Compromising on energy

On the environment, green legislators are often torn between what is ideal and what is feasible. Such was the case at the Legislature this week as lawmakers consider how best to store nuclear waste at Prairie Island.

A Senate committee rejected a compromise bill authored by state Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, that would have allowed nine additional storage caskets at the Prairie Island nuclear facility. Xcel Energy has reached its 17-cask limit and needs more cask volume in order to keep the nuclear reactors running. Anderson, who has authored legislation such as hydrogen development and renewable energy developments and supports moving the state away from nuclear energy, said the bill allowing some expansion was “a big compromise for me.” At a legislature trending conservative, such compromises from liberals are becoming more common.

As a state, Minnesota should move away from risk-laden nuclear-generated power and embrace already viable and competitive renewable energies. Minnesota must accelerate the transition from nuclear power to renewable energy sources. Past pressure has forced Xcel to approve a 425-megawatt energy line that will transport wind-generated energy from the Minnesota-South Dakota border area to the metro area by 2006. Unlike nuclear power, wind generators do not produce toxic poisons, are not a terrorist target and are beneficial to economically depressed rural communities. Blind compromise should not be an option.

According to the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, Xcel Energy spent $1.4 million lobbying the Minnesota government in 2002, more than any other company. Such sums buy a lot of lobbyists and a heap of pressure. Compromise legislation shows how easily normally progressive senators can be forced to pursue the feasible over the ideal. The influence of corporate lobbyists over the will and accordance of Minnesotans is not in the best interests of the state. The best interests of the state require the transition from dangerous nuclear power to renewable energy sources as soon as possible. Minnesota political leaders should stand strong against Xcel’s efforts and not entertain compromises when it comes to nuclear power.