Judge Recommends Use of the Social Cost of Carbon

For Immediate Release

Contact:
Leigh Currie, Energy Program Director, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

651-287-4873lcurrie@mncenter.org

“Fossil fuel power plant pollution costs Minnesotans more than $2.1 billion annually in health and environmental impacts.”

St. Paul, MN (April 15, 2016) – A new report recommends using the federal “social cost of carbon” when estimating the health and economic impacts of carbon dioxide pollution in the State of Minnesota, with a couple of minor suggested amendments. The report was submitted to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) by an administrative law judge earlier today.

Since 1997, Minnesota utilities appearing before the PUC have been required to include estimates of the impacts carbon dioxide pollution has on human health and the environment in their filings. The 1997 values were determined to be between $.30 per ton and $3.10 per ton of CO2 (in 1995 dollars) and has only been adjusted for inflation; the values are now set between $.44 per ton and $4.53 per ton (in 2014 dollars).

The ability to estimate the social cost of carbon has increased dramatically since 1997 – most recently when the federal government created an interagency working group in 2009 to research the best available science and estimate the social cost of carbon when evaluating the impact of federal regulations. The value they found is contingent on the year and discount rate applied. For 2016 the values range from $11 per ton to $57 per ton of CO2.

Several groups and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Minnesota Department of Commerce recommended that the PUC use the values generated by the interagency working group as its estimates of the social cost of carbon. The PUC subsequently held a contested case that wrapped up in September 2015, and the recommendation by the administrative law judge will be considered by the Public Utilities Commission at a later date.

Dr. Stephen Polasky, Regents Professor of Economics at the University of Minnesota, was one of the expert testifiers whose reports cited harmful damages to Minnesotan’s health and environment. “Fossil fuel power plant pollution costs Minnesotans more than $2.1 billion annually in health and environmental impacts, including emergency room visits and medical bills.”

Using updated social cost of carbon values will give the PUC more information about the external damages inflicted on society by burning fossil fuels, and will help in its decisions about future investments in electricity generation in Minnesota.

The organizations supporting the Administrative Law Judge’s recommendation include Environmental Law & Policy Center, Fresh Energy, Midwest Renewable Energy Association, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Minnesota Department of Commerce, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Public Health Association, Sierra Club, Solar Energy Industries Association, Twin Cities Medical Society, and Wind on the Wires.

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Taconite Harbor Revised Air Permit: A Step Towards Cleaner Air

MEDIA ALERT

Monday, April 4, 2016

Contact:

Ricky Junquera – ricky.junquera@sierraclub.org(202) 675-2392

Release Online

Permit will revise the long-overdue air pollution permit at Minnesota Power’s Taconite Harbor coal-burning power plant

DULUTH, MN. — Minnesota Power has submitted a revised air permit to The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). This draft permit, on notice April 3rd, will revise the long-overdue air pollution permit at Minnesota Power’s Taconite Harbor coal-burning power plant to meet health-based clean air protections established nearly six years ago. This comes a year after dozens of faith, health, youth, and environmental groups submitted a letter calling for the MPCA to hold Minnesota Power accountable by acting on the expired permits. For Taconite Harbor, the air pollution permit was more than a decade overdue, putting nearby Northern Minnesota communities, iconic public parks, and recreation areas at risk.

The permit will include limits to ensure compliance with the EPA’s one-hour national ambient air quality standards for sulfur dioxide (SO2). Modeling conducted by an expert for the Sierra Club demonstrated that emissions from Minnesota Power’s Taconite Harbor coal plant potentially cause violations of that health-based standard for dozens of miles around the plant, putting our health and environment at risk.

Sulfur dioxide causes respiratory illnesses and increased risk of hospital admissions or emergency room visits, especially among children, older adults and people with asthma. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, northeastern Minnesota has the highest rates per capita of asthma-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations in the state.

In response Jessica Tritsch with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Minnesota said:

“This is an important step forward for all Minnesota Power customers and the entire community that came out last year to ensure a process was in place to safeguard our health, and protect our parks and recreation areas.

“We are glad to see a draft permit, and will review it during the 30-day comment period. Minnesota Power’s decision to retire Taconite Harbor is an important move for clean air, but we are concerned about what impact its 4-year plan to economically idle the plant could have on our community’s health.”

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About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 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.

Minnesota Power 15 Year Plan Still Beholden to Dirty Coal

CONTACT:
Ricky Junquera, Ricky.Junquera@sierraclub.org, 617-599-7048

https://content.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2016/03/minnesota-power-15-year-plan-still-beholden-dirty-coal

More than 1500 comments submitted to push an investment in renewable energy

DULUTH, MN– Today marked the close of comments on Minnesota Power’s proposed 15-year plan to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) outlining the Northlands’ energy future. Over 1500 Minnesotans submitted comments saying Minnesota Power was missing opportunities to protect our air, water, and invest in long term energy solution and asking them to require more wind, solar, and energy efficiency from Minnesota Power over the next 15 years.

Lucinda West, a freshman at University of Minnesota Duluth and task force leader of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group Duluth chapter, spent time this winter talking to her fellow students about the 15 year plan,  “Everyone was shocked when they heard that Minnesota Power wasn’t planning on adding any more wind power in the next 15 years. It is obvious to us that we need more clean energy and less fossil fuels to protect our future. The 15 year plan even says that the wind investments they have made were a good investment for their customers, Minnesota Power seems out of touch to not add more of this affordable energy for their customers.”

Minnesota Power announced plans to stop burning coal at one of their dirtiest plants,Taconite Harbor that sits on the shore of Lake Superior. Yet, even with that announcement, Minnesota Power still burns coal for 65% of the electricity they produce. It’s progress, but more should be done. In comparison, the Minnesota Department of Commerce released new data this week showing that statewide coal was 44% of the energy mix in 2015.

“All around the country we see great examples of utilities answering the call to shifting their energy production to renewable energy but not with Minnesota Power,” said James Hietala, a MN Power customer. “We need to see commitments that make a positive impact on our air and water quality to ensure that future generations can enjoy the northern Minnesota that we enjoy.”

For years, clean energy supporters in the Northland have been pressuring Minnesota Power to announce transition plans for their dirtiest coal plants. Minnesota Power is posing a threat to our water and air by continuing to burn coal. Clean energy solutions (like wind, solar, and energy efficiency) exist and are saving customers money. Minnesota Power should ramp up wind and solar energy.

The PUC will now look over all of the comments submitted but citizens, industry, and advocacy groups and determine if MN Power can continue with their current plan or if they should make some changes.

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About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 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 responds to release of PolyMet Final Environmental Impact Statement Certification

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 3, 2016

Sierra Club responds to release of PolyMet Final Environmental Impact Statement Certification

Contact: Margaret Levin, State Director, Sierra Club North Star Chapter, 612-259-2446, margaret.levin@sierraclub.org

Today the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced its determination of the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the PolyMet sulfide ore mine as “adequate.”

In response, Sierra Club State Director Margaret Levin issued the following statement:

“This determination is disappointing, given the enormous risks of PolyMet’s deeply flawed sulfide mine proposal and the many questions left unanswered by the Final Environmental Impact Statement. The FEIS failed to fully evaluate pollution risks and health impacts and shows that the project would pose an unacceptable threat to Lake Superior – degradation of surface water, groundwater, and wetlands, and harm to endangered and threatened wildlife.

“PolyMet’s plan – to pollute water for centuries, destroy thousands of acres of wetlands, and put the health of people downstream at risk – is not the legacy we want to leave for our children and grandchildren. The evidence is clear that the risks to Lake Superior and the region far outweigh the potential benefits.”
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The Sierra Club North Star Chapter is the leading grassroots voice to preserve and protect Minnesota’s environment.

Sierra Club Responds to Court’s Ruling on Enbridge’s Pipeline Scheme

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Contact: Jonathon Berman, (202) 297-7533, jonathon.berman@sierraclub.org

Minneapolis, MN — Today, the Federal District court ruled that it does not have the jurisdiction to reject Enbridge’s scheme to expand the capacity of its Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline through a backdoor process, but the Obama Administration does.

Enbridge’s scheme is currently bringing tar sands oil into America without the required environmental review. If fully expanded, this line would carry a greater volume of tar sands than the rejected Keystone XL pipeline would have.

Yesterday, the National Academy of Science released a study that affirms tar sands is one of the dirtiest of dirty fuels, noting that it differs significantly from conventional crude oil and is more dangerous to water, such as the Great Lakes, and the environment when it spills.

In response, Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign Lena Moffitt released the following statement:

“Unfortunately the court ruled today that they do not have the authority to stop Enbridge’s scheme to bring more of the dirtiest fuel on the planet into our country. Luckily, President Obama does.

“When President Obama rejected the Keystone XL proposal last month, he showed that the era of Big Oil is over. Now, just as he did with Keystone, President Obama can call for a full review of Enbridge’s plans and ultimately reject a pipeline expansion that would do irreparable harm to our climate, our environment, and our public health.

“Now is the time to move us off of dirty fossil fuels, not build a bridge — or a pipeline — to 19th century ideas. We must continue to invest in clean and renewable forms of energy, and leave dirty fuels where they belong, in the ground.”

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Local Leaders Voice Concerns Over Minnesota Power’s Community Solar Plan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Media Contact: Natalie Cook, 651-295-3483, natalie.cook@sierraclub.org

DULUTH, Minn. — Community members and renewable energy advocates submitted over 285 comments and a letter signed by 19 local leaders and organizations Thursday to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The letters call on the PUC to ensure Minnesota Power’s Community Solar Garden (CSG) program is fair and open for everyone in the area wanting to participate.

A community solar garden is a solar electric array with multiple subscribers. Subscribers can purchase a portion of the power produced by the array and receive a credit on their electricity bill. A community supported solar array might be hosted on a school, library, place of worship, or community center. Community solar gardens provide access to solar for renters or home or business owners with roofs not well designed for solar panels.

“Community Solar Gardens put energy distribution in the hands of the people. They were designed with the idea that renewable energy should be available to everyone and that energy can be produced beyond the traditional model where energy is produced, transported, and owned by a monopoly utility,” said Jason Edens, Director of Rural Renewable Energy Alliance.

In 2013 the Minnesota legislature passed a Community Solar Garden policy setting up the rules governing the programs. While Minnesota Power wasn’t required to develop a program, the utility proposed one to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in September.

Minnesota Power’s proposal allows customers to subscribe to a solar project owned by the utility but doesn’t include a path for community developed gardens, despite what’s outlined in the state statute. The proposal would limit the way projects can be developed and allows Minnesota Power to receive all of the financial benefit in the form of Renewable Energy Credits and small scale solar goals.

“Community solar projects should do as originally intended and as the name suggests — they should be a resource held by local communities rather than exist as a limited service offered by utility companies,” said Natalie Cook, organizer with the Sierra Club.

The PUC will make a determination in the coming months on whether Minnesota Power can move forward with the plan it proposed or if the company must make changes.

Reverend Bruce Johnson, with Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth will be waiting to see what is decided — the church built its building in 2008 to be ready for solar. “We see Community Solar as a way to live our values, there are church buildings and other sites in the community that are ready and able to become Community Solar Garden sites, but under the current proposal that is not realistic.  The Northland needs Community Solar, not corporate solar.”

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For more technical information about the concerns with Minnesota Power’s community solar garden proposal, check here.

Congressional Vote Against the Clean Power Plan Undermines Public Health

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 19, 2015

Media Contact:
Karen Monahan, karen.monahan@sierraclub.org, (612) 259-2451
Jessica Herrera, jessica.herrera@sierraclub.org, (520) 260-1725

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Polluter-backed Congressional resolutions to block the Clean Power Plan passed the Senate Tuesday night in spite of widespread public support for the policy’s life-saving steps to curb unlimited carbon pollution from power plants for the first time ever. These legislative efforts to block the policy are expected to be vetoed by President Obama.

The resolutions are an extreme and controversial legislative tool that fall under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows Congress to nullify a final administrative rulemaking. According to the Government Accountability Office, lawmakers have only struck down one rule using CRA resolutions in 43 attempts and this tactic has been called extreme by both sides of the aisle.

Minnesota Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken voted against the resolutions.

In response, Karen Monahan, organizing representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, issued the following statement:

“We applaud Senator Franken’s and Senator Klobuchar’s decision to side with the health and safety of their constituents and reject these polluter ploys to block the Clean Power Plan in Washington.

“These legislative gimmicks are just distractions from the great benefits the Clean Power Plan will bring to our state. The policy will protect our air and water from fossil fuel pollution while promoting our transition to a clean energy economy, which will bring good jobs and more opportunities from 21st century energy technologies like solar and wind.

“Senators Kobuchar and Franken showed real leadership today by bucking fossil fuel interests in Washington and standing with Minnesotans for a clean energy future.”

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