MN350 wants people to question whether natural gas is really clean-burning, safe and abundant energy, and they are fighting Xcel’s proposed new billion dollar fossil gas power plant in Becker, Minn.
Xcel has been in the news since last year, when environmentalists applauded their decision to close two coal-burning plants in Minnesota, en route to providing carbon-free electricity by 2050.
A coalition of Twin Cities environmental organizations are working to stop the proposed fossil gas plant from being built in Becker. The name of their campaign is “Energy we can’t afford.” The coalition includes MN350, the North Star Sierra Club, Community Power, and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
Chelsea DeArmond, founder of the St. Paul MN350 chapter, is leading the campaign. She said, “Xcel has gotten a lot of positive publicity about their stated carbon-free goal. What’s talked about much less is that Xcel, and other Minnesota utilities, are planning to build large natural gas plants to generate electricity in the short term. We feel that building new carbon-dependent power – to get to being carbon-free – just doesn’t make sense.”
According to DeArmond, “Natural gas should be referred to as fossil gas because it is one more outdated, non-renewable fossil fuel like coal and oil. It is dirty, dangerous, and expensive. It is bad for our climate, and it is bad for our pocket books.
“If the construction of new plants and accompanying infrastructure moves forward, Minnesotans will be stuck with the damage for years to come. Low-income communities and communities of color have the most to lose, since they spend more of their income on energy bills and tend to live closer to proposed fossil gas pipe lines, pumps, and power plants.”
Only natural when it is in the ground
Xcel received special authority from the state legislature three years ago to build the natural gas plant in Becker, bypassing the traditional route of getting approval from state regulators. Public reaction to the plan has met with harsh criticism. Environmentalists are pushing back against continued reliance on fossil fuels in the midst of a climate crisis.
DeArmond said, “At MN350, we see this plant proposal as a big step backwards. We have so many exciting technology options to get us to carbon free electricity. People don’t understand how dirty fossil gas is, all along the pipeline. The only place fossil gas is natural is when it’s buried in the ground.”
MN350 member and communications volunteer Jay Lieberman said, ”Minnesotans must consider the full impact of using fossil gas: from extraction, usually by hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), to transportation through extensive pipelines to power plants, and, ultimately, to burning it in our homes. Fossil gas is mainly methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gasses there is, and methane is released into the atmosphere at every step of that process.”
Clean energy advocates say using fossil gas as a bridge to a carbon-free future might have been acceptable 10 or 20 years ago, when renewable technologies were just getting off the ground. The cost of wind and solar have been dropping steadily though, making it unnecessary to continue relying on fossil fuels.
Campaign to address fossil gas plant construction
The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has agreed to receive public comments on this issue until April 12. To submit a public comment to the PUC, go to www.energywecantafford.org. The site includes sample comments and links to talking points.
DeArmond said, “I actually feel good about our chance for this campaign. I was ready to act on principle in the beginning, but I think we have a chance at winning if we can mobilize enough support. We can create a healthier, more prosperous, and just future for our state by saying no to fossil gas during a climate crisis. It’s energy that Minnesotans can’t afford.”
MN350 is part 350.org, an international climate campaign active in 188 countries around the world. To learn more about local action teams and volunteer opportunities, visit www.mn350.org.
In addition to clean energy, MN350 volunteers are working on transportation issues, pipe line resistance, education and community outreach campaigns.