Get Xcel off coal

The biggest polluter in the state of Minnesota sits just outside of the Minneapolis metro area in the town of Becker. Sherburne County Generating Station, or Sherco, is a giant coal power plant that powers our campus and pollutes our air. Sherco emits deadly pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, mercury, haze and greenhouse gases into our air every day. According to the Clean Air Task Force, the plant causes 92 deaths, 150 heart attacks and 1,600 asthma attacks every single year.

Campus Beyond Coal declared victory recently when the University of Minnesota publicly committed to reducing its coal use by 85 percent in the next year and reducing its annual carbon footprint by 50 percent by 2020. I am proud that our University made such a bold commitment. However, we still purchase our power from the utility company Xcel Energy. And Xcel is buying coal power from Sherco, allowing it to continue to pollute our community.

In the past, Xcel has been a partner in leading toward clean-energy solutions. They have an Integrated Resource Plan that seeks to forecast energy usage over 15 years in the future and have made commitments to add more renewable energy, increase energy efficiency and shut down problematic coal powered plants.

We ask that Xcel increase its commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency by retiring Sherburne County (Sherco) Coal Generating Station, build 5,000 megawatts of new wind generation, 1,000 megawatts of solar generation and achieve a 2 percent annual energy efficiency standard.

We should view this plant as more than an effort to reduce emissions but as an effort to reduce cases of juvenile asthma, emergency room visits or fatalities. With lives hanging in the balance, it is vital we know just how much Xcel is doing to protect us.