FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 19, 2019
St. Paul votes to oppose Xcel 15-year plan, proposal for new fracked gas energy plant
St. Paul’s City Council approved a strongly worded resolution Wednesday opposing parts of Xcel Energy’s 15-year energy resource plan, a victory for the local climate justice group St. Paul 350. Volunteers from that group spent months analyzing the city’s climate action plan, as well as Xcel’s proposal, and determined St. Paul needed to do more.
“We are really excited that the city will be a leader in ending fossil fuel use and that the City Council has agreed with us that Xcel has to make changes in its plans to adapt to new realities,” said Chelsea DeArmond, founder of St. Paul 350. “One reason Xcel is ahead of other investor-owned utilities in renewable energy is that cities are making their own commitments to clean energy and pushing their utilities to do the same.”
The resolution, which passed unanimously, was proposed by St. Paul 350 members and developed in consultation with Chief Resilience Officer Russ Stark, City Council members, and other community groups.
Wednesday’s vote “sets the stage for the city to weigh in clearly on the Integrated Resource Plan and be a leader in carbon reduction in our state,” Council President Amy Brendmoen said.
St. Paul has been in the forefront of U.S. cities working to eliminate greenhouse gases. In April the city released its draft Climate Action and Resilience Plan, committing to reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and making the city carbon neutral by 2050.
DeArmond and others formed St. Paul 350 after the plan was released. St. Paul 350 is affiliated with MN350, which works statewide to protect our climate and build an equitable clean energy future, and 350.org, which works globally. Members of St. Paul 350 spent hours researching technical details of energy production and examining Xcel’s 15-year Upper Midwest Integrated Resource Plan, submitted July 1.
Their research found that Xcel’s plan would leave St. Paul far short of its goals. The city committed to cutting emissions 50 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. Xcel’s plan would lead to only a 44 percent reduction by 2030 and a 73 percent reduction by 2050. Further, while Xcel proposed closing its last two coal-fired power plants by 2030, it also proposed building a power plant in 2026 to be fueled by natural gas collected through the environmentally destructive process of fracking.
Kate Jacobson, executive director of MN350, said it’s not surprising Xcel’s original plan was insufficient to meet the city’s goals. “We can’t expect investor-owned utilities to make addressing climate change their No. 1 priority. They have a built-in conflict of interest. That’s why it’s important for cities like St. Paul to lead boldly, as they did today.”
DeArmond also discovered that Xcel’s proposal for St. Paul cited a community solar garden in the Railroad Island neighborhood northeast of downtown, where she lives. DeArmond knew not only that the solar garden had not been built but also that Xcel had abandoned the idea altogether.
“If we hadn’t asked these questions, it would have been business as usual. And that’s not good enough,” she said.
Wednesday’s vote is part of a growing national movement of citizen advocacy, said Thanu Yakupitiyage, U.S. Communications Director at 350.org. The resolution “is yet another reminder that customers and residents are not beholden to their energy providers and in fact can leverage their power to guide companies like Xcel towards responsible planning. From St. Paul and Xcel to National Grid in New York City to PG&E in Los Angeles, we are seeing communities hold local energy companies accountable for their relationships to the fossil fuel industry across the country.”
St. Paul Chief Resilience Officer Russ Stark met with St. Paul 350 members and agreed to submit comments to the Xcel plan. The group also shared its findings in individual meetings with all seven City Council members.
“Thanks to St. Paul 350, the city is taking an unequivocal position on fossil fuel expansion,” Council Member Jane Prince said.
When the council placed the resolution on its agenda earlier this fall, Xcel called City Hall within an hour, asking for a postponement. In response, St. Paul 350 met several times with Xcel representatives. The resolution vote was postponed twice before Wednesday’s vote.
MN350 is a statewide group with 20,000 supporters working to make Minnesota a national leader in a just transition to a clean energy economy. MN350 Action is its political and advocacy arm.