Wadena Mayor Wayne Wolden sums up the conflict between Xcel Energy and the city of Red Wing nicely: "How can Minnesota ask a city to host a nuclear power plant and then cut the critical aid that helps protect that city in the event of a nuclear incident?"
The Prairie Island nuclear power plant is located in the city of Red Wing, one of two nuclear power plants in the state. Xcel energy has claimed that the money it pays Red Wing in property taxes and reimbursements exceeds the city’s cost of providing emergency services. This is where city officials in Red Wing, already hit hard by Governor Pawlenty’s budget cuts, disagree.
Red Wing will see a reduction in state aid of almost $900,000 next year, making the city question its ability to provide the emergency services required by having a nuclear power plant. The combined effects of state aid cuts and Xcel’s reduced property tax payments have left the city with 15 percent less revenue since 2002. Marshall Hallock, Red Wing’s finance director, told the Star Tribune that the drop in Xcel’s property tax payments would result in $2.3 million less for the city next year.
By next year, he added, state aid payments to the city will have dropped by $1.07 million annually since 2006.
The combination of state aid cuts and Xcels reduced property tax payments means the city cannot ensure it has the capacity to remain the first responder to plant incidents. Although Xcel has its own fire brigade, Red Wing’s emergency management director Roger Hand believes it’s nothing more than a stop-gap measure. According to the Star Tribune,
While Xcel Energy has its own Prairie Island fire brigade, the city is responsible for helping control incidents and responding to anything that extends beyond the plant’s physical boundaries — a role that could include evacuation, decontaminating emergency workers and sealing off roadways.
This brings us back to Mayor Wolden and the question of how the state can ask Red Wing to host a nuclear power plant without giving it the resources and funding to be able to respond properly in the event of an incident. Without the funding to protect its citizens from potential disasters, Red Wing cannot adequately provide public safety, a crucial service. On the Defend MN website, you can track all the cuts cities across the state have to make thanks to unallotment, including to the provision of public safety services. If you have a story to share with us about how the budget cuts affect you, use this form to tell us.