There are three regulated, for-profit electric corporations in Minnesota: Xcel Energy, Otter Tail Power, and Minnesota Power. Like other for-profit corporations, they have a first amendment right to lobby state legislatures and regulatory boards for programs and allowances that increase financial returns to their shareholders. Unlike other for-profit corporations, regulated utilities have a captive customer base.
ILSR Co-Director John Farrell contributed his commentary on this dilemma to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Farrell makes the point that in other sectors, consumers can “vote with their wallets” and spend their dollars in ways that align with their values. Regulated electric utilities, however, have government-granted monopolies. Their customers cannot shop around for electricity. Whether they like it or not, their electric bills are helping utilities pay for political lobbying.
If you’re a customer of Xcel Energy, Otter Tail Energy and Minnesota Power, your electric bill has helped pay for their combined 105 lobbyists; that is one for every two legislators or public utilities commissioners.
Minnesota’s for-profit electric companies have spent $33 million on lobbying since 2009. Utilities also pay dues to trade associations, which in turn, lobby against consumer protections and clean energy.
Click here to read Farrell’s editorial, published March 19, 2023.
If we must keep utility monopolies, lawmakers should ban utility lobbying to avoid the perversity of making us pay for speech we oppose.
Featured Photo Credit: Matt Kieffer via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)