The legislature has sent Governor Mark Dayton a bill he will likely sign, giving Xcel Energy permission to build a natural-gas-fired power plant in Becker to partly replace the Sherco coal-fired units which are being phased out. State Representative Jim Newberger says, “Becker truly does power Minnesota…. We’ve got the largest coal power plant in the Midwest, and right across the line is the Monticello nuclear plant, so energy is… the driving force for our economy in that region of Minnesota.” Many environmentalists oppose the bill, arguing it allows Xcel to continue using fossil fuels when there should be a stronger push toward wind and solar. Backers responds Minnesota still needs what’s called “base load” electricity for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.
Governor Mark Dayton supports the project, arguing it’s critical to a local economy as it absorbs the Sherco plant closures. But Dayton warns that although he’s making this “exception” to the normal review process by the Public Utilities Commission, Republican lawmakers should not try to weaken the authority of that agency.