entered or made by the utility to satisfy the wind and biomass mandates of the Prairie Island Law.

Natural Gas Ratemaking

Performance-Based Regulation (Chapter 25) (em Supported by Minnesota's natural gas utilities, allows for the filing of performance-based regulation plans. It becomes effective Aug. 1, 1997.

Private Issues

Electric Utility Mergers (S.F. 83/H.F. 295) (em Aimed at proposed Primergy deal, bill would have required state PUC, before approving merger between Northern States Power and Wisconsin Energy, to determine that merger would be "beneficial to state and local economies."

Certificate of Need for Transmission Lines (Chapter 198) (em Excuses certificate of need for any new high-voltage transmission line with capacity of at least 200 kilovolts that crosses the Minnesota state boundary if project application was filed by Feb. 1, 1997.

Municipal and Cooperative Utility Joint Ventures (Chapter 232) (em Allows Jackson Municipal Utilities Commission to enter a joint venture with the Federated Rural Electric Associations.

Clean Air

Exempt Minnesota from Ozone Transport Schedule (S.F. 1867/H.F. 2094) (em Would ask U.S. EPA to exempt Minnesota from state implementation plan on regional transport of ozone.

Ozone Attainment State Implementation Plan Act (S.F. 1962) (em Would require public hearing and legislative review of any state actions related to the atmospheric transport of ozone.

New Source Performance Standards (S.F. 1466/H.F 1955) (em Introduced but never heard, would have applied new source performance standards to all steam electric plants in the state.

Information based on the

1997 Legislative Final Report, Energy Legislation, from the state of Minnesota.


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