North Dakotans Turn Out to Oppose Permit for Coal Complex Near National Park
The Sierra Club's campaign to stop a proposed coal complex 30 miles from Theodore Roosevelt National Park heated up at a late April air quality permit public hearing conducted by the North Dakota Health Department at City Hall in Dickinson, N.D. Some 100 people turned out for the hearing, above and below.
The South Heart Power Project is a $1.4 billion proposal for a coal-to-gas conversion and coal mine at the same site. The Sierra Club has been working closely with Neighbors United, a local landowners group, to halt the issuance of an air quality permit for the complex, which Australia-based GTL Energy has already started to build. More than half of the citizens at the hearing arrived sporting bright yellow "Neighbors United" T-shirts.
Neighbors United activist Mary Hodell, below left, whose children attend South Heart School, near the proposed complex, testified that she would have serious concerns about her children's health if it came online. That's Dacotah Chapter member Frank Hurt, below right, holding his granddaughter at the hearing.
The hearing, which garnered coverage in The Dickinson Press, resulted from an outpouring of citizen requests for the Health Department to hold a formal hearing during the written comment period for the air permit. "The Health Department initially wanted to only have an informal informational meeting," says North Dakota Sierra Club organizer Wayde Schafer, "but we negotiated both an informal meeting and a formal, on-the-record public hearing."
At a pre-hearing training for volunteer activists it was decided that their message would be reinforced if they wore the T-shirts, produced by Neighbors United and the Club's Dacotah Chapter, as a show of solidarity. More than half of the citizens turned out for the hearing wearing the shirts, including all but two of the 20 people who testified.
The Dacotah Chapter did mailings, phone-banks, an online action alert, and rented a shuttle van to boost turnout at the April 28 hearing. The written comment period was then extended until May 8th, and another postcard and online action alert were sent out in order to generate additional comments to the Health Department.
Read more about the Sierra Club's work to move beyond coal.
All photos by Mary Hodell except Mary Hodell photo courtesy of Dickinson Press.