RELEASE: Giant Health ‘Bills’ Delivered to Xcel, Minnesota Power for Hidden Pollution Costs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

May 7, 2014

Contact:

Alison Flowers, 303-246-6297, alison.flowers@gmail.com

Jessica Tritsch (Duluth), 612-963-9642, jessica.tritsch@sierraclub.org

Alexis Boxer (Minneapolis), 203-885-3629, alexis.boxer@sierraclub.org

Giant Health ‘Bills’ Delivered to Xcel, Minnesota Power for Hidden Pollution Costs

Fossil fuel pollution costs Minnesotans $2.1 billion in health and environmental impacts — 94 percent from coal pollution

MINNESOTA — Today citizens delivered oversized health ‘bills’ to two Minnesota utilities — Xcel Energy in Minneapolis and Minnesota Power in Duluth — charging them for the costly health and environmental impacts of fossil fuel pollution. These utilities are required to factor in pollution costs into their energy decisions using state estimates, but the cost values are close to 20 years old and do not reflect the known health effects of coal pollution. A recent study found fossil fuel pollution costs Minnesotans $2.1 billion in health and environmental impacts – 94 percent from coal pollution.

This year the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission agreed to study these impacts and determine how to updates the cost values to reflect current science. Community members are seeking to ensure the hidden costs of coal pollution are included, such as emergency room visits, medical bills and missed school days.

“On top of paying our monthly electricity bills, we’re also footing the bill for health care expenses and costly environmental damages,” said Beth Mercer-Taylor, a Falcon Heights City Council member and mother of an asthmatic child. “The state needs to update these costs so that the utilities feel the financial toll their pollution has on our daily lives.”

Xcel’s coal pollution costs Minnesotans as much as $1.4 billion each year in health and environmental impacts. Meanwhile Minnesota Power’s coal pollution costsas much as $615 million each year. These estimates do not include mercury pollution, which also takes a toll on Minnesotans health, lakes and wallets annually.

In late March, the Sierra Club put Minnesota Power on notice for more than 12,500 federal Clean Air Act violations at its Clay Boswell, Taconite Harbor and Syl Laskin coal plants over the last five years, which have threatened public health.  Maps from a new report show dangerous levels of sulfur dioxide pollution emitted by the Taconite Harbor plant.

“Many Cook County residents like myself are very concerned about the health and pollution damage caused by the coal burning power plant at Taconite Harbor,” said Gordy Dodge, an EMS first responder whose family has had a home near the plant for more than 20 years. “Minnesota families should not be tasked with paying for costly pollution that already damages our health.”

The Clean Air Task Force estimates that Minnesota Power’s Clay Boswell, Taconite Harbor and Syl Laskin coal plants contribute to a combined 367 asthma attacks, 36 heart attacks, and 23 premature deaths per year. The elderly, children and people with respiratory and heart disease are most at risk. Minnesota Power’s coal plant pollution — including soot, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide.

Xcel’s Sherco coal plant in Becker, Minn., emits 12,000 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx) & 20,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2). Soot and smog pollution from coal plants contribute to significant health impacts, including asthma, lung cancer and other respiratory ailments. A study by the Clean Air Task Force study found that particle pollution from Sherco leads to an estimated 1600 asthma attacks, 150 heart attacks and 92 deaths each year.

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