CWT - Letters to the Editor
Thu, 10/24/2013 - 11:00pm admin
TO THE EDITOR:
Bill Morgan’s Oct 18 Clearwater Tribune opinion piece shows the difficulty of dealing with drastic climate change. We can’t joke about major flooding events in Florida and the East Coast from already-rising oceans. Weather extremes (hundreds of tornados in a day, extremes of drought and rain) get worse because less Arctic ice means less balancing of ocean currents, and are not funny. Neither are worries about future jobs.
The bottom line: everyone will have a rocky economy as global warming worsens. No one denies that scientists were right that human chemicals destroy our atmophere’s ozone shield (so now regulations address the problem). Atmosphere physicists (and the Pentagon, Rupert Murdoch, Tim Pawlenty, and hundreds of Nobel winners) believe that CO2 traps heat—mostly in oceans, so far. CO2 also turns our oceans acid.
The danger is so great many environmentalists now support nuclear power, which is expected to stay in Monticello.
We need to stop using coal because coal puts so much carbon dioxide and mercury into the air per megawatt of power. Coal plants emit the majority of mercury degrading our lakes and fish. Make the switch slowly and carefully, but let's not follow Sherco’s plan to spend millions of rate-payer dollars on upgrades. Invest instead in natural gas and/or expanding Xcel’s strong record in adopting alternative power.
With five percent of the world’s population, the US has put 20% of the extra carbon into the air. It is true that other countries spew smoke without filters—and there are Beyond Coal start-ups in many countries. Tim Pawlenty said we have a responsibility to do our share here.
Some fact checking please? Xcel's electric customers total 3.3 million across the Midwest; our plant can’t power 3/5 of Minnesota homes. The local Beyond Coal group started in Clearwater, by the way.
St, Cloud, MN
To the editor:
Last week's article about the Pebble Creek town hall discussed Sierra Club's position on the future of Xcel Energy’s Sherco coal-burning plant. I would like to set the record straight on the Sierra Club’s position.
First, the Sierra Club North Star Chapter advocates for replacing two of the three coal burning units at Sherco in the coming decade, preferably with wind, solar and energy efficiency. Recently, the third and largest coal boiler at Sherco came back online after nearly two years of repairs estimated to cost $200 million. Now, Xcel Energy is faced with choosing to invest millions of dollars of ratepayer money in boilers 1 & 2 to keep them burning coal or phasing out coal at these units.
Meanwhile, we are seeing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency that are good for customers and our health. Xcel Energy just announced four new wind projects that will provide enough electricity for 200,000 homes while saving ratepayers $225 million. According to Center for Energy and the Environment, Minnesota's utility energy efficiency programs on average save 8 cents a kilowatt-hour by investing 1.5 cents in energy efficiency, much like a homeowner who pays less for electricity by switching to a more efficient light bulb.
Second, the impact on our health of coal burning is clear. The American Heart Association recognizes particulate matter (soot) as a significant source of heart-damaging air pollution. The Sherco coal plant is the largest source of particulate matter in the Twin Cities’ metro and third largest in Minnesota overall. The American Lung Association advocates for reducing sulfur dioxide because of its impact on respiratory health, including asthma. Sherco is the largest sulfur dioxide emitter in the Minnesota. According to the Clean Air Task Force, Sherco’s pollution causes an estimated 1600 asthma attacks, 150 heart attacks and 92 deaths each year.
Growing up on the Iron Range, I know how important a large employer can be to a community. We all know that Sherco’s days are numbered (even if we don’t agree on the exact number of days left). Rather than fight that reality, why not plan for it now so Becker and Minnesota have a success story?
Two years ago, it was announced that Washing-ton’s Trans Alta coal plant, similar size to Sherco, would retire in 2025, giving the community almost 15 years to prepare. The agreement between the utility, local elected officials, the union that represented the coal plant workers and Sierra Club included workforce training and transition funds for investment in the workers and the community. It’s time to talk about a similar transition plan for Sherco.
p.s. I would be remiss if I didn’t clarify that Kentucky is the 2nd largest coal mining state in the country and has 20 coal-fired power plants. To date, four coal plants have been scheduled for retirement in Kentucky. Even Kentucky is not immune to the clean energy transition the United States is going through right now.
Senior Campaign and Organizing Manager, Sierra Club Beyond Coal-Minnesota
TO THE EDITOR:
In your article about the Dist 15 town hall meeting re Sherco, you quoted Rep Newberger, who said his “research shows there is no connection to air quality problems with Sherco and no data that shows a direct link to heart disease and Sherco.” It was surprising to hear him say this and also to have it reported as if it were true. Only last week, the World Health Organization labeled air pollution from coal-burning power plants, as cancer-causing. The American Lung Association says coal-burning power plants cause 24,000 premature deaths, 550,000 asthma attacks, 38,000 heart attacks each year, threatens the brains and nervous systems of our children, and causes cancer and strokes. Studies also show the closer you live to a plant, the worse it is.
At the meeting we asked our representatives to consider the cost of burning coal on our health before they promote “business as usual”. Other costs were raised that day – damage to lakes, mercury in fish, air and water degradation. We also discussed findings that rates have not gone up and jobs were created, not lost, in areas that have switched to clean energy.
Over 11,000 Minnesotans submitted petitions to the PUC asking that Xcel consider these costs in its business plan for our energy future. Xcel makes billions of dollars of profit from us. The “thanks” we get is a type of extortion -- in essence, we are told to “shut up and put up”, or Sherco will turn off the lights and leave. If we complain, we are labeled extremists.
In 07, when former Governor Pawlenty signed the Next Generation Energy Act, he said that Minnesota is responsible for carbon pollution and therefore, we are responsible to do something about it. District 15 legislators think otherwise, in fact they suggest we go to China. I ask you who are the real extremists?