Commission takes input on closing Benson Power

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Members of the Legislative Energy Commission took testimony at the state Capitol last Thursday on the impact of closing Benson Power, LLC, will have on suppliers and the community.

Legislature to get DEED report on economic impact on businesses, community in February

When the Minnesota Legislature approved a deal to compensate the City of Benson with $20 million in payments over four years for the loss of Benson Power, LLC, it also wanted to know what the impact the plant’s closing would have on other businesses tied to its operation.

It set aside $150,000 and directed commissioner of the Department Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to conduct a study “to examine the economic impact of the closure of a biomass facility located in the city of Benson that uses poultry litter to generate electricity.” DEED is to report its findings to the Legislature by Feb. 15.

“In conducting the study, the commissioner must analyze the impact of the closure of the biomass facility on employment and income in the local economy, including impacts on ancillary providers of goods and services to the biomass facility,” the Legislature stated.

Closing Benson Power could mean significant hardship for some of the businesses that supply the plant with services and bankruptcy for others.

Last Thursday the Legislative Energy Commission conducted its first public hearing to take testimony from the communities and businesses that would be affected by the closure of Benson Power. The LEC is a bipartisan body with 10 members of the House and 10 from the Senate.

Reed Anfinson, publisher of the Swift County Monitor-News and a former member of the Benson Economic Development Authority, was named by the city council to represent it at the hearing.

The closing of Benson Power, and the $20 million approved for the city, are contingent on the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approving Xcel Energy’s purchase of the power plant and its shutdown. The PUC’s decision is expected later this fall.
If the PUC approves the deal between Xcel Energy and Benson Power’s owners, the city would receive four payments over four years totaling $20 million. It would receive a payment of $4 million prior to June 30, 2018, with $6.5 million in both 2019 and 2020, and $3 million in 2021.

The funds would come from the Renewable Development Fund (RDF). In 1994, the Minnesota Legislature, Northern States Power (NSP) and the Prairie Island tribe came to an agreement for the storage of spent fuel nuclear casks. That agreement was based on financial compensation as well as the establishment of the RDF to promote renewable energy technology, stimulate research into renewable energy, and enhance the infrastructure for delivering renewable energy. NSP is now a subsidiary of Xcel.

The payments to the city can only be used for economic development efforts.

In all, Benson will see nearly $23 million in compensation if the deal is approved with the company agreeing to pay city real estate taxes of $404,000 for two years after it tears down the plant. The city will also be reimbursed for some of the infrastructure investments it has made in support of the power plant....


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Pictured:  Members of the Legislative Energy Commission took testimony at the state Capitol last Thursday on the impact of closing Benson Power, LLC, will have on suppliers and the community.


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