On October 18, Flaherty & Hood Senior Lobbyist/Attorney Shane Zahrt served as a panelist at the Minnesota Governor’s Association’s (MGA) quarterly virtual meeting on their energy transition initiative. The panel, titled “A Blueprint for Energy Transition Legislation,” provided an opportunity for states in the region and beyond to learn from others who already have transition legislation.

As states across the country are considering energy transition-related legislation, the MGA pulled together this panel of states who already have transition legislation to share their experiences passing and implementing such legislation. Other panelists included Director of the Colorado Office of Just Transition Wade Buchanan, Julia Barnes, who serves as Lead Policy Analyst for New Mexico Speaker of the House, and New Mexico State Representative Nathan Small.

During the event, Zahrt discussed his work as the lead lobbyist for the Coalition of Utility Cities (CUC). CUC consists of seven Greater Minnesota cities that host large, baseload power plants owned by investor-owned utilities. These plants are already scheduled for retirement or will be considered for retirement within the next 20 years in order for the state to shift to cleaner, newer energy technology. Power plants are often a city’s largest employer and property tax contributor, sometimes supplying as much as 70% of the local community’s tax base and employing hundreds of unionized workers.

Zahrt has gained recognition as an expert on power plant community transitions both here in Minnesota and across the country. With the help of Policy Analyst Ania McDonnell, Senior Lobbyist Erik Simonson, and Shareholder Bradley Peterson, Flaherty & Hood’s lobbying team has successfully developed and passed multiple pieces of legislation to support Minnesota’s power plant host communities as they bear the brunt of the transition that will occur when those plants retire.

On the MGA panel, Zahrt shared the background of how he and CUC partnered with legislators who represent impacted communities to successfully create a grant program to support those communities. Zahrt also discussed legislation successfully passed in 2021 that ordered the creation of the Minnesota Office of Energy Transition, an Energy Transition Plan, and an Energy Transition Advisory Committee to guide the office’s work.

Zahrt also currently serves as the Coalition of Utility Cities representative to the Energy Transition Advisory Committee, which is in the final stages of formulating recommendations to the 2023 legislature on how to continue to support host communities and workers.

Overall, the event was an excellent opportunity for states and stakeholders to learn how the process unfolded in other states.

If you would like to hear more about the work Flaherty & Hood or CUC, please reach out to Shane Zahrt at sazahrt@flaherty-hood.com