comScore

Minneapolis Slashes Funding for Clean Energy Partnership Before Celebrated Initiative is Launched

Is Minneapolis serious about reducing energy use?

Is Minneapolis serious about reducing energy use?

On Monday the Minneapolis City Council voted 7-6 to cut funding in half for its new "Clean Energy Partnership" before the award-winning initiative was even launched.

The city sent out a press release yesterday trumpeting its selection as one of the White House's 16 "Climate Action Champions," in large part due to the planned partnership between the city and its two major utility companies. Now a movement to cut property taxes by a few dollars has left it on the chopping block.

See also: Minneapolis Saves Average Homeowner $3 After Marathon Budget Debate

"Just six weeks after forming this partnership the city is removing half of the resources it was going to dedicate toward implementing it," said Community Power member Timothy DenHerder-Thomas.

Community Power is a grass-roots advocacy group that spent three years lobbying for the partnership, which plans to bring CenterPoint Energy, Xcel Energy, city officials, and community members together to organize energy saving initiatives.

"Monday's proposed cut came totally out of the blue. It didn't really make sense to us because this is a huge, big thing that the city had just unanimously gone forward with, then they step back and demonstrate they're not really serious about it before it gets started," said DenHerder-Thomas.

The Clean Energy Partnership (CEP) received unanimous City Council approval on October 17. Mayor Betsy Hodges included $150,000 in her proposed budget to hire a few extra city staff members to get it off the ground, but that was cut in half in a three-hour budget markup session on Monday.

Linea Palmisano, the council member who proposed to cut CEP on Monday, didn't return requests for comment left for her and one of her aides yesterday afternoon.

According to the press release it sent out yesterday, Minneapolis is in line to receive a host of vague federal assistance for being selected as a "Climate Action Champion," even as support for its groundbreaking partnership crumbled:

"In addition to being designated as the first cohort of Climate Action Champions, the selected communities will benefit from facilitated peer-to-peer learning and mentorship and targeted support from a range of federal programs. Furthermore, a coordinator will be provided to each Climate Action Champion to foster coordination and communication across the federal agencies, national organizations, and foundations in support of the champions. The coordinator will also assist efforts to raise awareness of funding and technical assistance opportunities that are available specifically for Climate Action Champions."

The council still has time to reinstate funding for the CEP before the final budget is approved December 10. DenHerder-Thomas said even with half of its proposed funding CEP will still launch.

"It's really a matter of degrees. The partnership will still exist, but I think it will be much less effective and get much less done," said DenHerder-Thomas.

Send story tips to Ben Johnson.