Advisory: Key Hearing to Vote on Minnesota’s First Large-Scale Solar Project

Contact:

Alison Flowers, Sierra Club, 303-246-6297, alison.flowers@sierraclub.org

Kevin Reuther, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, 612-210-0211, kreuther@mncenter.org

 

Key Hearing to Vote on Minnesota’s First Large-Scale Solar Project

Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to decide whether to allow Xcel Energy to replace the coal-fired power generation units at its Black Dog facility with solar power

Three months after a Minnesota judge ruled that Geronimo Energy’s solar bid was “the greatest value to Minnesota and Xcel Energy’s ratepayers,” the Public Utilities Commission will decide whether to choose the Edina-based solar company’s proposal to build 20 large solar power arrays across the state over several natural gas proposals. The Geronimo solar project would bring eight times more solar energy than is currently installed statewide, creating new high-skilled, high-wage jobs for Minnesotans.

In 2013, Minnesota established solar policies that will mean 34 times more installed solar capacity in 2020 than today. Clean energy, including solar, has bipartisan support in Minnesota, and the majority of state voters favor it. According to The Solar Foundation’s recent Minnesota district-level jobs report — Minnesota Solar Jobs Census — there were 864 solar workers in Minnesota in 2013, an increase of nearly 73 percent since the foundation last produced solar figures for 2012.

WHAT: Minnesota Public Utilities Commission meeting, vote on Geronimo Energy’s solar bid (agenda and live webcast)

WHEN: Thursday, March 27th, 9:30 a.m.

WHERE: Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Large Hearing Room, 121 7th Place East, Suite 350, Saint Paul, MN 55101-2147

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RELEASE: Minnesota Power Put On Notice for More than 12,500 Clean Air Act Violations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 24, 2014

Contact:

Alison Flowers, 303-246-6297, alison.flowers@sierraclub.org

Michelle Rosier, 651-214-9915, michelle.rosier@sierraclub.org

 

Minnesota Power Put On Notice for More than 12,500 Clean Air Act Violations

 

DULUTH, Minn. — Today the Sierra Club is putting Minnesota Power on notice that the utility is accountable for 12,774 violations of the federal Clean Air Act at its Clay Boswell, Taconite Harbor, and Syl Laskin coal plants over the last five years, threatening public health. Although the Sierra Club first filed its notice of intent to sue Minnesota Power last year, the three plants continue to neglect clean air safeguards.

The Sierra Club found that, according to data collected by Minnesota Power itself, the three plants have violated their limits on “opacity” more than 10,000 times. Opacity is a measurement of the degree to which light passes through a smoke plume; it is used as an indicator of particulate matter emissions, or soot. Soot pollution from burning coal can contribute to lung and heart disease, can exacerbate asthma problems, and has recently been linked to cancer by the World Health Organization. In addition, Minnesota Power has committed hundreds of violations of legal requirements related to the operation of its pollution control equipment, including mercury controls, since 2009.

“These serious violations call into question whether Minnesota Power is willing or able to operate its plants within the national safety guidelines for public health,” said Michelle Rosier, Sierra Club Campaign and Organizing Manager. “Minnesota Power should immediately bring its plants within clean air standards and announce plans for how it will eventually replace its coal plants with cleaner sources of energy.”

Newly released 2012 data from The Clean Air Task Force estimates that the Clay Boswell, Taconite Harbor and Syl Laskin coal plants contribute to 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.

“I am deeply concerned for the children of Cook County and our beautiful, but fragile environment,” said Gordy Dodge, who lives in Schroeder, Minn. “Minnesota Power’s clean air violations make clear the need to plan for the responsible transition beyond dangerous coal plants.”

Minnesota Power draws over 80 percent of its power from burning coal. Last May, a Peak Campaigns poll found that two-thirds of voters in Minnesota Power’s service territory are concerned about the health risks associated with coal pollution. An even greater 74 percent of voters in Minnesota Power’s service area support replacing coal plants with clean energy.

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