As a volunteer for the Sierra Club’s Northstar Chapter, I am joining our statewide Day of Action to move Minnesota beyond coal to clean energy.
Minnesota has shown in the past that it is willing to take a stand on issues of pollution and our environment; our reduction in mercury emissions by 68 percent between 1990 and 2000 are illustrative of this. It is time for us as Minnesotans to once again take a stand, this time on the problem posed by the burning of coal. Burning coal not only is a threat to our health, our air, our water, but it threatens our established way of living through the carbon they emit.
Specifically, we need to confront the facts about the Sherco power plant down in Becker Minnesota, Xcel’s largest coal plant as well as its most dangerous. The plant is unfortunately a nationally ranked polluter in both sulfur dioxide and mercury (which still is at dangerous levels within our fish and waters). It is also the largest polluter of CO2 across the whole of Minnesota; retirement of the facility would be equivalent to removing approximately 4 million cars off the road. Additional to this is, according to a Clean Air Task Force study, Sherco’s contribution to pollution is responsible for an estimated 92 deaths, 150 heart attacks and 1,600 asthma attacks every year.
It is not just about the environmental and physical harm done by coal that we should question; it is the economics. A recent report by the International Renewable Energy Agency reveals that it is often the case that renewable energy is often the most cost-effective option. Along with this is that according to the Energy Information Agency, Minnesotans spend at least $20 billion ($3,800 per Minnesotan) per year to pay for energy. Clean technologies such as wind and solar keep these dollars inside of the state to boost local economies. This issue is an important one which I know Minnesotans can take a stand on.