Lobbying in Washington, D.C.

Tess Ergen, University student

Last week, I traveled to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness about the need to put people’s health over polluters’ profits. This trip was personal to me because of my experience with air pollution’s impacts both here in Minneapolis and across the globe in New Delhi.

New Delhi has been declared as having the world’s most toxic air in 2015, beating Beijing while charting up global warming statistics and respiratory illnesses. As an environmental communications student, I have heard firsthand about the hardships of asthma — the most common chronic disease for children — physically, financially and emotionally in Minnesota.

No more could I sit idly by as preventable toxic smog and carbon emissions envelop the world. Therefore, I braved up with my college colleagues and stormed into Congress. Sierra Club volunteers and members spoke out this week for citizen’s voices in support of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s proposals of the Clean Power Plan and smog standard.

The Clean Power Plan is the United States’ first-ever standard to reduce carbon pollution from coal and natural-gas power plants. Carbon pollution is the primary contributor to climate change — causing severe weather, driving up global temperatures and scattering the range of tick and mosquito-borne illnesses like Lyme disease and West Nile virus.

A simple solution is to become more efficient with energy use and use wind and solar power instead of fossil fuels. The Clean Power Plan can be the foundation for ecological progress to clean up and modernize the way we power our country and ensure our kids, communities and workforce are healthier.

Clean air is also a matter of environmental justice right here in Minnesota. A smog standard would keep polluters accountable for harmful amounts of air contamination and help millions breathe easier with the help of the EPA’s science-based smog standard proposal.

In Minnesota, an estimated 90,000 children have asthma, and more than 400,000 adults have it.

A 2010 report showed that the Sherco Coal Plant located in Becker, Minn., alone caused 91 premature deaths, 1,600 asthma attacks and 12,062 lost workdays from carbon contamination. 

Let’s not allow Minnesota to be known as having the most toxic air. Instead, let’s keep our proud progressive reputation and be the most innovative state in renewable, clean energy. Email, write and call your representatives, and tell them Minnesota wants to keep our 10,000 lakes clean and have pollutant-free air for the next generation to enjoy.