Carcinogens, poisons and irritants rain down on the heads of Minneapolis residents. The toxins come from Xcel Energy’s Riverside coal-burning power plant, which pumps them into the air. Although all coal-burning plants emit such compounds, the Riverside plant has found a legal loophole that allows it to discharge toxins at levels outlawed by current standards. Not surprisingly, these dangerous emissions are mostly falling on the heads of lower income families in southeast Minneapolis, not on the wealthy or the affluent neighborhoods. This year the plant’s air emissions permit is up for renewal and anyone who is a moral person, above malice and beyond socioeconomic oppression should contact their state representative and demand the Riverside plant be shut down or forced to modernize.
In 1970, the Clean Air Act ushered in a new era of environmental protection and recognition of corporate-caused ailments to the public. The act prevented illness and death, however, it also increased the costs of operating necessary utilities like power plants. The costs of bringing toxic emissions down to the new levels were unreasonably high for older power plants that would need to replace a significant amount of their equipment. So Congress allowed for these power plants to be grandfathered, which meant they didn’t have to abide by the new standards. This ensured older power plants didn’t close and leave cities without enough power to meet demand.
Today though, older plants such as the Riverside plant, which was built in 1911, are superfluous remnants of a dead age. Exhaling their rank halitosis, these dinosaurs are kept alive at the cost of human health. According to a Right to Know Chemical Information Report released by the Minnesota State Emergency Response Commission in 1999, 16,000 pounds of nickel compounds billow forth from Riverside’s ancient stacks into the Minneapolis air annually. These compounds cause cancer and are poisonous. Mixed in with these are tons of other deadly chemicals such as 10,000 pounds of hydrochloric acid, 23,000 pounds of sulfuric acid and 300,000 pounds of barium compounds.
If the government forced the Riverside plant to meet current standards, it would not place Minneapolis in jeopardy of a power shortage. There are enough power plants in the area to compensate while Riverside is either modernized or replaced by a contemporary plant. Opponents who say it will increase their electricity costs are correct. However, currently their electricity is being subsidized by the health of Como and southeast Minneapolis neighborhood residents.
Every time a toxin is emitted at levels beyond current standards, Xcel saves money. This money isn’t free though. This money comes from trading the health of Minneapolis residents. Contact your state representative and urge them to pass legislation forcing all plants to meet current standards.