Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development Account would fund Tribe’s effort
PRAIRIE ISLAND, Minn., April 18, 2018 – Legislation introduced today would help the Prairie Island Indian Community become a net-zero energy community, one of the first tribes in the United States to achieve that status and one of only a handful of Minnesota communities aiming to offset all of its energy use by becoming a net zero producer of emissions from energy generation.
Net-zero communities offset their total consumed energy with an equal amount of renewable energy generated through projects such as solar or wind, and programs that reduce and conserve energy in homes, businesses and buildings.
“This is a significant and meaningful step forward for our Community,” said Tribal Council President Shelley Buck. “Proper stewardship of the land, waters and air is a fundamental belief for our people. What we do today will impact our people for the next seven generations and we are extremely proud to put our Community on a path toward zero impact.”
Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, chair of the House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Committee introduced the legislation that would provide the Prairie Island Indian Community a total of $40 million over five years from Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development Account (RDA) to develop renewable energy programs.
The Minnesota Legislature established the RDA in 1994 as a condition to allow Xcel Energy to store nuclear waste on site in dry storage casks at the utility’s Prairie Island nuclear power plant. Currently, Xcel Energy pays $500,000 annually into the RDA for each nuclear waste cask stored on Prairie Island; the utility also pays $350,000 for each cask stored at its Monticello plant. A total of $327 million has been paid into the RDA to date. Yet the Prairie Island Indian Community has never received funds or benefitted from the RDA, despite shouldering the risk associated with the storage of the spent nuclear fuel. By the end of 2018, Xcel Energy will have 44 nuclear waste casks stored less than 600 yards from the Prairie Island Indian Community.
“The reality of being the closest community in the nation to a nuclear power plant has caused challenges for our community for nearly 50 years,” said President Buck. “While this important initiative won’t help us achieve our ultimate goal of removing the nuclear waste from our homeland, it does create a positive impact on the future of our community and the legacy we leave for our children.”
Under the bill authored by Rep. Garofalo, Prairie Island would receive $20 million in 2018 to jump start efforts and $5 million over the next four years from Xcel’s Renewable Development Account. The Tribe is exploring a number of potential projects that could help move Prairie Island closer to achieving net zero emissions. Those projects include utility scale solar projects that will meet the energy needs for the Prairie Island Indian Community for the foreseeable future.
About the Prairie Island Indian Community
The Prairie Island Indian Community, a federally recognized Indian Nation, is located in southeastern Minnesota along the banks of the Mississippi River, approximately 30 miles from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Twin nuclear reactors and 40 large steel nuclear waste storage casks sit just 600 yards from Prairie Island tribal homes. A total of 98 casks could be stranded on Prairie Island indefinitely unless the federal government fulfills its commitment to create a permanent storage solution. The only evacuation route off the Prairie Island is frequently blocked by passing trains. The Tribe has been pushing for the removal of the nuclear waste since 1994 when Xcel Energy was first allowed to store the waste near its reservation. On the web: www.prairieisland.org.