MN Elected Officials Letter of Support for Clean Power Plan

September 15, 2015

The Honorable Governor Mark Dayton
116 Veterans Service Building
20 W 12th Street
St. Paul, MN 55155

Dear Governor Dayton:

We, the undersigned elected officials, formally submit this letter to express our support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) first-ever limits on dangerous carbon pollution from existing power plants using authority granted under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. Moreover, we submit this letter to encourage you to continue our state’s leadership on environmental and energy policy by developing a strong and just compliance plan for Minnesota’s implementation of the Clean Power Plan with a strong emphasis on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency has both the clear authority and the responsibility to limit these emissions because carbon pollution contributes to climate change, a serious public health and welfare threat. The 2014 National Climate Assessment found that climate change is related to a broad range of adverse human health consequences, including illnesses and deaths from extreme heat; increases in heart and lung disease due to worsened air quality from more ground-level ozone, allergenic pollen; and increases in food and waterborne illnesses due to flooding, sewage overflows, and warmer temperatures. Climate change will, absent other changes, amplify some of the existing health threats the nation now faces. Certain people and communities are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and some communities of color.

Our nation uses the Clean Air Act to limit other dangerous pollutant emissions such as mercury, lead, arsenic, smog and soot pollution from power plants; it is time to do the same for carbon pollution.

Fortunately, Minnesota is well-positioned to meet the challenge of reducing carbon pollution. As you are well aware, Minnesota is a regional and national leader in clean energy policy. In fact, this leadership has resulted in good-paying jobs for over 15,000 Minnesotans. The wind, solar, and energy efficiency industries have invested billions of dollars in our state, pay out millions to host communities and landowners, providing an economic boost in Minnesota counties. With your administration’s leadership on the Clean Power Plan, these numbers will only grow.

Best of all, these benefits can be realized without an adverse impact on customers. For example, a recent report from the Minnesota Department of Commerce shows that Minnesota’s commitment to energy efficiency has resulted in nearly $1.5 billion in direct savings for customers between 2010 and 2014 and many utilities are already turning to zero-emission renewable energy as a low-cost hedge against increasing fossil fuel prices.

We are confident that meeting the requirements set forth in the Clean Power Plan will significantly improve the public health of our state while simultaneously benefitting Minnesota’s economy. We pledge to work with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to ensure we have a strong plan that works for Minnesota and achieves significant carbon reductions.

If done right, we are confident the Clean Power Plan will be a positive investment for the economy, environment, and future generations. We urge you to submit a strong and timely Minnesota state plan to meet the Clean Power Plan standard, with an emphasis on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Thank you for considering our perspective.

[For the full list of about 70 signers, go here for a PDF of the letter.]

My comments:

This letter is good as far as it goes, which is basically a response to the Republican/Tea Party/Koch Machine/oil/gas/coal industry ravings.  But the real issues for Minnesota are more nuanced–the “Clean Power Plan” is potentially a negative in Minnesota if used as an excuse for more “biomass” and garbage incineration, and/or utilities are allowed to use it as an excuse for rate increases.   Given the political clout of utilities and dirty-smokestack industries in Minnesota, this will be hard to avoid.  So far, the MPCA, the EQB, and the Department of Commerce have mostly acted as if the utilities, especially Xcel, are the only real “stakeholders.” Nor do I see Minnesota’s enviro/energy wonk crowd having a handle on these concerns.

On the other hand, the EPA requirements *could* potentially serve as an important tool to move Minnesota away from smokestacks, away from combustion, and towards healthier and more sustainable energy systems.   As the letter says “If done right, we are confident the Clean Power Plan will be a positive investment for the economy, environment, and future generations.”

How will things go?  Do the authors of this letter know what “done right” means and are they committed to make that happen?   This remains to be seen but indications are concerning.



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