Minnesota Youth Insist on a Strong & Just Clean Power Plan for Their Future

Youth Policy Cohort member, Haily Gill, greets Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton
Youth Policy Cohort member, Haily Gill, greets Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton

Since January, Climate Generation has recruited five youth from around Minnesota to help us support the implementation of a racially just and equitable Clean Power Plan for our state. Over the past six months, these youth have gathered postcards, met with their legislators, and submitted letters to the editor to keep Minnesotans informed about the importance of an equitable Clean Power Plan. Despite the hold on the Clean Power Plan by the Supreme Court, Governor Dayton has shown his support and stated that Minnesota will continue on its path to a clean energy future: at our Youth Summit, he pledged to veto any legislation that would block or delay clean energy progress in Minnesota. This would not have been possible without the sustained work of organizers keeping environmental justice at the forefront of conversations about our state’s energy policy.

Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) located in North Minneapolis
Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) located in North Minneapolis

The EPA’s announcement of the Clean Power Plan gave many people hope, because it was the first time ever that limits were set on carbon pollution from power plants. While the plan did have some promising elements, our goal is to make sure the plan is implemented in a fair and equitable manner for all Minnesotans. The intersections of race, class, and environmental issues are evident throughout the U.S., and Minnesota is no exception. The zip code 55411, located in North Minneapolis, has been found to contain the highest amount of lead it its air. Residents North Minneapolis are mostly Black Americans; it is no coincidence that this neighborhood faces such disparities. North Minneapolis is also where the HERC incinerator is located. HERC is located in close proximity to over 10 elementary schools. The pollution caused by the incinerator has also caused the asthma rates for students to skyrocket. These factors must be considered when Minnesota is implementing its Clean Power Plan.

There have been many highlights over the past six months, but one of the most powerful was the Youth Summit with Governor Dayton. This was an effort across multiple organizations, missions, and people, around one goal: underscoring the importance of implementing a just and equitable Clean Power Plan. The summit started with a panel of youth from all around Minnesota. Then the youth had the chance to ask the Governor about their environmental justice questions and concerns. The Governor affirmed his commitment to a strong State Implementation Plan, a youth left the summit hopeful and even more committed to a strong and just future for Minnesota.

As the program comes to a close, it’s important to not only reflect on the successes, but also how Minnesota can improve on its environmental justice efforts. The Youth Policy Cohort was successful in securing the the Governor’s commitment to the  Clean Power Plan in Minnesota. Moving on I hope to see Minnesota implement a plan that incorporates the groups most impacted by fossil fuel pollution in decision-making positions, so we can be the best, most equitable state that we can be.

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