Minnesota’s National Day of Action on Keystone XL and Tar Sands Pipelines: “Hands Across the Land”


May 17, 2014

Terry Houle, Sierra Club, 952-686-1493 (cell), terry99@gmail.com
Brian Anderson, Sierra Club, 508-271-5825 (cell), brian.anderson@northstar.sierraclub.org

Hands Across the Land - Photo Credit Terry Houle

Twin Cities Citizens Joined National Day of Action Against Keystone XL
130 people Said “No” to Dirty Fuels and “Yes” to Clean Energy

Minneapolis, MN –  As part of a national day of action, more than 130 residents of the Twin Cities and surrounding metro areas met at the Lake Street/Marshall Bridge today. They gathered to ask the president and local officials to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and other dirty fuel projects like the Alberta Clipper here in Minnesota that threaten our communities and destabilize our climate.

Enbridge, the leading pipeline operator in Canada’s oil sands region, is asking the MN Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to double the capacity of an existing northern Minnesota tar sands pipeline, the Alberta Clipper, to carry nearly as much tar sands oil as Keystone XL.

The Alberta Clipper feeds pipelines that stretch all across the Midwest, and an expansion would put rural communities, waters, and lands at greater risk of toxic spills and other hazards. If the Alberta Clipper is approved, other pipeline proposals such as the Sandpiper – a 610-mile crude oil line, which would run across Minnesota – are poised to move forward.

As millions begin to understand that we must keep dirty fuels in the ground if we are to have any hope of halting climate change, there’s a rising tide of grassroots activism demanding that we choose a clean energy future over the dangerous and dirty fuels of the past.

Brian Anderson of the Sierra Club’s Minnesota Beyond Oil and Tar Sands Committee said, “The damage from the Keystone XL and Alberta Clipper pipelines is far reaching — from worsening climate disruption to the destruction of our nation’s special places. Today we’re uniting against dirty fuels and speaking out for clean energy that will benefit us all.”

The event was locally organized by the Sierra Club North Star Chapter and MN350, and nationally by the Tar Sands Coalition and Hands Across the Sand / Hands Across the Land. Hands, founded in 2010, grew into an international movement after the BP oil disaster in April of that year, during which people came together to join hands, forming symbolic barriers against spilled oil and the impact of other forms of extreme energy.

More than 100 similar events were held across the country and around the world by Hands Across the Sand/Land and other groups. Thousands of citizens joined against a range of dirty fuel projects from the Keystone XL pipeline, to offshore drilling and seismic testing, hydraulic fracturing and LNG export terminals, tar sands mining and crude by rail, and mountaintop removal coal mining. The events also highlighted the impacts of climate disruption– rising sea levels, drought, forest fires, ocean acidification, crop loss and flooding.

“Northern Minnesota is facing an incredible number of tar sands and extreme energy expansion projects right now, from Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper to Line 3 and Sandpiper. Most of these lines cross the Mississippi River,” said Andy Pearson of MN350.

The events are aimed at steering America’s energy policy away from its dependence on fossil fuels and towards clean energy. The goal is to show leaders in all levels of government that public support is strong for moving away from dirty fuels and adopting policies that encourage clean energy instead.

“We’re here to tell our leaders that they need to protect our communities by rejecting projects that expand the extraction and use of dirty fuels,” said Terry Houle, Sierra Club North Star Chapter volunteer leader.  “We should be putting our innovation to work to accelerate the shift to clean, renewable energy and better transportation options.”

This week’s National Day of Action is another manifestation of a growing movement demanding that our leaders act quickly and boldly to address climate change.  It comes in the wake of the Department of State’s recent announcement that it was extending its review of the pipeline, and the Reject & Protect encampment in Washington, DC which dramatically highlighted the opposition of farmers, ranchers and Native Americans who would be directly impacted by the pipeline, In early March, Keystone activists presented the Administration with over 2.5 million comments opposing the pipeline.

Hands Across the Land - Photo Credit Terry Houle


Minnesota’s National Day of Action on Keystone XL and Tar Sands Pipelines: “Hands Across the Land”


Contact:  Terry Houle, 952-686-1493 (cell), terry99@gmail.com 

Margaret Levin, 612-259-2446, margaret.levin@sierraclub.org

When: Saturday, May 17 – Gather at 11:30 a.m. and join hands at Noon

Where: Lake Street / Marshall Avenue Bridge (meet on the St. Paul side)

What:  Minnesotans will join hands across the Lake Street-Marshall Ave bridge that links the Twin Cities across the Mississippi River, symbolically blocking the proposed expansion of three northern Minnesota pipelines that would cross the Mississippi. Large posters will bring back the memorable “Burma Shave” sign format to highlight creative messaging!

Why: A nationwide day of action to raise awareness and help build the movement against tar sands. Minnesota will host one of the 100+ coordinated events across the country to say “No” to Keystone XL and other dirty fuels and “Yes” to clean energy.  View a national map of events: http://content.sierraclub.org/beyondoil/may-17-national-day-action

Sponsors:  North Star Chapter (Minnesota) of the Sierra Club, MN350 and a long list of national partner organizations.

Three weeks after the powerful “Reject and Protect” encampment in Washington, DC, and two weeks after release of the National Climate Assessment, Americans will take to bridges, beaches, refineries, and government offices to ask the president to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and other dirty fuel projects that threaten our communities and destabilize our climate. Urban, suburban and rural, ordinary citizens will urge our leaders to accelerate the transition to clean energy.

The event follows efforts this week in Minnesota by the oil industry to weaken a House-passed and Governor-supported measure that would provide more safety oversight and better response time for pipeline and railroad explosions and fires arising from the transportation of dirty fuels throughout the state and in the heavily populated Twin Cities area. 


SWLRT Equity Coalition Launches PeoplesTransit.org Website


Contacts:    Greta Bergstrom, Greta@takeactionminnesota.org651.336.6722

Site Advocates for Transit Enhancements to Address Racial and Economic Inequities Along Corridor

Minneapolis, MN – A growing coalition of organizations and transit riders launched a campaign and website on Thursday to promote a new dialog around construction of the Southwest light rail as the municipal consent process of public meetings gets underway. The first is a public forum in North Minneapolis to be held at Minnesota Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) between transit riders and Met Council members on Saturday afternoon, May 10.

“While Southwest light rail wasn’t built with our community in mind, it has the potential to improve racial and economic equity in Minneapolis and across the region. But not unless we negotiate improvements that benefit lower-income transit riders and which address persistent inequities across the city of Minneapolis and our region,” said NOC Executive Director Anthony Newby.

The website, PeoplesTransit.org, was launched by NOC, TakeAction Minnesota, ISAIAH, the Sierra Club and the Harrison Neighborhood Association to promote an array of equity enhancements the Met Council, City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County should embrace as they enter mediation and the process of gaining municipal consent. The coalition says equity concerns must be placed at the center of the debate and move past the protracted infighting over the Kenilworth corridor.

Alex Tsatsoulis, Land Use Chair of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter, wants SWLRT to move forward. “Our shared vision for a more sustainable and resilient Twin Cities region depends on easy, affordable access to good jobs for everyone. Southwest is a vital part of that access. We have an opportunity with this project to do better. Let’s get this done.”

The website itself lays out a broader vision for transit that lifts up people of color and low-income communities along the SWLRT corridor, including:

  • More bus service and higher frequency routes connecting the Northside to SWLRT
  • Modern streetcars that can fit along narrower corridors and begin to reverse the disinvestment of the past with new jobs and housing
  • Reduced or free bus fares in targeted stations along the alignment
  • Targeted investment in the Harrison Neighborhood, through implementation of the Bassett Creek Valley Master Plan
  • No diesel train storage next to the Van White station
  • Bus shelters that actually shelter transit users, including heated shelters

“We believe SWLRT is a crucial opportunity for communities who rely on public transit but who are always left out of the conversation. We want to make sure these individuals have a voice at the negotiating table as decisions about SWLRT are finalized,” said Doran Schrantz, Executive Director of ISAIAH.

# # #

People’s Transit is a coalition of individuals and organizations working to ensure equity is placed at the center of the Southwest Light Rail (SWLRT) debate. We see smart transit policy as a crucial opportunity for increasing economic opportunity and achieving racial equity across the city of Minneapolis and our region.

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


May 7, 2014


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.



RELEASE: Minnesotans Vulnerable to Extreme Weather, Climate Disruption


May 6, 2014


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


Minnesotans Vulnerable to Extreme Weather, Climate Disruption

New National Climate Assessment Shows Urgent Need for Action to Protect Minnesota Families


Minnesota — A national committee of experts in agriculture, climate science, commerce, and disaster relief released its National Climate Assessment (NCA) today. The report is the nation’s foremost comprehensive, peer-reviewed analysis of the impacts of climate disruption, showing us the effects of climate change in Minnesota and across the country.

The report shows the significant toll on our health and wallets that extreme weather is already exacting, and it also makes clear that these impacts will only grow worse if we fail to curb carbon pollution, the main culprit behind climate disruption.

Minnesota is part of the NCA’s Midwest Region, which predicts that direct effects from climate change will include increased heat stress, flooding, drought, and late spring freezes, altering ecosystem and socioeconomic patterns and processes in ways that most people would consider detrimental. Warm-season events, such as the large-scale flooding that occurred in Rush Creek and the Root River in Minnesota in August 2007, and multiple rivers in southern Minnesota in September 2010, are projected to increase in magnitude.

“The report makes it clear that climate disruption threatens Minnesota families and communities’ health and economic security now,” said Michelle Rosier, campaign representative for the Sierra Club North Star Chapter. “It’s time to act on climate in Washington and in Minnesota. Governor Dayton needs to continue to show his leadership on this critical issue. Minnesota families deserve a strong, common-sense plan to protect our health and security.”

“The need to move away from dirty fossil fuels such as coal and fracked gas, the leading sources of climate-disrupting carbon pollution, could not be clearer or more urgent,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “It’s time that we as a nation end our dependence on fossil fuels and hasten the shift to readily available, cost-effective clean energy sources, like wind and solar. Today’s climate report shows the cost of inaction is far too great.”

More than 240 authors from across the country with diverse expertise helped create the National Climate Assessment. The findings are considered conservative estimates of the impacts of climate disruption.