Today the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action filed a petition asking the state of South Dakota to reject plans to construct the Big Stone II coal-fired power plant because of the unhealthy levels of air pollution the plant would emit. Proposed by Otter Tail Power, the plan for Big Stone II fails to adequately control emissions of acid rain, smog and asthma-causing pollutants. The permit also fails to require any control of carbon dioxide, the global warming pollutant leading scientists say must be dramatically reduced to avoid the most serious effects of climate change.
The new unit, if built, will emit 5.5 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. It would take over 111,000 average American cars, each driving 15,000 miles annually, to produce this much carbon dioxide. "Building Big Stone II is entirely inconsistent with Minnesota's renewable electricity goals and targets for reducing global warming pollution." said Cesia Kearns, organizer with Sierra Club's National Coal Campaign. "It's high time to invest in clean energy solutions that will protect communities' health and natural heritage, not support more dirty power. This challenge reflects those values."
The existing Big Stone facility is listed by the EPA as the second highest smog producing coal plant in the nation. The pollutants that cause acid rain and smog also have serious health impacts, including respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses such as asthma and heart disease. Mary Jo Stueve, Program Coordinator with Clean Water Action in South Dakota commented, "The last thing citizens of South Dakota and Minnesota need is more pollution in our air and water, especially when more affordable, clean energy options like efficiency and wind power can build our local economies."
This is another development in several recent events revealing that the Big Stone II proposal is a risky, infeasible project of the past. A recent denial of the certificate of need for the Big Stone II project by judges in Minnesota indicates that decision-makers are aligning with public sentiment around the high cost Big Stone II poses to consumers and bolsters arguments that the project is not needed. American Rivers listed the Minnesota River as the 5th most endangered river in the nation due to pollution and excessive water draw for Big Stone II, and NASA Scientist Dr. James Hansen called upon Minnesota Governor Pawlenty to oppose Big Stone II. Furthermore, at the Otter Tail Corporation annual shareholder's meeting, financial risks associated with the project came to light, and the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribal Council (an Indigenous community in close proximity to the plant) passed a resolution against it.
"We're hopeful that the South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment and Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will do the right thing for consumers' pocketbooks and health, and pull the plug on Big Stone II," added Stueve.
Clean Water Action and Sierra Club have been working to oppose the Big Stone II proposal through grassroots engagement and legal strategies in close collaboration with organizations such as Clean Up the River Environment, the Environmental Protection Advisory Council of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe, Fresh Energy, Honor the Earth, the Izaak Walton League, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Wind on the Wires.