By Chris Conry
Campaign Director, 100% Campaign

Last month, the 2021 State Legislative Session ended. Finally. After a 1st Special Session and a Senate-only extra week.

We made some tangible progress on equitable climate solutions in 2021, but the closing days of the session were rough.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka told Gov. Tim Walz that the Senate was preparing to deny the confirmation of Laura Bishop to be the Commissioner of the MN Pollution Control Agency, a position she held for 2.5 years. This forced her swift resignation.

The Senate majority opposed our new Clean Cars rule for over a year. When they couldn’t block it in the regulatory process or at the Legislature itself, they used the Senate confirmation process as political payback.

You may remember that last September, the Senate also fired the Commerce Commissioner, Steve Kelley, as payback for the department’s appeal to oppose Line 3.

While the Senate majority’s obstruction on behalf of the fossil fuel industry is not new, refusing to confirm Laura Bishop revealed how deep it goes.

On Tuesday, MPR News reporter Brian Bakst shared a portion of his Tuesday interview with then-Commissioner Bishop. In it, she said that during legislative negotiations this year, the Senate majority “would not allow for the words ‘climate change’, they would not allow for the words ‘environmental justice’ and they would not allow for the word ‘equity'” to be included in the laws our Legislature was creating.

The Senate majority’s commitment to denying climate change and protecting racial hierarchy runs that deep. That’s what we’re up against. That’s how they’re blocking progress on issues that the majority of Minnesotans support.

Still, in spite of Senate obstructionism, Minnesota’s climate and clean energy advocates secured tangible climate wins this year.

This year, the Legislature passed over $328 million in new climate investments. Here are some highlights:

  • Passing the ECO Act, a law that increases energy-efficiency for low-income families
  • Investing over $20m in solar on schools and community colleges
  • Establishing a new Energy Transition Office to plan fossil fuel plant retirements
  • Committing $2.5m for a clean energy jobs training program for BIPOC workers
  • Expanding a solar manufacturing plant in Mountain Iron, MN
  • Updating future weather impacts modeling at the U of M
  • Extending the cold-weather rule to prevent utility shut-offs
  • Funding Bus Rapid Transit on the E-Line and F-Line
  • Planning for zero-emissions transit buses in the metro area
  • Planning to put lower-emitting buses in areas with the lowest air quality first
  • Committing $5m to programs to improve walking and biking options
  • Creating two new Climate Adaptation programs focused on flood mitigation
  • Investing $5.9m in tree planting focused on carbon sequestration
  • Setting a new statewide goal for carbon sequestration in Minnesota forests
  • Launching an Emerging Farmer Office focused on women and BIPOC farmers
  • Committing $5.5m to support farmers using soil-health practices
  • Spending with $4.7m to study innovative soil health practices across the state

You can see the whole list here.

Thanks for all your work this year. Your emails, phone calls, and tweets made a difference. If you reached out to your State Senator or State Representative, you made more possible.

The fossil fuel industry (and the Senators they back) may try to stop us, but they can’t.

The majority of Minnesotans want a 100% equitable and clean energy future.

With their support, together, we can make it happen.

Chris Conry is the Campaign Director of the 100% Campaign. He has been organizing in Minnesota since 2002. Previously, he was the Strategic Campaigns Director at TakeAction Minnesota, a negotiator and organizer for the Service Employees International Union Local 284 and the United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 1189, and the Volunteer Coordinator for Paul Wellstone’s 2002 Senate race.