While Gov. Tim Pawlenty was in sunny Arizona last week repeating an energy speech calling on states for “bold, innovative initiatives” in climate change policy, back in blustery St. Paul his minions were assembling an “action plan” on the same subject that critics say lacks action and is far from bold.
“It is disappointing,” said state Rep. Bill Hilty, DFL-Finlayson, chair of the Minnesota House Energy Policy Division. He criticized the report as being especially weak in policy initiatives to curb automotive emissions, which account for between a quarter and a third of greenhouse emissions linked to climate change.
In a report sent to the Legislature, the Pawlenty administration acknowledged, “The threat of climate change due to human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases is real and growing.” The legally mandated report is based on an eight-month study by a 55-member Climate Change Advisory Group appointed by Pawlenty last May after he signed Minnesota’s “Next Generation” energy law.
Importantly, the report does not itemize ways to meet the law’s specific goals of reducing greenhouse gasses by 15 percent by 2015, by 30 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.
‘The report is a failure’
“The whole purpose of the law was for the administration to report on how the goals can be met,” said state Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul. She’s chair of the Senate’s Environment and Energy Policy Division.
“Without a specific plan, the report is a failure,” Anderson said.
In an interview two weeks ago, Deputy Commerce Commissioner Edward Garvey said the report would detail how to meet the goals. But Garvey would not respond to MinnPost questions about why the report lacked specifics.
“This is a multi-step process, and it’s very complex,” said David Thornton, assistant commissioner of the state’s Pollution Control Agency and a co-author of the report. Thornton said the document was preliminary, and is awaiting final report of the study group.
“I don’t know what additional report he’s talking about,” said Chuck Dayton of St. Paul, a member of the study group. Dayton said the group issued its report and no additional meetings are set.
Thornton also said, “If people were expecting a specific recipe in this report, they should know that there will be a need for continued dialogue.”
But Anderson said: “The time for dialogue was when we passed the Next Generation law. Now is the time for action.”
Indeed, Pawlenty said as much when he signed the Next Generation energy law last May.
“The best time to have taken action would’ve been 30 years ago,” Pawlenty said. “The nation has been asleep at the switch, but here in Minnesota we are kick-starting the future by increasing our nation-leading per capita renewable fuel use, boosting cost saving measures and tackling greenhouse gas emissions.”
The report called for streamlining regulatory review for energy facilities, improving statewide recycling by half, repealing the state’s moratorium on nuclear power generation, increasing use of ethanol fuels and creating a Minnesota Office of Energy Security. But it did not indicate how any of it was to be achieved.
Thornton said that half of the goals would be attained by actions already enacted by the Legislature and signed into law. Further reductions, he said, would be worked out in consultation with the Legislature.
But critics have been saying for months that the 55-member study group was too unwieldy and overly populated with special interests to adequately tackle the task of developing a climate change policy. The Center for Climate Strategies of Harrisburg, Penn., which was hired to manage the study group, said that Minnesota’s commission was by far the largest of any of the 26 states where it works.
The Minnesota study group also failed to develop a plan to meet the law’s emission-reduction goals.