Gov. Walz, leaders celebrate climate action legislation that passed this session
Video provided by KSTP-TV.
On Wednesday, Governor Tim Walz stopped at the Kaposia Education Center in South St. Paul to celebrate the climate action legislation that passed this session, according to a news release from the Governor. The Kaposia Education Center is a school powered by a rooftop solar array.
“From clean energy jobs and electric vehicles to natural resource restoration and grants that prepare communities for severe weather, Minnesota is investing in innovative strategies that combat the effects of climate change,” Governor Walz said in a release. “With these historic investments, we are positioning our state as a national leader in climate solutions, ensuring Minnesota remains a great place to live, work, and raise a family for generations to come.”
More than 40 climate initiatives that the governor’s administration proposed were signed into law during the 2023 legislative session, the release added. Some of the proposals include environment, agriculture, health, transportation and construction.
It includes a bill that requires all energy produced in Minnesota to be carbon-free by the year 2040, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
“We are celebrating a giant leap forward in our work to protect Minnesotans and our communities from climate change,” Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Katrina Kessler said in a statement. “Legislative investments allow us to help communities around the state improve aging infrastructure with climate-smart upgrades and to build stronger relationships with tribal nations to assist them in securing federal funding, ensuring we bring as much federal dollars to Minnesota as possible.”
The governor was joined by Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Katrina Kessler, Department of Commerce Commissioner Grace Arnold, and additional state leaders and legislators.
Top climate initiatives passed in 2023 include: (Information provided from Gov. Walz Office)
100% Carbon-free Electricity by 2040
Governor Walz signed into law legislation establishing a Minnesota carbon-free electricity standard. With this law, Minnesota will take steps to lower greenhouse gas emissions, combat the climate crisis, and create new clean energy jobs. The new law ensures Minnesotans will continue to have reliable, affordable, and safe energy resources.
Growing Clean-Economy Apprenticeships
As the state creates clean-economy jobs, providing workers with training and skills to adapt to new, cleaner technologies as they develop will be critical. The budget provides $3 million to grow apprenticeship opportunities for clean economy occupations. This funding will enable registered apprenticeship programs to purchase equipment and provide training to grow apprentice skills and train workers in clean technologies.
Expanding Solar for Schools
The One Minnesota Budget invests nearly $30 million to expand the popular Solar for Schools program. This will provide the opportunity for every public school district in Minnesota to add solar power. Schools will be able to add solar arrays to help reduce school energy costs and offer students hands-on learning about clean energy and pathways to clean energy careers.
Increasing Access to Electrical Vehicle (EV) Charging Infrastructure
Transportation is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota and is a major contributor to climate change, air pollution, and ecosystem degradation. The One Minnesota Budget includes requiring EV charging infrastructure within or adjacent to new commercial and multi-family buildings to provide Minnesotans with more access to EV charging infrastructure and increase the feasibility of EV use for Minnesotans.
Enhancing Pollinator Habitats
The Habitat Enhancement Landscape Program (HELP) provides financial and technical assistance to establish or enhance areas of diverse native vegetation to support declining populations of bees, butterflies, dragonflies, birds, and other wildlife species essential for ecosystems and food production. The One Minnesota Budget invests in three components of funding for homeowners, neighborhoods, and pollinator-friendly utilities such as solar farms.
Strengthening Minnesota Homes
The Governor and Lieutenant Governor will help Minnesotans be more resilient to changing climate by providing $1 million to establish a program for protecting homes against extreme weather events. Modeled after successful programs in other states, this proposal will save Minnesotans money on homeowner insurance premiums is designed to help Minnesotans protect their homes from damaging storms and extreme weather.
Pre-Weatherizing Homes and Training Workers
The pre-weatherization and workforce training program will invest more than $45 million over the next four years toward improving homes to be safe and warm and to grow the clean energy workforce trained to make these important home improvements. This proposal will help meet the state’s Climate Action Framework goal of weatherizing a quarter of low-income Minnesotans’ homes by 2030.
Improving Water Quality
Clean water – especially clean drinking water – is important to ensure healthy and successful children and families. The Agricultural Best Management Loan Program (AgBMP) is a water quality program that provides low-interest loans to Minnesota farmers, rural landowners, and agriculture supply businesses to encourage agricultural projects or practices that help reduce, eliminate, or prevent water pollution. The One Minnesota Budget includes a $9.6 million increase in funding for this program, providing more Minnesotans access to improved water resources.
Preparing Communities for Climate Change
More than 85% of Minnesota communities have reported experiencing at least one extreme weather event caused by climate change, preventing businesses and farmers from getting their products to market. To help communities better prepare for extreme weather events and strengthen their local economies, Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan are investing $100 million in the resilient communities grant program to help communities upgrade aging infrastructure with climate-smart design, combat flooding, and heat island effect, and create local jobs.
Improving Public Health Resilience
From air quality and weather-related concerns to the emergence of new diseases, a changing climate means new health challenges. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor’s budget fortifies public health resilience against the human health impacts of climate change and supports interagency efforts around climate change. Activities include grants and technical assistance to local organizations and local public health to plan for the health impacts of extreme weather events as well as data analysis and reporting to implement, strengthen, evaluate, and track public health resiliency efforts in the face of climate change across the state. This proposal replaces CDC funding that ended in 2021.
Cutting Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions from Buildings
Buildings use approximately 40% of the total energy consumed in Minnesota. Of that, about 19% is consumed by commercial buildings. The One Minnesota Budget includes an adoption framework for the statewide commercial building energy code that puts our state on a path to reduce energy use by 80% in new, large buildings by 2036.
Modernizing Regional Parks and Trails
The One Minnesota Budget invests $12 million in one-time spending – matched with $2 of Metropolitan Council funds for every $3 from the state – supporting capital improvements for the Metropolitan Regional Parks System. These spaces are cared-for places to connect, build health, and access nature for millions of Minnesotans, and the need for repairs and upgrades have grown as more people used parks and trails during the pandemic, and as climate and weather events have continued to impact parks, trails, and structures.
Enhancing State, Community, and Private Forests
Trees benefit Minnesota communities in many ways, including providing carbon storage, improving air quality, decreasing stormwater runoff, and adding natural beauty. Our community forests are threatened by tree pests and diseases and climate change adds to the problem. The One Minnesota Budget includes the $15.2 million ReLeaf program to help communities address urban and community reforestation needs and inequities in tree coverage created by emerald ash borer and other tree pests and diseases. The One Minnesota Budget also includes $4.2 million for private forest landowner technical assistance, cost share, and inventory as well as $800,000 to accelerate tree seed collection.
Investing in Tribal Partnerships
The One Minnesota Budget invests $4 million to assist Tribal governments and Tribal organizations with applying for and managing environmental or climate grants from the state or federal government for assistance on climate-related work. This proposal responds to comments received from Tribal government partners, that in some cases they have limited capacity to apply for or manage grants and carry out climate-related work on their lands.
Restoring Streams and Modernizing Water-Related Infrastructure
More intense rains combined with land use changes are causing more flooding and road washouts, degrading streambanks, and overwhelming water control structures. This impacts fish, waterfowl, and recreation opportunities. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor’s budget invests $10 million to replace culverts and bridges to improve stream ecology, selectively remove dams and restore habitat to enhance fish passage and renovate other water control structures to address the impacts of climate change.
Enhancing Grasslands and Restoring Wetlands
Key climate strategies identified in the Climate Action Framework include enhancing grasslands and restoring wetlands. Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan’s budget invests $10 million to enhance and restore more than 6,000 acres of grasslands and wetlands on public lands to increase carbon storage, improve wildlife habitat, enhance water quality, reduce flooding, and increase groundwater recharge.
Building Soil Health
Building soil health is important to water quality and natural resources in Minnesota. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor’s budget invests $1.25 million in the next biennium and $639,000 annually after that to build upon a pilot grant program to help farmers, producer groups, and local governments purchase or retrofit soil health equipment that is often specialized and expensive. These grants will expand the number of Minnesota farmers and acres engaged in soil health activities.
Investing in Biofuels Infrastructure
Motor fuel blends with ethanol burn cleaner than traditional fossil fuels and help give drivers more affordable options at the gas pump by increasing access to homegrown fuel that comes from Minnesota farmers. To promote the continued sale and use of higher ethanol blend biofuels, the One Minnesota Budget includes $750,000 of additional funds to the Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) Biofuels Infrastructure Investment Grant program. This program helps smaller service stations offset the cost of investing in upgraded equipment that is compatible with motor fuel containing at least 15% or more of ethanol.
State Funding to Compete for Federal Investments
The One Minnesota Budget includes $190 million for the State Competitiveness Fund to unlock billions in federal funding available through the Infrastructure Act and Inflation Reduction Act. This funding provides state resources to match federal funds, provide technical assistance, and provide grant-writing help for rural, tribal, and disadvantaged communities so Minnesota can compete for multiple energy-related federal grants and leverage historic tax credits and loan programs.
Minnesota Climate Innovation Finance Authority
A new public corporation will stimulate the development of clean energy and greenhouse gas reduction projects. The Climate Innovation Finance Authority (CIFA) will use innovative financing tools to leverage private and public capital to reduce market barriers for climate-focused projects.
For more information on Minnesota’s Climate Action Framework visit mn.gov/framework.