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Q&A on MN’s Role in EPA’s Carbon Cutting Proposal

June 10, 2014 By Joe Sheeran, Communications Director

With newly proposed federal carbon pollution standards, Minnesota has a golden opportunity to prove itself as a clean energy leader. Recently the EPA proposed rules that would have power plants cut carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030.

Minnesota had already taken steps to ensure renewable energy accounted for 25% by 2025 with the 2007 Next Generation Energy Act. Seeing an opportunity to increase those standards in 2013, a broad coalition of environmental, community and labor groups pushed for a bolder carbon cutting measure. While the call for 40 percent renewable energy by 2030 didn’t pass, it sent policymakers a strong signal.

What will it take to live up to federal carbon cutting challenges?

What should Minnesotans do to show our leadership on this issue?

On Tuesday Fresh Energy’s J. Drake Hamilton Science Policy Director joined us for a discussion about the new carbon cutting proposal and Minnesota’s possible role. This conversation is still open for comments.


Post your comments or questions in the box below, scroll down to see the ongoing conversation, and use "refresh" to see new comments.

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  • J. Drake Hamilton says:

    June 10, 2014 at 7:29 am

    Very excited to speak with you all in a few minutes about Minnesota’s historic opportunity to reduce carbon emissions.

  • Joe says:

    June 10, 2014 at 7:46 am

    J, thanks for joining us. As we wait for more folks to join, will you give us a little more detail on the newly proposed carbon standards? What can we expect beyond the 30% cut? Also, when will these start to take effect?

    • J. Drake Hamilton says:

      June 10, 2014 at 8:21 am

      Each state may propose a specific plan to implement the standards; those plans are due on June 30, 2016. If the EPA approves that approach as sufficient and enforceable, power companies in the state will begin securing the needed emissions reductions.

      In practice, Minnesota regulators and state law have been requiring power companies to achieve renewable energy and efficiency gains for several years, and those achievements have demonstrated that growing clean energy and efficiency jobs have the great benefit, as well, of cutting carbon pollution at low cost.

  • J. Drake Hamilton says:

    June 10, 2014 at 8:01 am

    On June 2, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the nation’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from coal-burning power plants, which are by far Minnesota’s and the country’s largest source of emissions that cause global warming. EPA estimates the national impact of these standards will be to reduce U.S. power sector CO2 emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. EPA has proposed four of the best building blocks for states to evaluate as they consider which combination of policies and practices will be most economical and effective in cutting those emissions. This first step is welcome if long overdue, and begins a year in which states will work with EPA and with people throughout Minnesota to refine and improve the proposed carbon pollution standards before EPA finalizing them in June 2015. Called the Clean Power Plan, Minnesota and other states now have the responsibility and the long-awaited opportunity to create strong policy proposals. One critical role for Minnesota is to begin the two-year process of crafting a State Implementation Plan (due to EPA in 2016) that will take us beyond business-as-usual results to much higher amounts of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and the state-based clean energy jobs that will continue to propel our economy forward.

    • Sandy Tracy says:

      June 10, 2014 at 8:14 am

      J. Thank you for your continued leadership in this field.  It is good to hear from you again.

    • J. Drake Hamilton says:

      June 10, 2014 at 8:15 am

      The Clean Power Plan builds on existing law, namely the federal Clean Air Act. Our nation has set responsible limits on the mercury, sulfur, and arsenic emission from coal-fired power plants, including the requirement that these coal plants cut mercury emissions by 90 percent. Minnesota actually beat the feds by 5 years in setting that standard, with the legislature passing a 2006 law that targets 90 percent cuts in mercury emissions from 6 of the dirtiest coal units in the state. 5 othose 6 units have achieved those important reductions ahead of schedule, proving that the cuts are possible and affordable. Research recently published by Mark Brigham, a hydrogeologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Minnesota, has found a correlation between measured declines in mercury and declining levels of methylmercury in northern MN fish.

      • J. Drake Hamilton says:

        June 10, 2014 at 8:25 am

        A very important set of leadership voices in the work to get to the Clean Power Plan has come from the American Lung Association. Using health expert testimony they’ve demonstrated that “Power plant pollution makes people sick and cuts short lives’” the Lung Association nationally has been calling for replacing coal plants with clean energy as quickly as possible.

  • Joe says:

    June 10, 2014 at 8:05 am

    With how the rules are proposed, what do you see as the advantage for MN? Where can we credibly establish leadership?

    • J. Drake Hamilton says:

      June 10, 2014 at 8:35 am

      A first opportunity for Minnesotans to call for leadership in our state’s plan to achieve the target reductions: On Wednesday, June 18, the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board is holding a public information—and comment—opportunity in St. Paul from 1-3:30 PM. Details on the EQB website,

  • John Van Hecke says:

    June 10, 2014 at 8:13 am

    How do you think that the public policy advocacy language around carbon emissions standards has changed? Looking at the 2007 Next Gen bill language, I’m struck by the strength of global warming narrative. With the EPA standards’ announcement, that seems largely if not entirely absent.

    • J. Drake Hamilton says:

      June 10, 2014 at 8:18 am

      In 2007, the Minnesota legislature set science-based carbon reduction goals that apply economywide, targetting at least 30 percent reductions by 2025, and at least 80 percent reductions by 2050. However, the Minnesota goals are just that, and not requirements. It’s imperative that we and other states have achieve deep cuts, and the proposed standards will create enforceable safeguards.

      • Joe says:

        June 10, 2014 at 8:43 am

        So where do we stand on the drive from last year to increase our renewable energy standards significantly? Did the study on its feasibility come out?  What’s next on that front?

  • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

    June 10, 2014 at 8:22 am

    It never ceases to amaze be at how many ways the Rich and Middle Class can conspire to screw the poor, and that is who will ultimately get saddled with these additional costs. Instead of working to capture 2.5 cent per KW electricity we are going to drive the price up over 15 cents per KW and make the poor pay the tab. We have multiple Volcanic energy production options with Yellowstone alone having the capacity to produce all the on demand electricity the entire country needs yet Enviro Wacho’s won’t let us use any of it. We have 6-8 knot currents off both our east and west coasts that is again enough energy potential for at least both coasts and a 150 years of ocean cable laying experience yet we haven’t even tried to tap this on demand source in spite of 50 years of ocean cable laying experience. With all this clean and cheap ZERO carbon footprint power available we still choose play stupid profiteering carbon credit games to screw the working class instead of really solving any problems. It’s all about profit not about what is right or wrong, BIG MONEY still wins and gets richer.

    • J. Drake Hamilton says:

      June 10, 2014 at 8:29 am

      Indeed, efficiency investments have been the bedrock for Minnesota’s carbon pollution cuts to date, and will continue to be a low cost and effective tool. For Minnesota and many other states, a primary building block for the state plans will be greatly increased energy efficiency in homes, appliances, buildings, businesses, and industry. In our state, efficiency has been the cheapest source of our next electron. The very young and the very old, particularly people in less advantaged communities that have not only power plants but a disproportionate share of other air pollution, bear most of the health care impacts of power plant pollution.

      • W. D. (Bill) Hamm says:

        June 10, 2014 at 11:30 am

        We in rural MN have gotten more efficient only to see our pre bill fees more than double wiping out all the efficiency savings we worked so hard for. Neither Wind nor Solar are on demand or easily storable. This means that we are force to continue using existing fossil fuel plants instead of bringing on line these ZERO Carbon Dioxide solutions. Your Carbon Tax changes none of these facts nor does it do anything to end the pollution, a BS solution instead of a real one.

  • J. Drake Hamilton says:

    June 10, 2014 at 8:40 am

    Reducing carbon is not only necessary, it’s an opportunity to improve our health and Minnesota’s economy. But the Clean Power Plan won’t be as strong as needed unless many people weigh in with Governor Dayton about the urgent need for Minnesota’s leadership in building on Minnesota’s smart energy policies with new initiatives to get us to zero carbon energy faster and sooner.

  • J. Drake Hamilton says:

    June 10, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Coming up this week: we expect the Minnesota Department of Commerce and Pollution Control Agency to submit a filing to regulators at the Public Utilities Commission that will be the next step in updating the reak health and environmental cost values Minnesota uses for determining the prudence of expensive future investments in old coal plants. This homegrown example of internalizing the externalities of burning coal as we plan for the future of those aging plants, is possible only in Minnesota by virtue of a law passed in 1992. Once the real costs of burning coal—to our health, climate, and more—are updated to reflect current science—the PUC will be looking at future electricity on an apples-to-apples basis.

  • J. Drake Hamilton says:

    June 10, 2014 at 9:16 am

    Have a wonderful day, folks. If you’d like to have Fresh Energy come out to talk with your company, civic organization, or congregation about global warming solutions for Minnesota, please contact me.


    J. Drake Hamilton
    Science Policy Director
    Fresh Energy

    .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Your donation today to help us retire and replace coal with clean energy will be 100 percent matched—double your investment at

  • Nancy Hone says:

    June 10, 2014 at 10:50 am

    As this rolls out, we all have to be seriously cognizant that all over the world, burning garbage and biomass is being touted as the replacement for coal. Studies show that burning garbage and biomass is even more polluting but
    is being touted by the industry as clean and green and “renewable” even by Minnesota law.
    We all must look at truly green and clean and renewable and that does NOT include “waste to energy”!!

    • Alan Muller says:

      June 10, 2014 at 12:31 pm

      Has anyone commenting here actually studied the Obama Administration proposal?  If you do, you will see that it does almost nothing to curtail climate-forcing emissions and much to prop up worse-than-coal industries and the nuclear industry.  The best thing Minnesotans can do is stop being manipulated by Xcel Energy and Fresh Energy!!!