A whole bunch of high-profile Minnesotans want to be on the governor’s climate council

By Walker Orenstein
January 16, 2020

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is applying for a new job — and he’s got a lot of competition: a host of University of Minnesota professors, labor leaders, activists, power industry representatives, and even entrepreneur Eric Dayton.

Frey and the rest are vying for a seat on Gov. Tim Walz’s Climate Change Advisory Council, a new 15-member committee formed to help the governor create and implement climate change policy.

Walz launched the group by executive order on Dec. 2, and more than 150 people have applied for the unpaid jobs since.

The application pool is somewhat unusual for a state advisory board or task force. Many reserve slots for specific people or interest groups. For instance, a task force created last year by the Legislature to reduce opioid addiction called for members directly appointed by groups such as the Minnesota Medical Association, the Minnesota Ambulance Association and others.

The climate council broadly instead asks for applications by a mix “community leaders” and people with experience in business, agriculture, conservation, environmental protection and other relevant skills.

That has led Frey to submit a cover letter and application to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in hopes he’s selected over other applicants. The mayor’s pitch? He’s, well, the mayor of the state’s largest city. And working on a multi-front effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve climate resiliency.

“The city’s population is 425,000 people; 41% of them are American Indian and people of color and 21% of residents are living in poverty making them extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change,” Frey’s cover letter says.

Several UMN professors also applied, including: Jessica Hellmann, director of the U’s Institute on the Environment (IonE); Gabriel Chan, a professor who chairs the Science, Technology and Environmental Policy area at the Humphrey School of Public Affair; and Alexandra Klass, the Distinguished McKnight University Professor who specializes in environmental law at the U’s law school.

Ellen Anderson, an IonE professor who once served in the state Senate and as chair of the Public Utilities Commission also applied. Anderson was recently demoted at the U after she appeared to give DFL state Rep. Jamie Long preferential treatment when hiring him for a fellowship in the program funded by the McKnight Foundation. (An independent investigation by the state House found Long, who resigned the post, didn’t break ethics rules.)

Other applicants are a range of industry, energy, labor and environmental leaders, including those who are on opposite sides of controversial environmental issues, such as whether the state should build Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline.

The advisory council will work with and report to a new “subcabinet” of state agency leaders to develop climate change policy, promote equity and environmental justice and a “just transition” for workers impacted by a switch from fossil fuels to clean energy, according to the executive order.

Among the other applicants are:

  • Mark Bakk, the CFO of Lake Country Power and son of DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk
  • Eric Dayton, restaurant owner and co-founder of Askov Finlayson clothing.
  • Megan Elizabeth Dayton, a senior demographer at the Department of Administration
  • Kathryn Hoffman, CEO of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
  • Patrick Lunemann, board chairman of the Minnesota AgriGrowth Council and a board member for the Minnesota Milk Producers
  • Isaac Orr, policy fellow at the conservative Center of the American Experiment
  • Bethany Owen, president of ALLETE, which owns the Duluth-based utility Minnesota Power
  • Kevin Pranis, marketing manager for the Laborer’s International Union of North America’s North Dakota and Minnesota chapter
  • Nicole Rom, executive director of Climate Generation, a nonprofit founded by polar explorer Will Steger
  • Timothy Rudnicki, executive director of the Minnesota Biofuels Association
  • Jigme Ugen, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union’s Minnesota health care chapter
  • Peter Wagenius, legislative director for the Sierra Club’s North Star Chapter

Read the full article online here

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