Governor Mark Dayton is warning Republican lawmakers, just because he plans to sign a bill expediting a new power plant in Becker, doesn’t mean he’ll let them dismantle the state Public Utilities Commission. House Speaker Kurt Daudt responds the agency is “encroaching on our authority to set the policy and legislate, and we don’t believe that the P-U-C should be doing a lot of the things that they are doing.” Governor Dayton fires back, “I’m told that some legislators want to gut the PUC because they disagree with its decision on a pipeline. I mean, it’s absolutely the wrong reason to be intervening with the PUC.” Dayton says the agency was set up to insulate decisions about utility service from politics at the legislature.
The bill allowing Xcel Energy to build a new natural gas-fired plant in Becker makes an end-run around the Public Utilities Commission, which wanted Xcel to come up with a plan using more alternative energy sources. Dayton supports the move, arguing the normal review process will take too long as local economies try to recover from job losses at the Sherco coal-fired plants which Xcel is phasing out.