Xcel Energy has agreed to pay an additional $7.5 million annually to the Prairie Island Indian community to store spent nuclear waste near tribal lands as the facility seeks to extend the life of its power plant on the banks of the Mississippi River.
Under an agreement announced Tuesday in the Minnesota legislature, Xcel said it would increase its annual payments from $2.5 million to $10 million, an increase Prairie Island leaders said would bring benefits to the tribe more in line with the tax revenues beloved by nearby local governments. Get the red wing. They asked lawmakers to adopt the plan into state law.
“To this day, we are the closest — and I repeat, the closest — to a nuclear power plant and depleted nuclear waste in the nation,” Prairie Island president Joni Johnson said during a hearing on climate and energy policy and financing in the House of Representatives. A committee. “But we do not receive the typical financial support from the host community and we have no choice but to take responsibility for the health and safety of our community members.”
The Xcel plant began operating in the 1970s, and in the 1990s, the legislature allowed the facility to store its waste in barrels on Prairie Island, something the tribe opposed at the time, Johnson said. In 2003, this deal was reinstated, and Xcel agreed to pay the tribe $2.5 million annually.
“The neighboring communities have received hundreds of millions of dollars from the construction of the nuclear plant at Tinta Weta,” Johnson said, referring to Prairie Island. in 2021, I mentioned Red Wing That Xcel paid the majority of its property tax returns.
Xcel said In a letter to the committee that cities and counties receive a “personal property tax” from power plants in recognition of the additional burdens the plants may place on those communities.
Separately, Xcel also pays a fee to the state for storing nuclear waste in Minnesota. According to Xcel’s letter, the account for renewable development is “about $40 million annually and growing,” paying for renewable energy projects.
That money doesn’t usually go to Prairie Island, though lawmakers approved more than $45 million in 2020 for the tribe to pursue a zero-energy project. After some discussion on this issue.
Now, Xcel hopes to extend the life of its Prairie Island plant to help the facility meet its climate goals and state requirements for a carbon-neutral electric grid by 2040. Nuclear power is a big part of Xcel’s carbon-neutral portfolio and the utility says it will be important going forward. Without an extension, the two units at the plant are authorized to operate until 2033 and 2034. Xcel plans to request an additional 20 years from regulators.
Johnson told lawmakers that the 2003 deal should be updated to “reflect the burden borne by the tribe” in light of the transition to 100% clean energy.
In addition to an additional $7.5 million annually, the Prairie Island community will receive $50,000 for each barrel of fuel stored on site. The number of barrels will increase as the plant continues to operate.
They are asking for cash under the deal from the state’s Renewable Development Fund, said Chris Clark, president of Xcel in Minnesota.
The idea was well received by Rep. Pam Altendorf of the Red Wing. The committee chair, DFL Rep. Patty Acombe of Mennetonka, told MinnPost that the proposal still needs to be discussed by the House Football Caucus. Democrats have a majority in the House and Senate. “We are completely open to what we can do to ensure that the tribe is adequately compensated for their situation,” said Acombe.
The deal comes as Xcel deals with the fallout from a polluted water spill at its Monticello nuclear plant. The company and state environmental regulators are grappling with tritium contamination It does not pose any risks to drinking waterand Excel Temporarily shutting down its factory. The Monticello plant’s license is set to expire in 2030, but the facility asked regulators extension of 20 years at the Minnesota Central plant, too.
Tuesday’s committee hearing was meant to inform lawmakers about the deal, but it was also a public show of goodwill between Xcel and Prairie Island.
Johnson said the tribe was attacked when the plant was first built because they did not have the resources to ask questions of the company or engage in the regulatory process or with lawmakers. He said the federal government also failed to protect the tribe. Johnson said the plant started out with the idea that the federal government would build a national waste repository in Nevada, but that never happened. He said, “We have forgotten.”
Choking at times during his testimony, Clark said both sides “covered difficult topics in our history, and we’ve made progress.”
“We work hard to run a safe plant, and we work hard to be a good neighbor,” Clark said. “But we think it’s important that they are treated equally as a neighboring host community and have the opportunity to make the investments that I know … they want to make for their community.”