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May 16, 2014

Turning Up the Heat on Minnesota Polluters


The first week of May, the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Minnesota team turned up the heat on utilities Xcel Energy and Minnesota Power, taking them to task for their coal pollution and presenting them with a bill for damages to public health.

Below at left, Xcel's "bill" on its way to being presented at the company's headquarters in Minneapolis.


Activists filed comments with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on their state implementation plan for soot, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and ozone. The comments included "plume maps" for sulfur dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants the Sierra Club has targeted as especially egregious polluters, showing how pollution exceeds national air-quality standards. Even short exposures to peak levels of sulfur dioxide in the air can make it difficult for people with asthma or other respiratory illnesses to breathe when they are active outdoors.


Club volunteers and staff worked together to collect public comments on the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission's docket on updating the cost estimates for "externalities" (side effects) that utilities use in making energy decisions.


They then held media events in Minneapolis, above, and Duluth, below, where they delivered the "bills" for the costs of pollution from Xcel Energy's and Minnesota Power's coal plants.


The costs were recommended in a 2013 study -- Health & Environmental Costs of Electricity Generation in Minnesota -- the Sierra Club used to successfully open a docket at the Minnesota PUC to update cost estimates that were nearly 20 years out of date.

Below, the "bills"that were presented to Minnesota Power and Excel Energy, respectively.


The media events in Minneapolis and Duluth were followed by email and social media outreach in each utility's service area, and Beyond Coal activists submitted comments to the PUC docket on the true costs of pollution from coal plants in Minnesota. Below, the Sierra Club's "True Cost of Coal Pollution" infographic, for both Xcel Energy and Minnesota Power.


On May 15, the Beyond Coal Minnesota team presented videotaped personal stories at a Climate Justice Now community forum in Minneapolis, documenting how pollution is affecting public health in the state. The forum, organized by the Sierra Club and Green For All, focused on how communities of color are disproportionately affected by climate disruption.


Minneapolis-based Sierra Club organizer Michelle Rosier gives a shout-out to fellow organizers Alexis Boxer, Jessica Tritsch, and Karen Monahan, and volunteers Sunny Leung, Julie Drennan, Priyanka Zylstra, "and all the other volunteers who made the 'bill' deliveries happen -- and special Kudos to Alexis Boxer for dreaming up the bill idea."


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