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Sierra Club used to successfully open a docket at the Minnesota PUC to update cost estimates that were nearly 20 years out of date.