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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Tim Miller (R)

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Friday, May 4, 2018

ST. PAUL – State Representative Tim Miller (R-Prinsburg) said tens of millions of dollars will be lost by local companies due to the closure of Benson Power.


At a recent Minnesota House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Committee hearing that discussed the forthcoming closure of Benson Power, representatives from North American Fertilizer, Jennie-O Turkey Store, an independent turkey grower, wood suppliers, and a trucking company described these losses.


Many of them noted they are also dealing with millions more in debt that they will be unable to pay after the plant's closure. No date has been determined for the closure but it is readily recognized it could be within the next four to six weeks.


“Taxpayers shouldn’t be held responsible for this, but we do have a program available to address it,” Miller said.


Miller’s proposal would set aside $40 million from Minnesota’s Renewable Development Account (RDA) for this purpose of assisting these local companies that suffered losses. From there, an Administrative Law judge would determine a business’ financial losses due to the closure of the facility and determine how much could be recuperated.


The Renewable Development Account was created in 1994 at the same time as the biomass mandate which created Benson Power. It is funded through payments made by Xcel rate payers. It is expected to generate $200 million between now and 2030.


During the hearing, Miller noted that Xcel Energy came out in support of using the RDA funds for this purpose.


“Using $40 million from RDA is only a fraction of what these companies will lose, but it will help them adjust and change course,” Miller said. “Most everyone in St. Paul recognizes that these types of closures are job killers, so we’re doing what we can to utilize the RDA in order to help.”


Miller's bill was heard but no action taken. A companion bill has been heard in the Senate and is currently on its general register for action. It is anticipated the House and Senate will determine the final actions by the legislature in an upcoming conference committee.