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Session 2003

Session 2003: Environment

More nuclear waste can be stored outside Xcel Energy's Prairie Island plant under a measure Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed into law. The signing completed work on one of the most contentious issues in the legislative session. It allows the nuclear facility to continue operating until the end of its federal licenses, which expire in 2013 and 2014.

New rules for all-terrain vehicle owners were among the biggest changes in environmental law this session. The Department of Natural Resources must do a forest-by-forest review, designating which trails can be used for off-highway vehicles. Trails not designated open by 2010 would be closed. Ditches generally would be considered open unless they are posted as closed. And the three-year registration fee for ATV's used on public lands would increase. A proposal to allow a mourning dove hunting season was defeated. And several outdoor-related fees will be increased.

A bill moving through the Minnesota House revisits where ATV-ers can ride. The measure would allow riders to cross wetlands currently off-limits. And the DNR is looking at opening more hiking, snowmobile trails to all terrain vehicles. ( 03/30/2004)
The Minnesota Senate has approved a plan that extends nuclear waste storage at Xcel Energy's Prairie Island plant. The proposal is meant to keep the facility operating through 2014, but has run into objections from environmental advocates. Critics say it lacks a strong commitment to renewable energy alternatives and provides no explicit role for lawmakers in future nuclear waste storage debates. (05/23/2003)
The Minnesota Legislature's regular session came to a close with a filibuster that blocked final action on expanding nuclear waste storage at Xcel Energy's Prairie Island plant. The power company is seeking to increase waste storage in order to keep the plant operating through the end of its current federal license in 2014. But a handful of Senate Democrats managed to stall action on a measure that they criticized as environmentally unsound. (05/20/2003)
The Minnesota House has delivered a dramatic setback to plans for expanded nuclear waste storage at Xcel Energy's Prairie Island nuclear facility. Members voted 99-33 Thursday against the additional storage capacity, leaving the issue in legislative limbo with only four days left in the regular legislative session. Xcel officials say without extra storage space, the plant will need to shut down in 2007. But the House plan quickly unraveled just as it approached a final vote. (05/16/2003)
The Minnesota Senate has approved a plan to increase nuclear waste storage at Xcel Energy's Prairie Island power plant. Early on Tuesday, the Senate voted 42-to-24 for a compromise plan that keeps the facility open for the next 10 years, but preserves legislative oversight of any operation beyond that horizon. The plan also increases investments in renewable energy and codifies an agreement between Xcel and the Prairie Island Indian Community situated adjacent to the facility. (05/13/2003)
Watching and feeding birds is one of the fastest growing hobbies in Minnesota and the nation. Yet birders, as birdwatchers prefer to be known, have little political influence. (04/28/2003)
Macalester College in St. Paul officially flipped the switch Wednesday on a 10-kilowatt wind turbine that will feed electricity directly into the college's power grid. The Macalester turbine is one of only a handful of urban wind turbines nationwide. (04/23/2003)
A controversial bill regulating off-highway vehicles on state lands gets a hearing in a Minnesota Senate committee Tuesday. All-terrain vehicle groups oppose the bill. They say it would limit their access to state forests. Environmentalists say ATVs are causing major damage to state lands. They say the Senate bill protects the land. (04/22/2003)
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is backing a proposal to let hunters in Minnesota use dogs to pursue black bears. The Legislature is considering it. The plan has friends and foes. (04/22/2003)
A bill to expand the storage of spent nuclear fuel at the Xcel Energy's Prairie Island nuclear plant has cleared its first legislative hurdle. On Wednesday the House Regulated Industries Committee approved the measure on a 13-7 party-line vote, with Republicans in support. Xcel says without the additional capacity, the plan will be forced to shut down in 2007, depriving the state of a major source of electricity. But environmental advocates say the company should be weaned from a reliance on nuclear power and be required to develop renewable energy alternatives. (03/20/2003)
The Prairie Island Indian Community reached a tentative agreement Monday with Xcel Energy for additional nuclear waste storage at Xcel's Prairie Island nuclear plant, pending approval by the Minnesota Legislature. (03/18/2003)
In 1994, Minnesota's largest utility, then known as Northern States Power, went to the state Legislature with a controversial request. The cooling pool where NSP stored spent nuclear fuel inside its Prairie Island plant was nearly full. The company wanted to store additional waste outside, in steel casks. After months of bitter debate, lawmakers granted permission for 17 casks. Nine years later, the casks are full and the company, now Xcel Energy, is back at the Capitol asking for more. (03/04/2003)
Xcel Energy says its Prairie Island nuclear power plant needs more dry cask storage for spent nuclear fuel, or it will close by 2007. It's a controversial proposal. Xcel officials must convince lawmakers and the neighboring Prairie Island Indian Community to agree to the extra storage. On Prairie Island, leaders say cooperation will come at a price. (02/06/2003)
A group of lawmakers on Wednesday outlined a proposal to to extend the operational life of the Prairie Island nuclear power plant. Under a 1994 agreement between the state and Northern States Power -- now Xcel Energy -- the utility was restricted in its ability to store spent nuclear fuel at the Prairie Island facility. The new proposal would scrap those limitations. And it's raised concerns among environmentalists and a neighboring Indian tribe. (02/05/2003)
The future of nuclear waste storage at Xcel's Prairie Island nuclear power plant is under debate. The plant, near the Prairie Island Indian reservation, says it needs more space for nuclear waste. But a 1994 state law allowed Xcel to store waste in casks at the plant, but limited the number of casks. Xcel says it needs additional casks to keep the plant running. ( 01/28/2003)