Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Joel Finkelstein for NPCA | 202.285.0113 | finkelstein@climateadvisers

Alison Flowers for Sierra Club | 303-246-6297 |


Clean Air Groups Applaud EPA Review of Pollution Plan for Minnesota’s Dirtiest Coal-Fired Power Plant

Xcel’s Sherco Coal Plant Damages Air Quality for Midwesterners and our National Parks and Wilderness Areas

MINNEAPOLIS, MN — After years of delay, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday agreed to revisit the pollution control plan for Xcel Energy’s Sherburne County Generating Station (Sherco). Sherco is Minnesota’s dirtiest coal-fired power plant. The pollution created by the 37-year-old Sherco plant is unhealthy for people and is a major contributor to the haze that obscures views at Voyageurs and Isle Royale National Parks, and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

As a result of this agreement, EPA will act on a 2009 certification by the National Park Service that Sherco is impairing national park visibility. The agency will propose a plan by February 27th, 2015 and finalize a plan by the end of August 2015. EPA’s obligation is based on the Clean Air Act’s requirement to protect America’s greatest national parks and wilderness areas from air pollution.

EPA’s commitment comes as the result of a lawsuit brought by a group of clean air advocates, including the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Sierra Club, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA), Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, Voyageurs National Park Association and Fresh Energy.

“This is a major step toward clean air in Boundary Waters, Voyageurs and Isle Royale,” said Stephanie Kodish, Director & Counsel for the Clean Air Program at NPCA. “At last, today we can say that EPA is going to act. Now we need to make sure that EPA’s action is as strong and meaningful as the Midwest deserves.”

While EPA has agreed to take some action by the end of next February, the form of that action is uncertain. There are at least three possible scenarios:

  • EPA could require Sherco to be retrofitted with best available pollution controls.
  • EPA could determine that the National Park Service was wrong and that Sherco does not impair the air quality in Voyageurs and Isle Royale National Parks, and require no additional controls. This is similar to the argument Xcel is making, even though both Xcel’s and the state’s own air pollution modeling both show that these controls still mean dirty air and impacted visibility at Voyageurs and Isle Royale for roughly a month each year; and at Boundary Waters almost two months of every year.
  • EPA could agree to a weak haze plan put forward by Minnesota state regulators that does not require best available retrofit controls, even though technology that can remove 90 percent or more of haze-causing emissions is available and has been installed on over 200 similar coal plants nationwide.

“We hope that our families will soon be able to breathe a little easier, especially in our parks,” said Jessica Tritsch, organizer for the Sierra Club in Minnesota. “The health consequences of Xcel Energy’s Sherco power plant are still very present, and we need this utility to step up and clean up the dirty air it’s been creating for years.”

EPA’s agreement to take action on the Park Service’s 2009 certification is set forth in a Consent Decree that was lodged yesterday in federal district court in Minneapolis.  The Consent Decree will not become final until the completion of a public comment period and thereafter review and approval by the Court.


NEWS: Sierra Club Applauds Plan to Curb Carbon Pollution


June 2, 2014


Karen Monahan,, 612-259-2451

Alison Flowers,, 303-246-6297


Sierra Club Applauds Plan to Curb Carbon Pollution

CITY, STATE — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposal for the first-ever national protections from dangerous carbon pollution from existing power plants. Carbon pollution causes climate disruption, costing Minnesota families $969,712,360 in 2011 and 2012 alone.

This new standard, which is part of the President’s Climate Action Plan, will clean up the industries that create the lion’s share of carbon pollution in our country and in Minnesota, where Xcel Energy’s Sherco plant remains the largest carbon and soot polluter in the state. The new protections will also help reduce other life-threatening air pollution including mercury, soot, and smog. In response, the Sierra Club North Star Chapter’s Beyond Coal and Environmental Justice campaigns released this video calling for a strong and just carbon rule.

Michelle Rosier, campaign and organizing manager for the Sierra Club, also issued the following statement:

“Today, we applaud President Obama and the EPA for their move to clean up our air, improve the health of our children, and curb the worst effects of climate disruption. These life-saving protections could not come at a more critical time. Climate disruption has already cost Minnesota families more than $969 million in 2011 and 2012 alone.

“Action on climate disruption not only protects our health and communities, but will also spur innovation and strengthen our economy. Minnesotahas been on a path beyond coal to clean energy for a decade, and our state has demonstrated success in reducing carbon while growing a strong economy. These carbon protections are an opportunity to continue to grow our renewable energy economy.

“We now look forward to working with Governor Dayton and all Minnesotans to create a strong and just state implementation plan to protect all Minnesota families from harmful air pollution. We urge Governor Dayton to be the leader we know he is for clean air and healthy children.”