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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Sierra Club responds to release of PolyMet Final Environmental Impact Statement

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

Today the Final Environmental Impact Statement was released for the PolyMet proposed sulfide ore mine.   In response, Sierra Club State Director Margaret Levin issued the following statement:

“The Sierra Club will be carefully reviewing the final Environmental Impact Statement that was released today. But we already know that the risks of PolyMet’s flawed plan, and of sulfide ore mining, far outweigh the potential benefits.

“This is not the legacy we want to leave for our children and grandchildren. PolyMet’s plan – to pollute water for centuries, destroy thousands of acres of wetlands, and put the health of people downstream at risk – should be rejected.”

The document is now available on the Department of Natural Resources website: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/input/environmentalreview/polymet/index.html

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Minnesota Sierra Club responds to Keystone XL rejection, applauds President Obama’s leadership on climate

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 6, 2015

Contact:
Margaret Levin, State Director, Sierra Club North Star Chapter: margaret.levin@sierraclub.org
Terry Houle, Beyond Oil and Tar Sands Committee, Sierra Club North Star Chapter: terry.houle@northstar.sierraclub.org

[Minneapolis, MN] – Today, the Sierra Club and local North Star Chapter celebrated the Obama Administration’s decision to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, further cementing his climate legacy.

“President Obama said yes to clean energy and public health, and no to dirty oil and dangerous pollution. The Sierra Club is thankful that President Obama has chosen the clean energy promise of prosperity and innovation over the dirty fuels of the 19th century,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.

“Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline is a victory for the planet, for the health and well-being of the communities along the pipeline route, and for future generations to come. It also demonstrates the power of the millions of people who raised their voices in opposition to the pipeline, and of the growing movement to end our dependence on dirty fossil fuels. Now, instead of building a pipeline that cuts our country in two, we are free to invest in clean energy that creates jobs and brings our country together,” said Brune.

While rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline is a major step forward, Minnesotans also have their land, water and the climate put in jeopardy by the expansion of tar sands pipelines here at home. Another Canadian company, Enbridge, is pushing a proposed expansion of the Alberta Clipper that could be just as large as the Keystone XL pipeline.

“We applaud the President’s leadership to reject Keystone XL, as urged by thousands of Minnesotans and Sierra Club members who raised their voices through endless phone calls, emails and as part of the 5,000-person march in St. Paul this June,” said Terry Houle, Beyond Oil and Tar Sands Committee leader of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter.

“Unfortunately, pipeline proposals continue to advance that would wreak havoc on our environment while contributing no lasting benefit for our economy. The proposed Alberta Clipper pipeline expansion, which would move 800,000 barrels per day of tar sands oil through our state, threatens Minnesota’s waters and communities and poses just as much risk as the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Margaret Levin, State Director of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter.

“We applaud the President for his courageous decision today. This is a clear signal that the oil industry’s destructive, dangerous new proposals won’t withstand public scrutiny. We urge the President to continue his leadership and commitment by requiring a full environmental review of the Alberta Clipper,” said Levin.

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More than 11,000 Minnesotans Call for Retirement Plan for Sherco Units 1&2

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact

Alexis Boxer, (203) 885-3629 or alexis.boxer@sierraclub.org
Danny Wein, (202) 675-7902 or danny.wein@sierraclub.org

MINNEAPOLIS – October 1, 2015 – This afternoon, more than 11,000 comments from Minnesotans throughout Xcel Energy’s service territory were delivered to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission calling for a retirement plan regarding two units at the Sherco coal plant and maximizing wind, solar and energy savings in Xcel Energy’s 2015 Resource Plan. The Commission is accepting comments until tomorrow afternoon on Xcel Energy’s Resource Plan, which was initially filed in January.

Xcel Energy has made great strides in recent years transitioning to clean, renewable energy, but still operates the largest coal plant in Minnesota. Sherco is one of the most significant polluters in the state for mercury pollution that contaminates our lakes and rivers; particulate matter that exacerbates asthma; and carbon dioxide that contributes to a changing climate. According to the Clean Air Task Force, each year Sherco contributes to 90 deaths, 1,600 asthma attacks, and 150 heart attacks a year, according to the most recent data available when all current units were operational.

In July, Clean Energy Organizations (Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Wind on the Wires, Fresh Energy and the Sierra Club) submitted a Clean Energy Plan alternative that would retire Sherco Units 1&2 in 2021 and 2024 respectively for the same cost as Xcel Energy’s Preferred Plan and result in significant improvements to public health and Minnesota’s great outdoors. This comes after five years of study and consideration on the future of the Sherco units at the Commission.

The 11,000+ comments are the result of hundreds of Minnesotans from all walks of life talking to their neighbors, friends and fellow Minnesotans about the future of Sherco and the need for clean energy. A broad coalition of groups including Conservation Minnesota, MPIRG, MN Interfaith Power & Light, Clean Up our River Environment, and Union for Concerned Scientists contributed to the collection of the comments.

Beth Mercer Taylor, a public health advocate and member of the Falcon Heights City Council whose daughter suffers from severe asthma, remarked on the health problems she’s witnessed in her family from pollution.

‘My daughter’s life and the quality of her life, are directly affected by the level of harmful pollution that she must breathe every day. It is critical that families like mine are taken into account as we plan our energy system.’

Rose Thelen, a Clearwater resident whose home overlooks the smokestacks of Sherco, has also been fighting for her community to thrive unrestrained from the weight of local air pollution.

‘As someone who has lived 20 years within six miles of the Sherco power plant, I am heartened to see that we as Minnesotans are prepared to continue building a clean energy economy that will benefit everyone. With a committed utility company, engaged labor and plant workers and allies in the environmental movement, we are already seeing our communities potential being tapped and opportunities being provided for growth. It is important to me and to folks in Central Minnesota that our next steps include a transition plan that positions us for success.’

St Cloud University Student and volunteer leader Ben Bourgoin focused on the importance of announcing a retirement plan as soon as possible to allow the communities affiliated with Sherco to plan for the economic transition that will follow.

“For too long we have put off hard decisions regarding Sherco; something that thousands of people across the state have called for action on. In order to protect our most vulnerable communities, lower costs for customers and ensure a just transition for the long term, we need to start planning today. Our communities cannot wait any longer. Nor should they.”

Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will accept comments on this issue until 4:30 PM on October 2, 2015.

About the Sierra Club North Star Chapter
The Sierra Club’s members and supporters are 2.1 million of your friends and neighbors. Inspired by nature, we work together to protect our communities and the planet. The Club is America’s oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization.

The Sierra Club North Star Chapter is the leading grassroots voice to preserve and protect Minnesota’s environment. Some organizations have volunteers. The Sierra Club North Star Chapter is volunteers. Our members pick our legislative priorities, conduct the work, and make real change for Minnesota’s environment. Our members lead work on a breadth of issues all across Minnesota to protect our state’s natural places and address our most pressing environmental challenges.

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Sierra Club to Highlight Green Transportation and Development on 20th Annual Bike Tour

On Saturday, September 19th, over 100 bicyclists will tour 20 miles of St. Paul to celebrate the capital city’s new bike plan, which will bring much more bike connectivity for everyone. This year’s tour highlights will also showcase the new A Line Snelling Rapid Bus and the Green Line LRT.

What makes the Sierra Club Bike Tour unique? Our Tour combines scenic rides with activism. We feature educational speakers and community leaders at several rest stops along the way to inform riders about important biking, transportation and land use issues.

WHAT: Sierra Club’s 20th Annual Bike Tour http://bit.ly/1JvVuN4

WHEN: Saturday, September 19, 9:00am-2:00pm (Tour kicks off with speakers at 10:00am)

WHERE: Starts/ends at the Urban Academy Charter School, 1668 Montreal Ave, St. Paul, MN 55116. Travels through Highland Park to downtown St. Paul and lunch stop at Union Depot; then west through the Frogtown and Hamline Midway neighborhoods, and then south to Mac / Groveland. (route map)

WHO: Expert guest speakers include local activists, Chair of the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition, City of St. Paul Transportation Planner, Chair, Union Park District Council Land Use Committee and others.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS: Route includes: Features of the new St. Paul bike plan, future Snelling A Line Rapid Bus, Union Depot, Green Line LRT and more!

VISUALS: We can provide specific stops with approximate arrival times of 100 bicyclists, especially on front end of Tour.

TOUR DETAILS AND MAP: http://bit.ly/1JvVuN4

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