Judge Recommends Use of the Social Cost of Carbon

For Immediate Release

Leigh Currie, Energy Program Director, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy


“Fossil fuel power plant pollution costs Minnesotans more than $2.1 billion annually in health and environmental impacts.”

St. Paul, MN (April 15, 2016) – A new report recommends using the federal “social cost of carbon” when estimating the health and economic impacts of carbon dioxide pollution in the State of Minnesota, with a couple of minor suggested amendments. The report was submitted to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) by an administrative law judge earlier today.

Since 1997, Minnesota utilities appearing before the PUC have been required to include estimates of the impacts carbon dioxide pollution has on human health and the environment in their filings. The 1997 values were determined to be between $.30 per ton and $3.10 per ton of CO2 (in 1995 dollars) and has only been adjusted for inflation; the values are now set between $.44 per ton and $4.53 per ton (in 2014 dollars).

The ability to estimate the social cost of carbon has increased dramatically since 1997 – most recently when the federal government created an interagency working group in 2009 to research the best available science and estimate the social cost of carbon when evaluating the impact of federal regulations. The value they found is contingent on the year and discount rate applied. For 2016 the values range from $11 per ton to $57 per ton of CO2.

Several groups and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Minnesota Department of Commerce recommended that the PUC use the values generated by the interagency working group as its estimates of the social cost of carbon. The PUC subsequently held a contested case that wrapped up in September 2015, and the recommendation by the administrative law judge will be considered by the Public Utilities Commission at a later date.

Dr. Stephen Polasky, Regents Professor of Economics at the University of Minnesota, was one of the expert testifiers whose reports cited harmful damages to Minnesotan’s health and environment. “Fossil fuel power plant pollution costs Minnesotans more than $2.1 billion annually in health and environmental impacts, including emergency room visits and medical bills.”

Using updated social cost of carbon values will give the PUC more information about the external damages inflicted on society by burning fossil fuels, and will help in its decisions about future investments in electricity generation in Minnesota.

The organizations supporting the Administrative Law Judge’s recommendation include Environmental Law & Policy Center, Fresh Energy, Midwest Renewable Energy Association, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Minnesota Department of Commerce, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Public Health Association, Sierra Club, Solar Energy Industries Association, Twin Cities Medical Society, and Wind on the Wires.


Taconite Harbor Revised Air Permit: A Step Towards Cleaner Air


Monday, April 4, 2016


Ricky Junquera – ricky.junquera@sierraclub.org(202) 675-2392

Release Online

Permit will revise the long-overdue air pollution permit at Minnesota Power’s Taconite Harbor coal-burning power plant

DULUTH, MN. — Minnesota Power has submitted a revised air permit to The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). This draft permit, on notice April 3rd, will revise the long-overdue air pollution permit at Minnesota Power’s Taconite Harbor coal-burning power plant to meet health-based clean air protections established nearly six years ago. This comes a year after dozens of faith, health, youth, and environmental groups submitted a letter calling for the MPCA to hold Minnesota Power accountable by acting on the expired permits. For Taconite Harbor, the air pollution permit was more than a decade overdue, putting nearby Northern Minnesota communities, iconic public parks, and recreation areas at risk.

The permit will include limits to ensure compliance with the EPA’s one-hour national ambient air quality standards for sulfur dioxide (SO2). Modeling conducted by an expert for the Sierra Club demonstrated that emissions from Minnesota Power’s Taconite Harbor coal plant potentially cause violations of that health-based standard for dozens of miles around the plant, putting our health and environment at risk.

Sulfur dioxide causes respiratory illnesses and increased risk of hospital admissions or emergency room visits, especially among children, older adults and people with asthma. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, northeastern Minnesota has the highest rates per capita of asthma-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations in the state.

In response Jessica Tritsch with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Minnesota said:

“This is an important step forward for all Minnesota Power customers and the entire community that came out last year to ensure a process was in place to safeguard our health, and protect our parks and recreation areas.

“We are glad to see a draft permit, and will review it during the 30-day comment period. Minnesota Power’s decision to retire Taconite Harbor is an important move for clean air, but we are concerned about what impact its 4-year plan to economically idle the plant could have on our community’s health.”


About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.