Legislation aimed at allowing the Becker-based Sherco plant to transition from coal to natural gas cleared a key legislative hurdle on Thursday, passing the full Senate with broad support. The bill, authored by Sen. Andrew Mathews (R-Milaca), would ensure construction plans can continue of Xcel Energy’s $800 million natural gas combined-cycle electric generation plant on the site of the current Sherco coal plant.
“After months of uncertainty, I am extremely pleased that we were able to get this done for the citizens of Becker and Sherburne County,” Sen. Mathews said. “With Sherco responsible for over three-fourths of Becker’s property tax revenue and the promise of hundreds of millions in construction, this plan is critical for our area.”
The initial plan from Xcel Energy had been stalled by the Public Utilities Commission, which ordered a cumbersome regulatory process that threatened the certainty of the entire project.
“This does not eliminate the Public Utilities Commission’s oversight of the utility, but it does allow the process to continue at a more reasonable pace,” Sen. Mathews continued. “I have said again and again that the Sherco plant has been the number one concern of my constituents, so I am very proud that we were able to work together and get this done. With peoples’ livelihoods and communities’ revenue streams at stake, coupled with the bill’s built-in protections for consumers and ratepayers, this is a good bill for the region and for all of Minnesota.”
The legislation now awaits a vote by the House, where it is expected to pass. The final step is the signature of Gov. Mark Dayton, who has indicated he is willing to sign the legislation into law.
Sen. Mathews is in his first term representing Senate District 15, which includes communities in Benton, Kannabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Sherburne, and Wright counties.