This week, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Department announced that it has awarded nearly $2 million to five communities to help them plan for the economic ramifications brought on by the closure of local power plants. These are the first grants awarded under the new Community Energy Transition Grant Program established by the Minnesota Legislature in 2020.

Flaherty & Hood government relations team members Shane Zahrt, Bradley Peterson, Marty Seifert, Ania McDonnell and Julie Liew were instrumental in developing and advocating for the creation of this Community Energy Transition Grant Program on behalf the firm’s client, the Coalition of Utility Cities (CUC).

CUC represents the communities of Becker, Oak Park Heights, Granite Falls, Fergus Falls, Cohasset, Monticello, Red Wing and Hoyt Lakes, which host the state’s largest coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants. Within the next two decades, the power plants in the eight CUC communities are scheduled to retire as the state moves away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy. Since property taxes attributable to the plants make up 40-70% of each host city’s budget, the plant retirements will leave massive holes in each city’s tax base that will fall on local residents and businesses unless the cities receive state support.

To help these cities cope with the financial challenges caused by plant closures, the team at Flaherty & Hood helped craft and successfully lobbied the Legislature to establish the Community Energy Transition Grant Program. The program creates a trust fund that provides grants to host cities to allow for community and land use planning and economic development efforts that will attract new businesses, explore ways to repurpose the power plant sites, and ultimately help the communities recoup some of the tax losses brought on by the plant retirements.