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Clean energy is about keeping people healthy

It’s time to push the clean energy debate out of the political corridors and refocus on benefits for human health. To health professionals in Minnesota, clean energy is about more than wind turbines and solar panels, power grids and utility lines, solar gardens and energy conservation.

Bruce Snyder

Through our eyes, clean energy is about our children who suffer with asthma, our friends with allergies who love to jog outdoors, and our parents with lung disorders who find it hard to breathe when venturing out of their homes. New clean energy technologies are about keeping people healthy – at work, school and sports and out of Emergency Rooms.

That’s why members of Minnesota’s health care community stand united in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, and the positive effect implementation of the plan will have on the health of all Minnesotans. That’s why last November, Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate, working with Allina Health, Abbott Northwestern Hospital Foundation, and partners from the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center, created a first-in-the-nation interprofessional continuing education course entitled “Climate Change and Public Health,” a full-day event attended by more than 100 health professionals.

Teddie Potter

And that’s why on March 14, the group delivered a letter, [PDF] signed by more than 125 health care professionals — including physicians, nurses, public health professionals and students, and numerous professional organizations — to Minnesota’s state senators and representatives to call their attention to important opportunities to improve health outcomes and reduce the costs of health care in Minnesota that are a sometimes overlooked benefit of the Clean Power Plan. The organizations signing the letter include the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians, whose members represent 80 percent of the state’s Family Physicians; Minnesota Organization of Registered Nurses; Twin Cities Medical Society; American Lung Association in Minnesota; and others.

These signatories, from throughout the Twin Cities Metro, Duluth, St. Cloud, Rochester, New Ulm, Bemidji and Alexandria, urged legislators to support the work of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) in developing our state’s plan to implement the Clean Power Plan. In addition, Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate urged legislators to enhance the Minnesota Renewable Energy Standard, increasing the goal to 40 percent renewables by 2030, and increasing the Minnesota Energy Efficiency Standard from 1.5 percent to 2 percent. As a related economic benefit, the existing standards have so far grown more than 15,000 well paying clean energy jobs in Minnesota.

There is extensive documentation that carbon dioxide emissions from coal burned for electricity are increasing global warming, a process that is already damaging Minnesota’s forests, lakes and wildlife, contributing to expensive and dangerous weather extremes, and exacerbating the spread of infectious diseases. Burning coal is also responsible for the emission of dangerous pollutants – nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, mercury and volatile organic compounds – into our air and waters, increasing the risks and costs of heart and lung disease, heat-related illnesses, allergies and asthma. According to the American Lung Association, a strong Clean Power Plan can prevent up to 90,000 asthma attacks, 1,700 heart attacks, up to 3,600 premature deaths, and 300,000 missed work and school days across the country.

The MPCA’s work will result in a plan designed to meet the standards of the national Clean Power Plan and cost-effectively reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants. Minnesota is currently on track to meet its Clean Power Plan carbon reduction goals by virtue of bipartisan policies already in law. The declining costs of renewable energy help make the Clean Power Plan well within reach. And reducing our energy demand and wasteful use is the most cost-effective means of lowering emissions and meeting state obligations under the Clean Power Plan. These measures will enhance the health and safety of all Minnesotans while adding more new jobs to a burgeoning clean energy industry. It’s vital that our legislators take decisive action to secure a safe clean energy future for our state.

Bruce Snyder, M.D., FAAN, is a resident of Mendota Heights. Teddie Potter, Ph.D., MS, RN, FAAN, lives in St. Paul.


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Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Mark Nissen on 04/02/2016 - 09:06 am.

    Clean Power Plan

    On my daily rounds at the hospital, I was encouraged to see the acute improvements in the health of my patients. Drs. Snyder and Potter have challenged health professionals to look beyond the hospital walls and support efforts to decrease the negative health effects from air pollution caused by coal-fired power plants and the climatic changes from a warming planet. Implementation of the Clean Power Plan will be a significant step in the right direction for our state. I hope our legislators vote appropriately.

  2. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 04/02/2016 - 09:56 am.

    A very impressive

    list of Mn. medical supporters. I am disappointed in not seeing any names of my Park Rapids medical community on the list.

  3. Submitted by Mike martin on 04/02/2016 - 11:21 pm.

    Is air pollution from MN or Chinese Power Plants?

    Us coal plants have eliminated 80-90% of pollutants from their emissions. China builds a new coal plant every month with zero pollution controls.

    Do you think air pollution in MN is from MN power plants or Chinese power plants?

    Shouldn’t environmentalist be focused on getting China to clean up its power plants & air. Or are they to in love with their IPhones to challenge China about its pollution..

  4. Submitted by Steve Vigoren on 04/04/2016 - 09:38 am.

    China is frequently used as a reason to not follow the Clean Power Plan.

    Actually, China is lessening it’s dependence on coal generated power and is increasing wind, solar, and hydro power substantially.

    Moving to cleaner energy will continue happening, even though moneyed fossil fuel interests are slowing it down through lobbying efforts and misinformation campaigns.

    • Submitted by rolf westgard on 04/04/2016 - 05:50 pm.

      Nukes not erratic renewables in China

      China is building more new nuclear plants than the rest of the world combined. Wind and solar can’t replace the round the clock power provided by fossil fuels.

  5. Submitted by Peter McIntire on 04/04/2016 - 09:42 am.

    this planet is not our home

    From a Christian perspective, we know that we are called to be good stewards of the earth. God created the earth and gave man dominion over it (Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 8:6-8), and we are to be responsible caretakers of it. Christians should be concerned about clean air, clean water, and the preservation of natural resources to the best of our ability. But Christians understand that the Bible tells us the earth is temporary. No amount of recycling or “thinking green” will forestall the end that God has planned for the earth. Despite all the best plans of men to preserve the planet, there will come a time when the earth and all He has created will be destroyed. “The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:10). The earth itself is winding down in preparation for that cataclysmic event, one that will cause man’s destructive behaviors toward the environment to pale in comparison. Romans 8:20-22 speaks of a creation which groans in anticipation of the time when it will be set free from the bondage to the principle of decay. This is the end we should be looking to and planning for and which should make our evangelistic efforts all the more urgent. Soda cans can be recycled; people cannot. Therefore, our greatest efforts should be toward saving souls, not the planet.

  6. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 04/04/2016 - 01:03 pm.

    Pollution Source

    Pollution is not an either/or proposition as it doesn’t recognize borders. It doesn’t come from Minnesota -or- China, but rather from both. And just because China is polluting, it doesn’t negate our obligation to do something about our own emissions.

    Just this past weekend Minneapolis hosted a solar power meet-up at the Convention Center. Several companies came in set and up tables so you could chat with their sales and technical representatives about installing panels on your house or subscribing to a solar garden. I attended and got some data from them, which I’ll compile this week and run the numbers to see if it’s cost effective. Generally speaking, it looks like it’s largely a break-even with today’s electrical prices, but you’ll save money over the long term as prices go up. Here are a few take-aways from the conference.

    -You can either pay for the panels in whole in advance or get a monthly subscription.
    -Excel pays roughly the current rate plus a 1 or 2% premium.
    -Prices are adjusted yearly.
    -Historically, prices go up 3% per year.
    -If you go with the subscription model, the financiers will grab 2.3% of that price increase and you get the remaining .7%.
    -You can buy up to 120% of your current usage. If your usage goes up and down over the life of the solar array, you still keep that original amount.
    -Contracts are generally for 25 years.
    -Only a few arrays are currently in production, but several more are expected to come online this year and many more over the next two years.
    -You must subscribe to an array that’s in or adjacent to your county.
    -Excel has hundreds of array applications in process.

    It’ll be fun running the numbers and asking the companies more questions over the next couple of weeks. I’m guessing the numbers will look good and I’ll make a buy later this year, locking in my electric rates for the next 25 years.

  7. Submitted by Kathleen Schuler on 04/06/2016 - 10:19 am.

    Dirty power is costing us

    Clean power will be the gift that keeps on giving. A new study estimates that air pollution is costing the U.S. $4 billion a year, based on the link between exposure to air pollution in utero and premature births. Air pollution causes inflammation that can send hormone signals that trigger early delivery. Premature birth not only results in much higher medical costs at birth, but it’s associated with lower IQ, which in turn is associated with subsequent reduction in lifetime earnings.

  8. Submitted by Phillip Peterson on 04/06/2016 - 11:37 am.

    Climate Change Impact on Human Health

    As one of the physician members of Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate (HPHC), I’m writing to strongly endorse the call to action by my colleagues, Bruce Snyder and Teddie Potter (posted April 1). My involvement with HPHC was initially spurred by concerns about the consequences of climate change/global warming that threaten my grandchildren. After reading “The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment,” a 312 page report released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program on April 4, I realized that this is an urgent problem facing all age groups. Of the many health problems linked to climate change, I’m most familiar with the infectious diseases (my specialty). Because of climate change the geographic range and breeding season of ticks and mosquitoes have been extended. It is highly likely this has played a role in the spread of tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease. And of great concern throughout Latin America is the rapidly escalating number of cases of mosquito-borne infections, including dengue, chikungunya, and most recently Zika. While these mosquito-borne infections take their biggest toll on children, and in the case of Zika on fetuses, West Nile virus encephalitis, which is found throughout the US including Minnesota, is a threat mainly to those over 70 years-of-age.
    As pointed out by Bruce Snyder and Teddie Potter, development of clean sources of energy is clearly a top-priority in addressing the impact of climate change on the health of all of us.

  9. Submitted by Maurice Menzel on 04/06/2016 - 12:27 pm.

    Clean Power Plan

    The article by Dr. Bruce Snyder and Terry Potter, PhD makes a solid case for a strong and effective Clean Power Plan. As a physician in Minnesota for 34 years I personally have witnessed the impacts of air pollution on health and our warming climate on the spread of Lymes disease and other vector borne diseases. Unless we take measures to reduce CO2 emissions as the Clean Power Plan proposes the cost on our health will continue to rise and as each year passes without addressing these impacts the costs will continue to escalate . Our children, the poor, and the elderly will suffer the greatest impacts. Scientists and doctors from all over the planet are urging that we take action.

  10. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 04/07/2016 - 03:29 pm.

    We agree…

    Thanks to the authors for mentioning the American Lung Association’s support of the Clean Power Plan. We have backed the plan since it was first announced, and we encourage other health professionals and organizations to join us in addressing this important public health issue. The health benefits of this rule, developed under the authority of the Clean Air Act, are clear and well-defined

    –Robert Moffitt, communications director, American Lung Association in Minnesota

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