by Em Westerlund, Sierra Club Northeastern Minnesota Clean Energy Intern
On Saturday, November 16th, many stakeholders in the movement to curb climate change came together at the University of Minnesota-Duluth to educate, raise awareness, and take action!
The forum featured data and statistics on the science behind climate change presented by professors from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, grassroots activists and groups, representatives from industry, as well as U.S. Congressman Rick Nolan.
Volunteers from Duluth’s Clean Energy Team through Sierra Club North Star Chapter were present at the forum gathering signatures of support for the EPA’s proposed carbon rule, as well as sharing information about the current local campaign to encourage Minnesota Power to move beyond coal and invest in clean and renewable alternatives.
As members of the growing opposition to coal-fired power and other carbon-heavy forms of energy production, I felt it was critical to be at the forum and to make my voice heard. This was especially true since Minnesota Power sent their Manager of Resource Planning, Julie Pierce, as well as the fact that my elected official Congressman Nolan would also be present.
Audience members were allowed to submit questions throughout the forum, and then the Congressman took questions on the floor. I wanted to ask what he would do in Washington to support the EPA’s work to strengthen environmental standards on carbon emissions and wastewater. I also wanted to ask Congressman what he would do at home in Minnesota to continue to steer us away from coal, and toward clean and renewable energy. And I wanted to ask the representative from Minnesota Power why they chose to invest $350 MILLION DOLLARS in retrofitting Boswell 3, an aging coal plant on their grid, rather than utilizing that money to make a switch away from coal-fired power.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have an opportunity to ask my questions because the Congressman was inundated with numerous concerns and questions about climate change, the impacts of sulfide mining, the Keystone pipeline, the local Enbridge pipeline, and more — so many concerns that the forum which was scheduled to last 2 hours, eventually went well over 3. This fact was a testament to the growing concern that Minnesotans have about their climate, environment, and the roles of industry and government to help protect those things.
Looking around the room full of concerned citizens, I felt that we are keeping good company together — and keeping our decision-makers accountable. It was encouraging to see so many who shared my concerns and were showing up on a Saturday afternoon to give voice to these issues. I feel confident that we will keep showing up and being heard until coal is completely phased out, and climate change is a thing of the past.