A few weeks back, Xcel Energy announced that it would retire its two largest coal fired power plant, SHERCO 1 & 2, by 2026. As Conservation Minnesota’s executive director Paul Austin pointed out recently in a blog post this is great news for clean air and public health here in the state of Minnesota. After all, SHERCO 1& 2 are major sources of pollution that contribute to asthma attacks, heart attacks, and emergency room visits.
But that’s hardly the only good thing that will come out of retiring SHERCO 1 & 2. In fact closing these power plants will go a long way towards cleaning up our lakes and rivers all over the state of Minnesota.
The reason is because burning coal to create electricity is the largest source of mercury pollution in our state’s lakes and rivers. This means that by shutting down SHERCO 1 & 2 it won’t just mean cleaner air for folks in the Becker area, but also less toxic mercury in our fish and bodies of water.
This is great news for the coal we have control over but it doesn’t do a lot to help with the coal burned elsewhere.
Coal burned in North Dakota, China, or elsewhere all affects Minnesota’s air and water quality in the long run. As I like to put it to people I talk with in my position as a community coordinator: pollution doesn’t stop just because there is a line on a map.
Making progress on transitioning away from nonrenewable energy sources can’t just be a Minnesota priority – and it isn’t. The Environmental Protection Agency’s new Clean Power Plan (CPP) rule, which wasn’t part of Xcel’s decision to retire SHERCO 1 & 2, will do a lot to ensure other states like North Dakota clean up their coal burning and work to decrease their pollution and mercury contamination that ends up in our state.
Transitioning from coal is a long process and not just one for Minnesota to control. But it is a great endeavor as it will go a long way in cleaning up our water, air, and ensuring our way of life is preserved.