On Wednesday, the Tower Timberjay reported that a Pro-coal group honors Senator Bakk;Cook DFLer receives “Energy Champion” Award. The article was illustrated with a classic grip-and-grin photograph of Minnesota Rural Electric Association contract lobbyist Joel Johnson, Senate Majority Leader Bakk, former state representative, climate change denier and current lobbyist Mike Beard, and former Senate Majority Leader turned lobbyist Roger Moe.
While the gentlemen smiling in the photo are lobbyists, they are not lobbyists for the pro-coal group that gave Senate Majority Leader Bakk, the second most powerful Minnesota DFL elected official in state government. That's because the Coalition for a Secure Energy Future isn't billed as a lobbying group.
As Bluestem explained months ago in Horse hockey: who's pushing the puck for new Coalition for a Secure Energy Future TV ad?, it's not a lobbying effort. Nor was the March 4, 2015, "Legislative Reception" at the Patio Room at McGovern's that we wrote about in Will scheduling woes keep lawmakers away from Coalition for a Secure Energy Future's free food? lobbying the legislature.
Of course not--and since it's not a lobbying campaign, the smiling guys who otherwise lobby for a living aren't required to disclose what they spend in order to smile with Tom Bakk and give him a certificate for making sure a jobs and energy bill got passed that set back clean energy in Minnesota.
In Horse hockey: who's pushing the puck for new Coalition for a Secure Energy Future TV ad?, Bluestem explained that there are public records that help understand what this not-lobbying campaign is all about. That would be the online public records kept by the North Dakota Industrial Commission Lignite Research, Development and Marketing Program. It explains itself on its homepage:
North Dakota's Lignite Research, Development and Marketing Program (Program) is a multi-million dollar state/industry partnership that concentrates on near term, practical research and development projects that provide the opportunity to preserve and enhance development of our state's abundant lignite resources.
The Program is funded by approximately 10 cents per ton from the North Dakota coal severance tax. With annual production at approximately 30 million tons per year, about $3 million is available each year for the Research, Development and Marketing Program.
So that's who's putting the coal in the coalition. How much of that 10 cents per ton was directed to the Coalition for a Secure Energy Future? In February we explained:
According to the June 5, 2014 Lignite Research Council Agenda of the North Dakota Industrial Commission Lignite Research, Development and Marketing Program, CSEF is funded by a grant from the commission:
Re-Submission of Regional Lignite Public Affairs Plan (Coalition for a Secure Energy Future) Submitted by: Lignite Energy Council; Request for: $600,000 annually for a total of $1,200,000; Project Duration: 2 Years.
While the discussion of the plan was closed meeting, page 35 of the minutes (pdf) of the July 1, 2014 meeting of the North Dakota Development Commission reveal:
During the closed session, it had been moved and seconded that the Industrial Commission accepts the Lignite Research Council recommendation to fund the grant application “Regional Lignite Public Affairs Plan (Coalition for a Secure Energy Future)” and to authorize Karlene Fine, Industrial Commission Executive Director, to execute an agreement with the Lignite Energy Council to provide a total of Industrial Commission Lignite Research Program funding in an amount not to exceed $1,200,000 (marketing) with annual updates presented to the Commission . On a roll call vote, Governor Dalrymple, Attorney General Stenehjem and Commissioner Goehring voted aye. The motion carried unanimously.
The item appears in the Lignite Research, Development and Marketing Program portion of the NDIC minutes.
Of course, the Coalition provided a different explanation of themselves to the Tower Timberjay:
Mr. Moe and Mr. Beard serve as co-chairs for the Coalition for a Secure Energy Future.
The coalition was founded in 2014 to “enhance, preserve, and protect our diverse set of energy resources, including coal-based electricity, to ensure a continued affordable and reliable energy supply for families and businesses in Minnesota,” according to a statement.
The coalition opposes the “Clean Power Plan” put forward by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The plan is designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The coal industry has lobbied heavily against the rule, claiming that the push for cleaner-burning forms of energy would significantly increase electrical rates, both for homeowners and businesses, while achieving inconsequential reductions in overall CO2 emissions.
Not directly related, but an ironic sidenote
Among the ironies of the session's energy legislation? The champions of "cheap" coal also provided a means to cut energy costs for big business, although somebody may have to make up the difference for the power companies' bottomline.
Tom Scheck at Minnesota Public Radio reported in New law offers utility rate cuts for big business:
Residential customers in northern Minnesota will have to pay more in electricity rates because of a change the Legislature made last week to help big business.
Gov. Mark Dayton signed a broad jobs and energy budget bill that gives a rate break to mining companies, papers mills and steel mills.
The new law allows major industrial customers in northern Minnesota to apply for a break in their electricity rates. It aims to help lower energy costs for companies competing in a global marketplace, among them the taconite mines on the Iron Range. . . .
But to pay for the break for industrial companies, residents and smaller businesses will be forced to pay more. State Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, said he didn't object to helping out steel and paper companies but worries that the way the law is written, other companies could also take advantage of it. He said that means higher rates for everyone else.
"When you're talking about utility rates, if you're bringing down one customer's rates, you're bringing it up for someone else," Marty said. "In this case, we're bringing down electric rates for the biggest customers and we're bringing it up for residents, for homeowners, for renters [and] small businesses. They're going to be paying more, perhaps significantly more." ...
There are plenty of other lovely items that the Energy Champions brought us, but apparently, higher electric bills are just for chumps who don't have money for marketing campaigns funded by the North Dakota Industrial Commission Lignite Research, Development and Marketing Program.
Bluestem will keep an eye out for other Energy Champions in the state legislature who will be getting a certificate for helping out the North Dakota Industrial Commission. Of course, no one in the Coalition for a Secure Energy Future lobbied them at all.
Photo: The grip and grin, photo submitted by the Coalition for a Secure Energy Future to the Tower Timberjay. If you see a photo of other legislators getting a certificate from the marketing campaign sponsored by $1.2 million of the North Dakota Industrial Commission Lignite Research, Development and Marketing Program's money, please send it to us!
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