worker installing insulation

Environmental action: What’s happening in the city?

Dear Sam,

So many environmental actions are taking place this year as the City of Minneapolis gears up for the next phases of environmental work. It’s hard to know about proposed and upcoming changes happening at the city and state levels. Can you tell me more about what is happening specifically in Minneapolis? 

Sincerely,

Andy

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Dear Andy,

You’re right! So many significant initiatives are blooming at the state and federal levels that it is hard to keep track of them all. Here’s what we know about our fair city’s sustainability and climate change initiatives.

This year, the City of Minneapolis must sign an updated franchise fee agreement with Xcel and Centerpoint for the gas and electric franchise fee. Infrastructure maintenance and climate and energy initiatives are examples of what these franchise fees fund. The city signed the previous agreement in 2014. You can see the information from 2014 here. Of note in the prior 10-year agreement: The biggest natural gas users by volume have been paying a lower rate than the average residential user. Time will tell if this discount will continue for large volume users. 

The City Council will finalize the rate paid by Xcel and Centerpoint in the 2024 franchise agreement once the City of Minneapolis and the utilities have reached a signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the next ten years. Current negotiations are handled by Minneapolis’ Mayor, City Attorney, and Sustainability Program Coordinator, with input from the Energy Vision Advisory Committee, which was created to receive public comment. These franchise fee MOU meetings are available to the public as part of the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership. Notes for the meetings can be found here, including the most recent meeting held just a few days ago.

Another component of local environmental news is the City of Minneapolis’ Climate and Equity 10-year action plan. The goals were to bring green jobs training, significantly reduce Minneapolis’s carbon pollution by 2030, and become carbon neutral by 2050. The City Council unanimously approved an updated Climate Equity Plan in 2023. It includes the Climate Legacy Initiative, which will help direct resources towards projects in communities that need it most. Today, the City of Minneapolis Department of Health, led by Kim Havey, implements the Climate Action Plan and the City Council oversees the implementation of the plan. 

New in 2024, the City Council combined sustainability oversight into the committee for public works. This updated City Council committee is called Climate & Infrastructure. Council member Katie Cashman, Ward 7, is the Chair, and Council member Emily Koski, Ward 11, is the Vice Chair. As the work to retrofit and weatherize houses begins in the fall of 2024, the city has created omnibus vendor approvals for local climate organizations to implement the programs. The long-standing climate and energy organizations,  Cooperative Energy Futures and Community Power, are two partners in the infrastructure retrofitting work. In the next six months, these two organizations will finalize their new weatherization programs for the North and Southside green zones and begin communicating and reaching over 2,000 homes and apartments with 1-4 units. Proposed programs include weather-sealing, updated insulation, and energy evaluations with phased timelines for each energy-saving update or repair. Later this fall, outreach to renters, homeowners, landlords, and community stakeholders will begin. 

Also new in 2024, the Rise Up Center is proposed to replace the former Uptown YWCA at 2808 Hennepin. The center will eventually be capable of providing green jobs training to thousands of Minnesotans annually to perform the labor needed for climate equity action. The current YWCA building is planned to be demolished in the fall of 2024, and the updated 70,000-square-foot building will be constructed in 2024 through 2025 with LEED-certified, net-zero design standards. By 2026, the workforce development programs in the building will be in full operation, and existing programs will be expanded. Several unions and BIPOC organizations will be housed inside of the new building, including SEIU Local 26, UFCW 663, Future Buildings Cooperative, LLC, Tending the Soil MN, Unite Here Local 17 and Minnesota Training partner, Unidos MN, The New Justice Project, and the Building Dignity and Respect Standards Council.

As you can see, a lot is happening! While the rollout of these programs for the North and Southside Green Zones and green jobs training is developing, Tangletown homeowners and renters (working with their landlord) can take environmental action by retrofitting and weatherizing their own homes! Contact the Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) for a Home Energy Squad Visit. During the visit, CEE staff will install energy-saving materials like weatherstripping and LED light bulbs and inspect your insulation, heating and cooling systems, and water heater. Visits are free to households with a family income of less than 150% AMI ($100 otherwise). Visit the CEE website to learn more and schedule your visit.

Sincerely,

Sam

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