While Minnesota opponents of the EPA's Clean Power Plan moan about potential increases in the price of energy (while never uttering the phrase "climate change"), some of them were not the least reluctant to support legislation that will raise electrical rates for residential consumers in favor of energy-intensive industries.
At the Duluth News Tribune, John Myers reports in Homeowner electric rates may rise to rescue taconite plants:
Residential customers of Minnesota Power would pay more for electricity each month to help taconite plants and paper mills survive an onslaught of global competition under a plan to be filed today with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
The rate re-jiggering, authorized by the 2015 Minnesota Legislature, would see the average Minnesota Power customer's household electric bill go up 14.5 percent, or about $11.45 per month.
An average homeowner, who uses about 750 kilowatts of electricity, would see their monthly Minnesota Power bill go from about $79 per month to $90.45.
Other customers — most businesses, government agencies, schools, etc. — would see their rates go up by a flat fee of $11.45 per meter, per month, an increase of between 1 and 4 percent. . . .
It's not a done deal, and even the sponsor of the legislation is having second thoughts:
Investor-owned Minnesota Power has a clear stake in the future of mining in the region. Mining companies alone account for more than 47 percent of Minnesota Power's revenue. Add in paper mills, and heavy industry accounts for nearly 60 percent of the utility's customer load, far different from most utilities, such as Minneapolis-based Xcel, which are tilted toward residential customers.
That makes it critical for Minnesota Power's financial health to retain its largest customers. If one or more of those large customers close permanently, Minnesota Power probably would file a rate proposal that would cause homeowner rates to go up much higher, Mullen noted.
But state Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Township, who sponsored the legislation calling for the rate shift, said he's now having second thoughts. Anzelc said he's not sure the time is right for such a major shift in pricing for electricity.
"What they (Minnesota Power) are proposing to the PUC is not what they are going to get. It's too much" for homeowners, Anzelc said.
During the spring legislative session "it seemed like the right policy. But the timing now is not good," Anzelc said. "I have to see what people think. The PUC is going to have to decide if $11.45 is too much for people on fixed incomes; whether it's worth it for a 5 percent cut for taconite plants. I'm not sure right now."
Buddy Robinson, director of the Minnesota Citizens Federation, Northeast, said the formula used to make the claim that industry has been subsidizing homeowner rates is flawed.
"This isn't the first time the taconite industry has tried to do this and we've challenged it every time," Robinson said. "There are ways to figure the true cost (of electricity) that show there is in fact no subsidy going on." . . .
Minnesota Public Radio blogger Bob Collins shared his thoughts in the News Cut post, Would raising home electric rates save Iron Range jobs?.
Here's the Minnesota Power press release. Note that qualified low-income customers won't have their rates increased. We have to wonder why--if those who claim to worry about the cost of the Clean Power Plan to the poor--aren't willing to give them a break on the rates to soften the blow to help save the planet.
Or does that only work when helping out industries that can't compete against cut-throat global capitalism?
Photo: Minnesota Power towers. DNT file photo.
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