Red Wing is a "company town" and it seems that city officials regard fronting for Xcel Energy as a primary task. This often surfaces at the Sustainability Commission.

Let’s note that Xcel Energy’s management's primary obligation is to maximize profits for shareholders. What is in Xcel's interest is to create the appearance of support for conservation and efficiency while blocking anything that significantly impacts sales. "Greenwashing."

The Sustainability Commission met Jan 28, 2020. Procedurally, it was as bad as ever. No public comment item on the agenda. The "staff liaison" running the show.

Mayor Sean Dowse swore in two new commission members. One was Jay McCleary, a former longtime city employee.

A member had proposed "Research pollution resulting from Xcel incineration activities" as part of the commission's 2020 work plan. According to the Dec. 10, 2019, minutes:

"Mr. McCleary advised going through proper channels relating to researching pollution from incineration activities, due to the longstanding relationship between the City of Red Wing and Xcel Energy. It was suggested to frame this item as working with Xcel Energy to help figure out what to do with the incinerator, as well as working on ways to reduce waste."

Is this recognizable to you, dear reader, as blocking a real investigation?

Now we come to the main scandal:

"Motion to provide a recommendation to City Council to contract with Great Plains Institute to work with the Sustainability Commission to develop a Climate Action Work Plan for the City of Red Wing."

The Great Plains Institute is a consulting shop promoting high-investment, profit-protecting schemes for utilities. The plan is to hire GPI for $15,000 ($3,000 of this is a grant). How was GPI chosen without a request for proposals? Commission minder Melissa Baartman said an RFP "wasn't required" due to the amount. How can we have confidence in the transaction in the absence of competitive bidding?

Climate change is an existential threat to our future and meaningful actions need the highest priority. Some of the Sustainability Commission's projects are likely beneficial, but as long as Xcel is in charge nothing major is likely to happen.

Likewise, Red Wing residents are suffering health effects from air pollution, but the city, by promoting more garbage burning (by Xcel, need I say?) is working to increase, rather than decrease, that pollution.

What would it take to get the city out from under the thumb of Xcel and behaving like a self-governing, self-respecting city with an eye to the future?

Alan Muller

Red Wing