Telling The Real Stories

MN Pollution Control Agency on tour to push for cleaner air, energy

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The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) hosted an event in the Atwood Voyageur Room on the campus of St. Cloud State University to discuss the Clean Power Plan they hope to implement in next few years. Members of the agency spoke to residents of the St. Cloud area about how they want to reduce carbon emissions and warn others of the potential harm that climate change can cause to the environment. This is a part of their tour across the state to explain their plan to Minnesota’s college students and residents.

Some of the ways we release carbon into the air is by driving gas powered cars, using lights and other electronics in the home — which burns coal and large nuclear power plants releasing carbon dioxide. Part of the Clean Energy Plan is to reduce these greenhouse emissions.

The Clean Energy Plan is a part of Obama’s goal to reduce the amount of fossil fuels that we use and start moving towards more wind and solar energy. The Clean Energy Plan is one of several different approaches in order to slow down climate change. Each state is required to come up with a plan in order to limit the amount of greenhouse gases into the air and move the country to clean energy by the year 2050.

The MPCA said the plan will be different for each state because there are a different amounts of fossil fuels used in each state. Minnesota, for example, is a large exporter of coal and has a number of different power plants around the state that provide electricity to many homes around the state. One of these companies that people are familiar with is Xcel Energy.

The MPCA has come up with different rules and regulations that would curb the amount of  carbon emissions. One of these approaches involves imposing a tax on nuclear power plants in the state in order to control how much carbon they can produce in the air. The agency is looking at different ways taxes can be measured. One way would be measuring carbon emissions with an overall rate target, which means that taxes would be measured by mega-watts per unit of energy. The other option for taxing these plants is by measuring the amount of carbon produced annually by focusing more on the mass produced over a single year.

Despite the Supreme Court putting a halt on Obama’s Climate Change Bill, Minnesota is one of the leading states for reducing carbon emissions across the entire nation. Amanda Smith, a Clean Air Policy Planner with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency gave some suggestions for how Minnesotans can help keep the environment clean and reduce the amount of green house gases we put into the air.

“A few really good ways you can make sure that you keep the environment safe for everyone is by carpooling to work, turning off lights when you’re not in the room and try to make less trips in your car, which I know can be tough sometimes,” said Smith.

While many at the summit were in favor of reducing carbon emissions, there are others who are concerned about the economic impacts that the Clean Energy Plan would have on certain jobs in the power industry and potential tax increases. Some citizens were concerned that these new regulations would mean that taxes on citizens would be implemented. Spokespersons for the power industry were also concerned these regulations would cost them their industry.

“If this plan is implemented, Xcel Energy has already told us it will shut down two of its three units in my sector, said James Samuelson, a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. “We have about 50 people working in the coal industry and ten working in the gas industry. With these curbs and regulations these people could lose their jobs by 2023. It could bring down a whole community if these people working at the plants can’t feed their families or go get a haircut – there would be no money for them to invest in things they need.”

Another major concern of those in the power industry is that wind or solar energy cannot be traded because they are not physical objects. Lobbyists and state representatives in favor of slowing down the Clean Energy Plan questioned how companies would be able to harness the energy of these resources if you can’t physically obtain them.

While private sector power companies are concerned with their jobs being affected, the MPCA said a movement towards clean energy would create plenty of new jobs in the private sector, just with a different approach.

“A job loss for an individual is hard, but with the loss of jobs in one sector means a whole new wave of jobs in another sector. Our goal is not for these people to lose their jobs, but more along the lines of making sure everyone has clean air to breathe” said Melissa Kuskie, a Clean Power Plan Coordinator for the MPCA.

 

 

 

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