- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 17, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A broad jobs and energy bill signed by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton over the weekend gives a rate break to mining companies, paper mills and steel mills, but will increase rates for other customers.

The legislation aims to help lower energy costs for companies competing in a global marketplace, including those operating taconite mines on the Iron Range, by allowing major industrial customers in northern Minnesota to apply for a break in their electricity rates, Minnesota Public Radio News (https://bit.ly/1JTTPqb ) reported. But it also means that residential customers and smaller businesses in that part of the state will wind up paying more.

Democratic state Sen. John Marty of Roseville said he didn’t object to helping out steel and paper companies, but he worries about everyone else who will have to pay higher rates.

“When you’re talking about utility rates, if you’re bringing down one customer’s rates, you’re bringing it up for someone else,” Marty said. “In this case, we’re bringing down electric rates for the biggest customers and we’re bringing it up for residents, for homeowners, for renters (and) small businesses. They’re going to be paying more, perhaps significantly more.”

It’s still unclear how rates will change under the new law, said Otter Tail Power Company spokeswoman Cris Oehler, as well as how many companies will seek a rate reduction. But the change is about fairness, according to Amy Rutledge, a spokeswoman for Minnesota Power.

“For years, our industrial customers have been subsidizing our residential customers,” Rutledge said. “This new law brings things back into balance.”

Otter Tail Power Company and Minnesota Power have 205,000 customers between them.

Instead of worrying about higher rates for residents, utility customers should be more concerned about U.S. Steel and other companies going out of business if their rates go even higher, according to Republican state Rep. Pat Garofalo of Farmington.

“If these businesses close, you’re going to see a significant increase in electric rates for customers in northeastern Minnesota,” Garofalo said. “By keeping these businesses active and involved, everyone wins.”

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org

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