April 2015 (PDF Version)
Governor Mark Dayton
Office of the Governor
116 Veterans Service Building
20 W 12th Street
St. Paul, MN 55155
Dear Governor Dayton,
We write today with gratitude for your service, and with urgency on behalf of the world that sustains us all. Our voices represent a diverse range of spiritual, wisdom, and faith traditions that contribute immensely to the rich tapestry of our state, and whose people share a common concern for the earth and all its creatures. These are times of unprecedented peril and promise. The challenges we face exist simultaneously with unparalleled capacity to innovate, collaborate, and respond with courage and moral power. Remembering that care for the environment is also care for the economy (which comes from the word for “household”), and that climate justice is also about social, economic, and racial justice, our calls for action are both visionary and pragmatic, expressions both of our faith and of sound science.
As faith leaders from across Minnesota, we are calling on you to please support the federal Clean Power Plan, and create a strong implementation plan for reducing carbon pollution in Minnesota. Power plants are the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions, which we know are impacting public health, the economy, and the environment. Lower carbon pollution levels, as well as significant reductions in in pollutants and toxins that contribute to soot and smog, will be especially beneficial for low-income people and vulnerable communities. We urge you to keep those communities in mind, in the creation of the plan, whether that means holding the line on rate increases that power companies might want, or making opportunities available for clean energy generation by (and for) low-income communities.
Cutting power plant emissions, while increasing clean energy in Minnesota, will create cleaner air and cleaner water. It will reduce carbon pollution and fine particle emissions, which are bad for respiratory health and increase both asthma deaths and heart attacks. It will reduce contaminated water from mercury pollution created by burning coal. We pray that enough can be done quickly to ameliorate health and hunger impacts of climate extremes. This would include heat related deaths, vector borne diseases (like Lyme disease and West Nile virus), and changes to agriculture. Climate extremes are already causing alternating flash floods and droughts. This impacts food supply, nutrition, access to clean drinking water, and much more.
Each of these fossil fuel impacts will disproportionately affect our most vulnerable populations, including children, elders, people of color, low income communities, and those who are sick. In fact, no one will fully escape the consequences of this severe degradation and failure to protect our planet over many decades. As people of faith, we find these impacts on people and the planet, particularly those who are most vulnerable, to be unacceptable! It is clear that we have both the responsibility and the opportunity to act. By increasing access to and availability of clean energy in our state, we can simultaneously reduce the impact of climate change on our planet and promote the health and wellbeing of all Minnesotans.
Furthermore, transitioning from coal, while reducing pollution, increasing efficiency, and creating a clean energy future, will both save money and create jobs. This is good stewardship! These actions will keep $18 billion in Minnesota which is currently spent to import energy. When it comes to strengthening the economy, jobs that build a clean energy future and leave a stronger legacy for our children and grandchildren are the right choice for Minnesota.
We urge you to support a dynamic clean energy agenda, through two key avenues.
Support increases in access to and use of renewable clean energy throughout Minnesota: Our potential for clean energy in Minnesota is far beyond what we utilize. We currently get 15% of our energy from renewable sources, but only use 1% of our wind potential. With this potential comes significant job expansion. Clean energy employment in Minnesota surged 78% from 2000 to 2014, growing steadily even during the recession, while Minnesota total employment gained only 11% over those years. Additionally, the number of clean energy business has increased 122% in Minnesota between 2000 and 2014. Increasing renewable energy options and usage will ensure that significant job and business growth continues over the years to come, and leave a strong legacy for our children and grandchildren.
Explore ways to improve energy efficiency: Energy efficiency is the cheapest way to save energy and money. After state standards were put in place, electric and gas savings from 2010-2011 were enough to heat, cool, and power more than 102,000 homes. These programs are tested, successful, and call for expansion.
This will help Minnesota transition to clean, renewable energy while a) helping to preserve Minnesota’s four seasons, b) creating and keeping good jobs and investment in communities across Minnesota, and c) saving money for families and businesses in the long-run.
While renewable clean energy improvements would help Minnesota to meet targets of the Clean Power Plan, it is imperative that we not use one as an excuse not to do the other. Utilities could add more renewable energy sources while continuing to emit significant amounts of pollution. This is not the kind of legacy we want to leave for our state. We must increase renewable energy and energy efficiency while we significantly reduce carbon pollution.
From a faith perspective, there is something to be said here that reaches beyond the evidence; that transcends the science; that lifts our demand for action to the highest level of importance. For us, addressing climate change and its impacts on people and the earth, is an important part of who we are and what we are called to do. Acting on behalf of all that the Creator has created, we speak truth to our leaders with the hope that you and our legislators will implement the Clean Power Plan, increase access and use of renewable clean energy, and explore ways to continue to increase energy efficiency.
Church Judicatory Leaders
Leaders of Faith Denominational/Interfaith Organizations