A number of candidates have already cast their hats into the ring for a chance at winning the District 6 congressional seat currently held by Michele Bachmann.
Among them are Tom Emmer (R), John Pederson (R), Democrats Rhonda Sivaraiah, Judy Adams, Joe Peske, Jim Read and Phil Krinkie (R).
Krinkie, who owns his own heating and air conditioning business in St. Paul, came to The Refuge in Orrock recently to talk about clean energy and the coal burning power plants in Becker at an event titled All We Want is Coal for Christmas.
“Opponents to coal are quick to focus on the environmental impact but they ignore the economic impact to the Becker area and to consumers who would have to pay a lot more for electricity without Sherco,” Krinkie said.
The Sherco power plant employs 370 people. Beyond Coal and the Sierra Club have already been instrumental in the closing of 150 power plants in the US since 2010. Closing the Becker plant would have a major economic impact on Sherburne County.
Power market consultant Jim Carson does not work for Sherco. He is an independent consultant who typically works with developers, teaching them about power issues.
“It would be better to shut down Prairie Island,” said Carson. “Sherco is a lynch pin in the system. The Midwest used to be heavy in power generation but two years from now we will be in a deficit because of power plant closures in Illinois and Indiana.”
Shutting down some of the dirtier power plants has led to price spikes in the price of energy, Carson said.
“The 1,500 megawatts of energy produced by Sherco is essential power for this area,” Carson said. “Wind is not a capital resource. It is not always there when you need it. Natural gas is expensive and would jack up prices.”
Besides the loss of jobs, the loss of power would more than double the amount of electricity which would have to be imported from Canada, Carson said. However building transmission lines would be another difficult project and a major expense.
Rick Hendrickson, who serves on the Becker City Council, noted the emissions from Sherco are among the cleanest in the country, exceeding EPA goals to reduce carbon emissions, and it expects to reduce them by an additional 30% by 2025.
By 2014, Sherco will have the best equipment available to reduce nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and mercury emissions. Carbon emissions from power plants represent about four percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions.
“Sherco pays about 75% of the total property taxes generated in Becker in 2014,” said Hendrickson. “Liberty Paper purchases steam from the power plant and they have another 100 employees. If those companies went away, it would be a downward spiral for property taxes.”
Hendrickson urged those attending (about 25 people), to become informed of the facts and to inform others.
“Sherco is not replaceable,” he said. “There is an election coming up. When electric rates are higher, poor people suffer.”
Sen. David Brown
State Sen. David Brown asked what about jobs? Some 370 people work at Sherco and another 100 work at Liberty Paper Company, dependent on Sherco for steam power for its operation, meaning 470 jobs would go away if Sherco closed.
“We need to be very concerned about the future of coal for this area,” Brown said. “Property taxes will go up without Sherco. It is a dismal situation.”
“The environmentalists are requiring the state to prove we can be 100% on renewable energy by 2020,” he said. “I would be happy if just state owned buildings could be on 100% renewable energy by 2020. In fact I would even settle for just state owned buildings in St. Paul to be on 100% renewable energy by then. If it works, fine. Prove me wrong.”
At a Public Utilities Commission (PUC), hearing on the matter held in Becker three weeks ago, PUC members asked Xcel to examine the possibility of retiring Sherco Units 1 and 2, including the economic impact a shut-down would have on the local economy and present an advanced plan to the PUC by July 1.
“Too many people even in Becker just don’t get it,” said Krinkie. “People in the county don’t understand what is going on and why.”
Krinkie urged those attending to lobby for Sherco and send pre-addressed postcards to the PUC, which will make the ultimate decision.
“Laws should come from congress, not the EPA,” Krinkie said. “I am the candidate who understands energy issues.”