Monday the 21 of September, I attended a public forum in the Becker Community Center on Obama’s Clean Energy Plan to discuss the economic implications on the local community. I showed up, because I care about Minnesota. I care about people having stable jobs with fair wages, and about people having access to good education, housing and leading healthy lives. I also care about the state of our beautiful water, air and land, not only for their aesthetic, leisure and healing purposes, but also because all the other things I mentioned are impossible to have in a place that has poisoned, dirty, unsafe air, water and land.
What was advertised as a public hearing looked more like a badly-run meeting, where people were discouraged from clapping or speaking. Many speakers provided the crowd with plenty of misinformation; virtually all the facts came from sources funded by the Koch brothers, a.k.a. climate deniers. Not only was this a misleading presentation, but it was also an assault on democracy! What kind of public hearing only allows three people from the audience to speak? Needless to say I was very frustrated and angry at being silenced.
So here’s what wasn’t discussed at the forum.
The Clean Energy Plan is the first ever federal regulation on carbon emissions. Minnesota’s goal for carbon reductions is much lower than other states, because we already have taken significant steps towards a more environmentally friendly economy. The plan allows Minnesota to meet these goals in a flexible way and develop our own plan, so no, federal bureaucrats are not telling Minnesotans to shut down Sherco, the largest coal plant in Minnesota.
Much of the conversation centers around the plant. This plant, the largest polluter in Minnesota, is the cause of 1600 asthma attacks, 150 heart attacks, and 92 deaths per year due to its air pollution, according to the Clean Air Taskforce. Sherco emits sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide, mercury and other particulate matter, all of which contribute to poor air quality and health impacts. Transitioning Sherco to clean energy would actually be cheaper than keeping it open, and of course it would improve the quality of our air and reduce our collective health care costs.
The Clean Energy Plan is highly beneficial for our economy. It will actually reduce Minnesotans’ energy bills by an average of $19/month starting as soon as 2030. It will also reduce our health care costs by cleaning our air and preventing more than 90,000 asthma attacks. It will also encourage a large boom in the clean energy sector, creating many high-salary jobs, with an average salary of $71,000 annually, 42 perccent higher than the state average salary. Right now we already have over 15,000 clean energy jobs in Minnesota, and with the assistance of the Clean Energy Plan, are posed to create 35,000 new jobs in the next 15 years. These facts are important because many people falsely believe that transitioning from older, dirtier sources of energy will cost us too much money and too many jobs. I fully support a just transition and retirement packages for Sherco workers as we build our clean energy economy.
What happened Monday was not only misleading but also disturbing. We need our leaders to rely on facts and not fear-inducing and silencing tactics. Minnesotans pride ourselves on our values, work ethic and our ability to rise to the occasion. I hope we incorporate those values as we work to build a clean energy economy together.