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election, climate change, minnesota, 2022
Candidates respond to climate change question
Kay Fate, Staff Writer

In an effort to keep you, our readers, well-informed and abreast of relevant issues, today is the fifth in a series of questions we are asking all of Steele County’s candidates for state office.

We want voters to know where each candidate stands on the issues in order to make their best decision at the ballot box.

Each week, we’ll ask the candidates a new question. They will all receive the same question, be given a word limit and a deadline of four days to answer. We’ll publish their answers the following Wednesday; responses may be edited for length.

The series will continue through Nov. 2, the last Wednesday before the Nov. 8 general election.

If a candidate doesn’t respond, we’ll note that.

This week, we’re asking about climate change:

Minnesota’s climate is changing; the state has warmed one to three degrees (F) in the last century. Floods are becoming more frequent, and ice cover on lakes is forming later and melting sooner. In the coming decades, these trends will likely continue. Rising temperatures may interfere with winter recreation, extend the growing season, change the composition of trees in the North Woods, and increase water pollution problems in lakes and rivers. Working on it has been a bipartisan issue: In May 2007, Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed the Next Generation Energy Act into law. It commits the state to developing a climate change action plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2025, and 80% by 2050. The reductions must occur throughout the economy.

What do you think of the state’s efforts to combat climate change? What are you willing to support in order to effect more change, either environmentally or economically?

The limit was 250 words.

We advise you to ignore the R or DFL behind each name and reflect only on the answers. You might be surprised to find more common ground than you expected. An (i) indicates the incumbent candidate, though with this spring’s redistricting, the district numbers may not align with the seat they’re seeking.


Question of the Week:

What do you think of the state’s efforts to combat climate change? What are you willing to support in order to effect more change, either environmentally or economically?


Minnesota House District 19B

Abdulahi Ali Osman – DFL, of Owatonna:

The issue of global warming has become clearer as evidenced by the extreme weather patterns in the USA and around the globe. In Minnesota, an integral part of our character and livelihood is our lakes, rivers, and other watersheds. We have a responsibility to institute a strong, sound water quality policy that protects our rivers, streams, and drinking water for future generations. More importantly, as Gov. Pawlenty signed in 2007, we need to address the global warming issues through comprehensive and multi-faceted policies that touch on many environmental topics. These topics include curbing pollution submitted by manufacturing industries through appropriate regulations and technologies. Another is to invest in technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by investing in electric cars and building infrastructure. Finally, we need to generate clean energy infrastructure by investing in non-carbon energy like solar and wind. As Minnesotans, since global warming is a national and international issue, we need to have a global agenda that coordinates our efforts with other states and countries. 


John Petersburg – R (i-24A), of Waseca:

I find it interesting that we switched from using Global Warming to Climate Change when people want to discuss what is happening with nature. First, change is the one constant in everything, including the climate. The climate has always been changing, from the ice age to previous droughts, to today. What I find the most interesting is dropping the word global, if this is truly an issue, then it can only be addressed globally. Currently, China is expelling more carbon into the air then all of the U.S. and the European Communities put together. And they are planning on building over 1,000 new coal fired power plants in the next decade. Humanity has always had the desire and arrogance in believing we can control nature, even though nature always wins. Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural style was to embrace and work with nature, not to try to control it. Something we should take to heart. Yes, we need to pollute less and be more energy efficient, but the climate has always and will always change. To believe Minnesota alone can affect any impact on that change is unrealistic. Pouring millions of dollars and regulatory mandates into policies that will not be successful is very unwise. What Minnesota can do is embrace this inevitable change by investing in technologies and knowledge on how to adapt and adjust to these changes.


Minnesota House District 23A

Peggy Bennett – R (i-27A), of Albert Lea:

I believe in taking good care of this wonderful planet we live on and I support practical renewables. However, we need to approach this transition realistically and wisely. Green idealism pushes for rapid adoption before we have the technology capable of supporting it. It’s like attempting to take off in an airplane before you know it can support the weight it’s carrying. That often doesn’t end well. Unrealistic green idealism has our governor and Democrats forcing California initiatives onto Minnesotans. Now Minnesota is experiencing California-like problems. We see electric grids at high risk for potentially dangerous rolling blackouts; landfills piled with toxic electric vehicle batteries and expended solar panels which we are not capable of recycling; and people forced into cars they don’t want and can’t afford. Walz’s pushing of California initiatives is too drastic. It puts us at risk – not just our power grid but everything. So much of everyday life is made from oil. Now everything from energy, gasoline, vehicles, food, and more has become unaffordable. This is hurting people.

What can we do to pursue clean energy without ruining our economy and our way of life? Support a balanced portfolio of wind, solar, nuclear, natural gas, hydro – and some coal until we can safely and reasonably phase it out. Allow a natural progression toward clean energy and search for additional technologies to reduce the need for electricity. Smart transition will give us the clean energy we want without the negative effects.


Mary Hinnenkamp – DFL, of Albert Lea:

As I door-knock, I still occasionally encounter people who deny that climate change is happening or that it is man-made. This misunderstanding has delayed the enactment of much needed policies. And we need to act. Last week, Great Britain suffered an unbelievable heat wave (temperatures in the 70s replaced by 100-degree temps). A report released last week at the University of Minnesota indicates "the species die-off" around the world is worse than expected: Species that purify our water, air, maintain the health of our soil, and pollinate our plants. Floods, droughts, longer forest fire seasons, and unprecedented extremes of heat are the new reality and will increase. There has been a failure to take action at the federal level, primarily because of the resistance of one party.

So Minnesota has a duty to be a leader, working to prevent further environmental damage and to mitigate the effects of damage already done. I support Governor Walz's Clean Cars Standards. Cars are a leading producer of greenhouse gases, so reducing emissions is essential. I support initiatives to build an infrastructure for electric cars and assistance for developing alternative energy sources. I support incentivizing climate-smart farming practices to protect our soil and water, important resources in our district. I support U of M's Forever Green Initiative to develop crops that are resilient to our new climate reality. Failure to act will cost us dearly, both economically and socially. How can we explain further inaction to our children and grandchildren?


Minnesota House District 23B

Patricia Mueller – R (i-27B), of Austin:

It is important for everyone to be good stewards of our natural resources. The government should support an inclusive strategy that provides affordable, efficient, and abundant energy. Green energy, such as solar, wind, and Electric Vehicles (EV), have their place within a spectrum of options. When the government mandates Clean Car Standards, this hurts rural Minnesota the most because farmers are exponentially impacted. When the government mandates the transition from coal or natural gas to only solar and wind energy, our power grid is not able to compensate for the extreme weather conditions in Minnesota. And EVs are good options for people who can afford them, but mandating the sale of only EVs in the next decade does little to actually help our environment as precious metals are used to make EVs and they are very expensive.

Green energy, while important within a balanced energy program, poses several environmental problems. First, what do you do with turbine blades and solar panels when they are old and need replacing? They are not recyclable and take up vast amounts of space in landfills. Second, making parts for EVs require precious metals that are often mined in foreign countries that have little environmental controls and often use slave labor. This is why, as more consumers choose EVs, we should utilize the natural resources we have right here in Minnesota. The Government cannot be choosing winners and losers when it comes to energy. We need to have a balanced approach to conserving our planet.


Tom Stiehm – DFL, of Austin:

No response.


Minnesota Senate District 19

Kate Falvey – DFL, of Faribault:

Combating climate change is essential to the future of Minnesota – and the rest of the nation. The current Minnesota policies to combat climate change are a good start and should be not only maintained, but also expanded. The cover crop subsidies are essential to providing farmers a way to recover income when they participate in this valuable practice. These subsidies should be fully funded. In addition, an interesting option for a cover crop is hemp. I am excited to learn more about hemp and its phytoremediation properties. Hemp is a crop that grows quickly and can be used for many, many products from paper to fabrics to building materials to fuel. I would support research and development of hemp agriculture and hemp products.

Electric vehicle charging stations, solar panels, and water-saving home improvements are products that the state government can help subsidize to encourage homeowners to help combat climate change. I am willing to support all of these measures both legislatively and economically. With these and other measures, we can continue to combat climate change and leave future generations a healthy environment.


John Jasinksi – R (i-24), of Faribault:

I, like many Republicans, believe that we need to take a balanced approach to providing cleaner energy to our future generations here in Minnesota. With new advancements in energy, we are making progress to eliminate older and dirty methods of providing energy. The older coal plants are being retired and newer more efficient and clean energy is being provided across Minnesota. Recent growth in wind and solar have been progressing, but simply provide a very small amount of energy to the overall output in the state. As I am writing this response and reviewing the current output in Minnesota, we are currently only using a combined amount of about 9% from wind and solar, while coal and natural gas are providing approximately 80% of our energy. I believe it is very important to Minnesota and our manufacturing base, to provide reliable energy to not only these businesses, but every citizen in the state. I support lifting Minnesota’s moratorium on nuclear power so we can explore ways to take advantage of the advancements in carbon-free nuclear power to provide a steady baseload energy for our state. Currently we are producing about 11% of our energy from our 2 nuclear facilities. Lastly, I don’t support proposed mandates that provide false hopes and increase the cost of our local energy. Minnesota is only a small part of the overall climate change impact if we look at it from a worldwide perspective. 


Minnesota Senate District 23

Gene Dornink – R (i-27), of Brownsdale:

I believe we need a balanced approach to take care of our environment for future generations. We need to focus on safe, sustainable energy sources that have the power necessary to meet our energy needs. We need enough baseload power as we make the transition towards renewable energy so we can power our homes without further driving up costs and avoiding potential brownouts and blackouts. I think we need to piggyback on the advancements made in the private sector to make our lives more energy efficient. Many of our businesses are leading the way in finding more efficient ways to power our lives and cut down energy usage. I support lifting Minnesota’s moratorium on nuclear power so we can explore ways to take advantage of the tremendous advancements in carbon-free nuclear power to provide baseload energy. This will allow us the space to further explore variable energy sources like solar and wind. I don’t support job-killing mandates from government that will slow economic growth and do little to help the environment. Many of these mandates are simply empty promises that raise the cost of living for all of us. Instead, let’s work together to update our infrastructure to make it more efficient as the private sector innovates with new technologies. Again, we need a balanced approach to helping improve our environment. Let’s allow our businesses to continue to innovate with new groundbreaking technologies while avoiding costly government mandates. If you would like more information, please contact my office at


Lisa Hanson – R, of Hayward:

No response.


Brandon Lawhead – DFL, of Austin:

I’m a passionate fisherman and outdoorsman, so I strongly support environmental protection. As this relates to climate change, I think we need to be effective in addressing the issue. One critical question is: what’s causing climate change? The second critical question is: what can we do to effectuate real environmental improvement? The foregoing questions are simple, yet – at the same time – very complex. Reducing fossil fuel emissions is one area on which we have agreed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean making the internal combustion engine obsolete. I favor tax incentivized plans to make real impact on climate change. I favor a neutral and non-political governmental agency to answer the foregoing questions and to provide ideas for real impact. 


Next week’s question:

The issue of transgender rights has been raised in many areas, but Minnesota is widely considered an LGBTQ-friendly state. Since October 2018, it’s allowed an "X" sex descriptor on driver's licences and state ID cards. No such option is allowed on birth certificates.

One point of contention remains: sports.

What is your opinion of transgender youth participating in high school sports?

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