Community Voices features opinion pieces from a wide variety of authors and perspectives. (Submission Guidelines)

Clean Power Plan is an opportunity for Gov. Dayton to create quality jobs, reduce pollution

Courtesy of the author
On Oct. 14, the author, front left, took part in a national day of action organized by the People’s Climate Movement.

The voices calling for action on climate change in Minnesota and around the world come from all walks of life. Faith leaders — from local clergy to the pope — business, community, environmental, economic justice and labor leaders like me are all weighing in to say we need to act on climate change now.

On Oct. 14, I took part in a national day of action organized by the People’s Climate Movement. A diverse group of people banded together to talk about how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan can help Minnesota. The Clean Power Plan is an opportunity to become more energy independent, reduce the pollution driving climate change and impacting all of us — especially communities of color and low-income communities — and drive the growth of quality jobs in our state.

A multifaceted problem — and a moral issue

The discussion brought together many viewpoints and illustrated that climate change is a multifaceted problem. Members of the union I am elected to lead, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, spoke out about their firsthand experience seeing how pollution and climate change impact the health of our communities. Members of the clergy spoke about the need for us to protect the environment and how addressing climate change is a moral issue, not a political one. And economic and environmental justice advocates spoke of the opportunity that addressing climate change has for making our economy fairer and improving the lives of working people.

One resounding takeaway was that we need a strong blueprint to meet the Clean Power Plan that also recognizes that the transition to cleaner energy must be a just one for workers. The Clean Power Plan sets the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. Our state is required to submit a blueprint — called a State Implementation Plan — on how we can meet the reductions. If we do this right, we will grow good jobs here in Minnesota while reducing carbon and other pollution in our air, water and soil.

Already, the move to cleaner energy is paying off in our state. In 2014, our clean economy supported over 15,000 jobs that pay 42 percent more on average than other jobs in our state. But as our energy sector has shifted, it has also impacted workers in traditional energy generation. We cannot leave behind workers and communities who are feeling these impacts. Our state blueprint must make sure that there is direct support for workers and communities. Any implementation plan should recognize adverse job and community impacts where they may occur, and create an integrated program to specifically and directly address them.

We can ensure a net benefit to Minnesota

A proper plan means strong support for workers in Minnesota by provid­ing wages, benefits, training and education. It also means providing communities with resources to redevelop their economy and create high-paying jobs that can match or exceed those that may have been lost. With the right policies in place, we can make sure this energy transition is a net benefit to our state — providing quality jobs while ensuring cleaner air.

Climate change is a real problem. I urge Gov. Mark Dayton to put forward a strong State Implementation Plan that will reduce the amount of pollution in our air, create quality, family-sustaining jobs, protect workers and communities impacted by our energy transition, and leave future generations a bright economic and environmental future.

Jamie Gulley is the president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and the SEIU Minnesota State Council. SEIU represents more than 60,000 workers who provide care and support for Minnesota families in public schools, hospitals, higher education, nursing homes, schools, in their homes and the Twin Cities’ largest public and private buildings.

Want to add your voice?

If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, email Susan Albright at salbright@minnpost.com.)

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by joe smith on 10/26/2015 - 09:49 am.

    So how much money will the state of Minnesota have to commit so we can have a “proper plan in Minnesota by providing wages, benefits, training and education”? Will our energy costs go up or down? How about taxes, I assume we the tax payers will pay for this program.

  2. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 10/26/2015 - 11:13 am.

    The taxpayers paid for the G.I. Bill, too…

    …and that education and retraining effort paid off pretty well.

    So far, the shifts toward cleaner, renewable energy has not lead to the higher costs, as some critics have promised. There is no reason to believe that the same won’t happen after the Clean Power Plan kicks in.

  3. Submitted by Ed Kohler on 10/26/2015 - 11:23 am.

    We’re already paying

    We pay today through high asthma rates, shortened life spans, and shipping MN’s money to Wyoming’s coal mines. Instead, we can shift that money to increased local employment in new industries that generate clean power within our own state.

    Xcel’s CEO just said the other day that they’re investing more in wind because it’s cheaper than gas. As an Xcel customer who’s signed up for Windsource, I can tell you from my own experience that the costs are only a few pennies/day higher for clean energy.

    • Submitted by joe smith on 10/26/2015 - 03:02 pm.

      Ed if that was the case everyone would have a wind turbine in their yard. I have one and much like the solar panels I have, battery and energy storage problems prevent solar/wind from being used more by everyone. I have no doubt at some point solar/wind will be a great source of energy for the world, that time is not now however.
      Don’t you think if wind power was being produced for pennies a day someone would have a wind farm up on his property and under cut Xcel and other companies by 100 bucks a month per household and make billions doing it. Or at the very least be putting up a stink that the power companies have a monopoly on energy and they can’t get into the market.
      The solar/wind power market can’t stand on its own right now and needs Govt funding, if it was all that you say it is, “green” energy would not only stand alone but it would thrive! As soon as Windsource is lower than my current bill I will be the 1st to change.

      G.I. bill was given to folks who served their country and rightfully so. We are going to give money to “green” energy because it makes you feel better. A major difference between the 2.

      • Submitted by Ed Kohler on 10/27/2015 - 11:30 am.

        Sorry if I wasn’t clear. I’m not saying that wind energy costs pennies per day. I’m saying that the incremental cost of wind is pennies per day. Here’s my bill:
        http://www.thedeets.com/2011/06/12/the-xcel-energys-windsource-program-financial-hedge/

        A home wind turbine is not likely a practical option for most people due to height restrictions and turbulence in urban areas.

        It seems like you’re working very hard to ignore the well-documented health benefits of not breathing the biproducts of combustion. Or, having a state full of lakes that pregnant women shouldn’t eat fish from is an acceptable consequence in order to save less than 3 cents per day?

  4. Submitted by joe smith on 10/27/2015 - 03:01 pm.

    I breath the air daily and eat fresh Minnesota caught fish weekly for 5 months out of the year. I’m feeling great!! Your solar panels and turbine can both be mounted on your house, not ideal but they both will work. Get used to the noise of your turbine fettering out when wind speed gets too high. When my bill is less with wind/solar, I’m in, until then I’M OUT. You can pay more for your electricity and feel better about yourself and your “green footprint” I’m doing just fine without others telling me what form of electricity I should use.

    • Submitted by Ed Kohler on 10/27/2015 - 08:15 pm.

      I suppose we could set public health standards by anecdote, but I think we’re beyond that.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/28/2015 - 12:33 pm.

      Electrical Use

      I’m not sure where you got the notion that anyone is dictating what electrical source you can or cannot use. If that’s in the article or legislation somewhere, I must have missed it.

      If you don’t want to use solar or wind power, then buy [sic] all means, purchase from the source you prefer, if you’ll pardon the pun. The intent here is to give people more options than just coal or natural gas to buy, with a little nuclear thrown into the mix. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that people be allowed to have a few alternatives to choose from.

      And if enough people go the renewable route, then we all benefit from cleaner air and reduced health care costs. Looks like a win/win to me.

  5. Submitted by joe smith on 10/29/2015 - 03:57 pm.

    I have found what starts out as voluntary soon becomes mandatory in the world of the Greenies in my 6 decades of on and off Minnesota living. take the lake/river buffer zone for example. Gone from N Minn but coming back for deer season, plan on breathing the air and eating not only fresh fish but fresh venison.

Leave a Reply