Sierra Club Delivers 2,100 Petitions to MN Chamber Board Members

North Star Chapter
2327 East Franklin Avenue, Suite 1
Minneapolis, MN 55406-4420

For Immediate Release

May 15, 2017

Petition Challenges Policies That Would Dismantle Environmental Protections

(Minneapolis, MN (May 15, 2017) – Members of the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club today delivered a petition signed by 2,100 Minnesotans, calling upon members of the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce to re-examine their support of Chamber-backed policies that would dismantle Minnesota’s environmental safeguards protecting clean water, land and air. Specifically, these polices, recently vetoed by Governor Dayton, include:

  • Gutting Minnesota’s Environmental Quality Board that provides a forum for agencies and citizens to tackle complex resource challenges;
  • Allowing polluters to write their own environmental impact reviews;
  • Severely limiting downstream residents’ and local governments’ rights to challenge mining permits;
  • Allowing large industries to buy their way to expedited permit reviews; and
  • Adding significant barriers for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources to protect public resources while cutting agency enforcement budgets.

In addition, HF605, also recently vetoed by Governor Dayton, includes more than 30 hurdles that agencies must follow before making environmental decisions and allows any legislative committee to block these agency actions. The Sierra Club petitions calling for change were delivered to some of Minnesota’s most prominent businesses today including Target, General Mills, 3M, Medtronic, Polaris, and Hormel.

“Minnesota Chamber member businesses – through board participation and membership dues – give support to the Chamber’s legislative agenda,” said Margaret Levin, state director of the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Even if Chamber members aren’t vocally supportive of the legislation, they are guilty of allowing the business community’s political weight to be used to weaken protections for clean air and water.”

The petitions ask corporate leaders from Minnesota’s business community to speak “against rollbacks designed to protect our environment” and that these legislative provisions will “harm our environment and hurt Minnesota businesses and employees, hindering our important way of life.”

A copy of the petition is available here.

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Justin Fay, 612-259-2453, justin.fay@sierraclub.org
Cathryn Kennedy, 612-309-3951, cathryn@cathrynkennedy.com
Pam McCarthy-Kern, 612-360-0647, pam@cathrynkennedy.com

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Minnesota Legislature Cuts Funding for Air and Water; Empowers Polluters

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 9, 2017

Media Contact:
Margaret Levin – Margaret.levin@sierraclub.org, 612-659-9124

Saint Paul, MINN. (May 9, 2017) – Today, the Minnesota House and Senate passed a conference report for the Environment and Natural Resources Omnibus Finance bill (HF888). Despite a surplus of $1.5 billion, HF888 would cut funding for state agencies charged with protecting Minnesota’s air, water and the health of our communities. The bill also contains a significant number of unrelated and controversial policy provisions, many of which would weaken existing environmental laws and undermine public oversight of our natural resources.

Margaret Levin, State Director of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter issued the following statement in response:

“Minnesotans are incredibly fortunate to live in a state with vibrant natural resources. It is surprising and disappointing that Republican leadership in the Minnesota Legislature continues to jeopardize these resources by underfunding and undermining their protection.

Not only does the conference report for HF888 unnecessarily cut funding for protecting our air and water, it also includes dozens of pages of controversial and unrelated policy changes, many of which are designed to weaken public oversight of our lakes, rivers, air and natural resources.

We recognize that this conversation is likely far from over. We are grateful for Governor Dayton’s commitment to veto this and other budget bills, and urge legislative leaders to start over with a clean slate and a renewed commitment to Minnesota’s natural legacy.”

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Minnesota Legislature’s Budget Packed with Attacks on Clean Air, Water and Public Transit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 1, 2017

Media Contact:
Justin Fay, Justin.fay@sierraclub.org, 612-251-1457

Saint Paul, MINN. (May 1, 2017) – Today, conference committees in the Minnesota Legislature adopted “delete everything” amendments that reflect the outcomes of a budget agreement reached between House and Senate leadership late last week. Despite a budget surplus of more than $1.5 billion, the Legislature’s budget imposes cuts on funding for clean air and clean water, underfunds public transit, and includes hundreds of pages of damaging policy initiatives.

Leaders of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter responded to the Legislature’s budget bills:

Margaret Levin, State Director of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter issued the following statement in response to the Environment and Natural Resources Omnibus Bill (HF888): “Minnesotans have repeatedly made it clear that they expect their state leaders to provide adequate funding for work to protect Minnesota’s air, water and the health of our communities. Not only does this bill fail to keep the faith with Minnesota voters, it also includes a laundry list of sweetheart policy provisions for special interests, including new and damaging barriers to the implementation and enforcement of standards for clean air and clean water. We strongly urge legislative leaders to reconsider this misguided direction for Minnesota.”

Erin Daly, Chair of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter’s Land Use and Transportation Committee issued the following statement in response to the Transportation Omnibus Bill (HF861): “Our transportation system is the backbone of Minnesota’s economy. Unfortunately, despite a significant budget surplus, the Legislature has failed to provide adequate funding for public transit. These shortfalls will lead directly to worsening congestion and dirtier air, and create unnecessary new barriers for Minnesotans who simply need to get to work. This bill represents a clear failure by the Legislature to consider the needs of all Minnesotans, including and especially low income Minnesotans and those who are unable to drive. Minnesotans deserve a transportation system that works, and this bill doesn’t come close.”

SJ Spitzer, Co-Chair of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter’s Clean Air and Renewable Energy Committee issued the following statement in response to the Jobs and Energy Omnibus Bill (SF1937): “The future is clear: Minnesota is on the path to cleaner energy thanks to affordable wind, solar and efficiency. The Legislature is sadly on a different path – succumbing to the whims of the oil and gas industries at the expense of Minnesota consumers. If allowed to become law, this bill will result in slower and more expensive decision-making for energy consumers along with costly new pipeline projects that threaten our waters, the integrity of private land and indigenous treaty rights. We ask legislators to reconsider including these damaging policy proposals and fully fund Governor Dayton’s budget request for the critical work of building and maintaining the energy system of the future.”

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Minnesota Legislature Sides with Polluters Against Clean Air and Water

March 31, 2017

Media Contact:
Margaret Levin – Margaret.levin@sierraclub.org, 612-659-9124

Saint Paul, MINN. (March 31, 2017) – This week, the Minnesota House and Senate passed their Environment and Natural Resources Omnibus bills (HF888/SF723). In addition to irresponsible budget cuts to state agencies charged with safeguarding Minnesotan’s air, land and water, the bills include more than 90 pages of policy provisions, many of which are controversial polluter-sponsored initiatives that weaken existing environmental laws and roll back protections.

Margaret Levin, State Director of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter issued the following statement in response:

“Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and voters expect their legislators to prioritize the protection of clean water, clean air and the health of families and children when they come to St. Paul. Today, the Minnesota House and Senate both failed to meet this standard. The House and Senate Environment Omnibus bills include sweetheart provisions for polluting industries, undermine Minnesota’s longstanding framework for environmental protection, and fail to adequately fund the protections that keep our air and water safe.

In 2008, Minnesotans voted to raise their own taxes in order to ensure that our most precious natural resources are properly protected. Minnesotans view the protection of air and water as core functions of their state government. Clearly, Minnesota legislators need to get in sync with their constituents on these critical issues.”

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Governor Dayton Stands Up for Rural Clean Energy Customers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 20, 2017

Media Contact:
Margaret Levin – Margaret.levin@sierraclub.org, 612-659-9124

Saint Paul, MINN. (March 20, 2017) – Today, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton announced his veto of House File 234, a bill that would remove protection by the Public Utilities Commission for renewable energy customers served by rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities.

Margaret Levin, State Director of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter issued the following statement in response:

“Minnesota wind and solar customers deserve the same level of protection regardless of where they live and which utility happens to serve their community. Governor Dayton’s decision to veto this legislation ensures that clean energy customers served by rural electric coops and municipal utilities will continue to have at least some recourse when faced with onerous and burdensome fees and surcharges by their electric utility.

The Governor’s decision also sends a clear signal that Minnesotans value the critical role that the Public Utilities Commission plays in protecting ratepayers and consumers from utility decisions that are not in the public interest. We applaud the Governor’s decision today, and look forward to continuing our work to ensure that rural Minnesotans have access to clean and affordable renewable energy.”

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Legislation Aims to Rollback Utility Commission Authority in Historic Fashion

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 9, 2017

Contact:
Justin Fay – justin.fay@sierraclub.org
Ricky Junquera – ricky.junquera@sierraclub.org

Fast-tracking Xcel Gas Plant; without consideration of public’s best interest.

Minneapolis, MN – Today, the Minnesota House passed, and Governor Dayton announced his intention to sign, legislation that exempts Xcel Energy from the long-standing authority of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to evaluate whether new power generation is in the public interest. Instead, this bill would give Xcel Energy sole discretion whether to build a new 786-Megawatt gas plant in Becker, Minnesota.The legislation will be taken up by the Senate in the coming weeks before advancing to the Governor’s desk.

Sierra Club Minnesota issued the following statement in response:

“Legislation to exempt Xcel Energy’s proposed gas plant from standard consumer protection publicly undermines the authority of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Authorizing Xcel Energy to replace two retiring coal units with a $1 billion gas plant, while avoiding basic demonstrations that the plant is in the public interest, undoes long-standing precedent; replacing a balancing of interests with a process that gives a giant check to Xcel.

The mission of the Public Utilities Commission is ‘to protect and promote the public’s interest in safe, adequate and reliable utility services at fair, reasonable rates.’ Xcel Energy and state lawmakers are choosing to let shareholders benefit at the expense of ratepayers across the state.

Sierra Club, along with many other stakeholders, has participated extensively in PUC proceedings over the years and believes Minnesota’s Commission is a best-in-class example of a regulatory body that weighs diverse interests in search of the best outcome. State lawmakers have opened the door to bypass the PUC every time a company decides it would be more expedient to make a decision to build a new coal plant or a new nuclear plant in a corporate boardroom rather than in the public venue specifically designed for this work.

We stand ready to defend the Public Utilities Commission from further rollbacks to their authority to act on behalf of Minnesotans, and encourage state lawmakers and the Governor to do the same.”

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About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.7 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.

Sierra Club Praises Decision to Block Sulfide Mine, Protect Boundary Waters

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, December 15, 2016

Contact: Margaret Levin, Margaret.levin@sierraclub.org

Minneapolis, MN—The Obama administration today denied renewal of two mineral leases near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, halting plans for sulfide mines that could pollute the waters of America’s most popular wilderness area following extensive public input.  Sulfide mining has never been done in Minnesota, and would pollute rivers and groundwater for hundreds of years.

The administration also announced it is beginning a process to consider withdrawing federal mineral rights from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area watershed long term.

In response, Margaret Levin, State Director of Sierra Club’s North Star Chapter issued the following statement:

“The Obama administration has rightly recognized that toxic sulfide ore mining poses grave risks for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, America’s most-visited national wilderness.  Today’s decision brings a welcome reprieve for the Boundary Waters’ 1,000 pristine lakes and streams, and validates the voices of thousands who have asked that its waters be protected from this threat.

“The tremendous public opposition to these mines demonstrates the incredible connection that Minnesotans and people from all over the country feel with this place and the deep-rooted desire to see it protected, not just today but into the future. We applaud this significant step forward and will continue to fight for permanent protection of the Boundary Waters.”