FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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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