I was disappointed to read the Star Tribune's praise of Attorney General Lori Swanson for defending President Obama's Clean Power Plan ("The good fight: Defend the Clean Power Plan," Nov. 10).
Make no mistake: People will lose jobs and ratepayers will see higher energy bills if this plan is implemented.
I represent Becker, Minn., home of the Xcel Sherco Power plant, which generates electricity that keeps the lights on for about one third of Minnesota homes. Because of the Obama power plan, my community is expected to lose hundreds of good-paying jobs. This will impact not only the local economy, but also energy prices for families across the state.
That's why I was one of more than three dozen legislators who signed a letter earlier this year urging the attorney general to side with ratepayers and Minnesota families to fight this brazen executive overreach. In addition, a bipartisan coalition of legislators pushed for legislative review of the plan before it is submitted to the federal government next spring.
Unfortunately, Gov. Mark Dayton and his administration refused bipartisan efforts to require legislative approval of the plan, preventing Minnesotans from weighing in directly through their elected representatives.
A recent study found that Minnesota will see the 10th-biggest increase in the country for electricity prices after full implementation of the Obama plan. Minnesota families and businesses will expect to see an average yearly increase of 30 percent in their electric bills. This is a huge hit to Minnesota families, especially those who already may be struggling to make ends meet. Higher energy prices are a de facto tax increase on those who can least afford it.
Just last week, Xcel announced a 10 percent rate increase over three years. That's just the beginning.
Proponents of the plan claim this will help save the environment. Facts tell a very different story. The Environmental Protection Agency's own reports say the plan's impact on global climate is insignificant; it will mean a total carbon reduction of 0.2 percent worldwide and will help prevent 1/100th of a degree of global warming.
The Star Tribune Editorial Board claims we must act "while air quality deteriorates." Has it not been paying attention? Minnesota already receives top grades from the American Lung Association for air quality, and our air is getting cleaner, not dirtier. Coal companies have invested billions over the past decade to make their operations cleaner and have gone to great lengths to protect the environment. I say that as someone who lives downwind from Sherco.
I'm deeply worried about the families in my district and across Minnesota containing members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Boilermakers and other hardworking trades. They serve the electrical industry on a daily basis, and their jobs are at risk due to the plan.
Supporters of the plan will ignorantly brush off these people and classify them as "retrainable" in clean energy jobs. This is a dangerous myth. Once a windmill or solar panel is installed, its intermittent energy doesn't provide stable jobs to account for the massive losses we're expected to see with the elimination of coal plants in Minnesota.
The wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine. Coal is the most reliable source of electricity to ensure that our homes, businesses and hospitals have access to electricity 24 hours a day. Until these technologies can provide the baseload power that we need, we must work with an "all of the above" energy approach that includes clean coal power.
It might make the Editorial Board and clean-energy supporters feel good, but good feelings can't power an entire state. Coal can, and does, every single day.
The Star Tribune and the attorney general have decided to stand with President Obama. I'll stand on the side of Minnesota families and Minnesota jobs.
Jim Newberger, R-Becker, is a member of the Minnesota House.