State leaders and lawmakers say people are becoming more involved in environmental and climate policies.
That’s one reason Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley visited Rochester Monday. Kelley said he was there to see how local leaders are implementing environmentally sustainable policies and to see what people here want from state leaders.
Kelley told a crowd at One Discovery Square that one of the roles of the Commerce Department is to advocate for the public interest in energy, sustainability and building efficiency.
“But we don’t know what the public interest is unless the public tells us,” he told the crowd. “It’s much more important for you to tell us what you, as residents of Minnesota, need us to be paying attention to.”
Mayor Kim Norton, in her introduction of Kelley, touted Rochester’s success in enacting more sustainable policies. She noted that the city was the first in Minnesota to earn gold certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, rating system. However, she said, that’s not enough. The city can achieve platinum level with some work and cooperation. The city’s growth offers an opportunity, she said.
“One of the things we need to do during this time of growth and change is to make sure we do it in a sustainable way,” Norton said.
Kelley said he chose to visit Rochester on Earth Day specifically because the city has set an example in the state.
“The city and its elected officials have been strong advocates for cleaning the environment, for energy efficiency, all of the things that will allow us to be more effective in combating climate change,” Kelley said.
Kelley was also promoting plans by Gov. Tim Walz and some lawmakers to move Minnesota to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Kelley’s visit came as the DFL-controlled Minnesota House prepared to introduce a jobs and energy omnibus bill today. Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, who chairs the Energy and Climate Policy and Finance Division, said she hears more from people on climate and energy policies.
“Citizens are weighing in on climate change and renewable issues more than they were two, three years ago,” she said.
Wagenius said the bill is a comprehensive plan that addresses energy efficiency, expanding renewable energy sources, storage and electric load management. It outlines programs help local governments, schools and higher education facilities invest in solar capacity and electric buses and helps state parks and local governments invest in electric car charging stations. The plan also creates a grant program for people who purchase electric cars.
The bill also creates greater weight for renewable energy projects when proposals go before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
“We are jump-starting something with this,” Wagenius said.