Minnesotans gathered at Edina Library last Saturday for YEA! MN’s Learnin' from Durban: Global Action on a Local Scale event. Sheltered from the cold and snow, attendees checked-in on the climate negotiations happening halfway around the globe in the 90 degree heat of Durban, South Africa. Will Steger Foundation Delegates Paul Thompson and John Howard offered their firsthand account of the 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17) to the United Nations' Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) via a skype call. We also heard from Steve Suppan from Minnesota’s Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and delegates from countries who will face serious impacts as the climate changes.
Last Wednesday, young people across Minnesota participated in a statewide call-in day for clean air. Over 400 people picked up their phones to thank Senator Klobuchar for voting against Senator Paul’s recent dirty air initiative and to urge her to continue to reject further attacks.
Last week, Senator Klobuchar voted against a proposal from Kentucky Senator Rand Paul that would have increased pollution and threatened public health. Siri Simons, Campus Beyond Coal Co-Chair, and I stopped by Sentator Klobuchar’s Minneapolis office on Tuesday to show our generation’s appreciation for her commitment to protecting human health and the environment.
We hand delivered a letter for Senator Klobuchar on behalf of 11 youth-based organizations who represent over 90,000 youth and alumni. The letter urged Senator Klobuchar to continue to stand with our generation by rejecting any legislation that weakens or delays clean air safeguards.
Senator Klobuchar will soon vote on the Coates-Manchin Bill that would delay the implementation of two Environmental Protection Agency air pollution regulations – the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the Utility MACT rule. This bill blocks public health protections against mercury, soot, smog and other air pollutants and will put tens of thousands of American lives at risk every year.
We hope to see Senator Klobuchar continue to protect human health and our environment by rejecting the Coates-Manchin Bill and any other proposal that blocks public health safeguards against mercury pollution and other dangerous pollutants.
Youth leaders in Minnesota have been active to ensure our U.S. Senators protect the Clean Air Act. From Collegeville to Crookston, we came to the Twin Cities to meet with our Senators’ staff and share why defending the Clean Air Act is so important to us, our generation, and the state of Minnesota.
The Clean Air Act has been vital in protecting the nation’s health, and attacks on the clean air standards would weaken regulations on harmful pollutants such as mercury, ozone, and greenhouse gases. These attacks are part of an alarming trend of anti-EPA legislation. This is of special concern to us, young adults, because the energy and environmental policy decisions of today will affect us for decades to come. The problems caused by pollution, climate change, and diminishing natural resources will be our generation’s burden to bear.
The latest salvo against clean air comes from Senator Rand Paul, who wants to block an air pollution standard that cuts down on the amount of dangerous air pollution that is carried over state lines – essentially delivering pollutants that create soot, smog, and acid rain to all Americans. Senator Paul’s Cross State Air Pollution Standard would roll back public health protections and let polluters continue to dump their toxic pollution into our air, leading to as many as 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 heart attacks, and 400,000 asthma attacks annually. This resolution would be a huge step back at a time when we need to see progress in improving our air quality.
Image Credits: The Sierra Club
We brought this message to our Senators, sharing that Minnesotans want clean air and water and we want the EPA to enforce standards that will lower air pollution and its deadly public health impacts. In both meetings we were welcomed in sharing our concerns and told they would be passed along to the Senators.
In Senator Al Franken’s office, youth met with Alana Petersen, State Director for Senator Franken, and Al Juhnke, the Senators Agriculture and Energy Field Representative. Youth explained how regulation creates the opportunity for innovation and for growth in the green economy. We want to see investments in renewable energy, not oil and coal companies. Attacks on the EPA and environmental regulations eliminate job growth opportunities for young people who seek careers in this important field.
Senator Franken had not yet heard about the Congressional Review of the Cross State Air Pollution Rule that had been proposed only days beforehand. Petersen and Juhnke spoke about the Senator’s commitment to making educated decisions on these matters and shared the Senator’s strong voting record to protect clean air. We hope to see that record continue when Senator Franken votes on this resolution.
In Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office, we met with Greg Bohrer, Senator Klobuchar’s energy and environmental legislative correspondent. During the meeting, Klobuchar’s past environmental voting record was also discussed. For most of her term Senator Klobuchar has been supportive of public health and environmental protection legislation, but her stance has softened considerably in the past year. In April 2011, she voted in favor of two separate attempts to weaken the Clean Air Act, the Baucus Amendment and the Stabenow Amendment. We expressed our concern and disappointment over these votes.
We shared how the protecting the Clean Air Act will protect our futures. At a time when far too often industry profits are valued over scientific evidence and the health of Americans, we need Senator Klobuchar to vote to protect our health, to help mitigate the impacts of climate change, and to build the green economy in which we hope to work.
When asked how Senator Klobuchar plans to vote on the Congressional Review of the Cross State Air Pollution Rule, Bohrer responded that the Senator has not yet decided. He stressed that she is committed to making informed decisions and is looking into the longterm impacts of the resolution.
The impacts of a repeal to the Cross State Air Pollution rule are clear. It would block Minnesota from receiving between $650 million and $1.6 billion each year in health benefits and put thousands of Americans at risk of life-threatening illnesses.
The meetings with our Senators’ staff were overall productive and hopeful. Both Senators value the opinions of their constituents and the delegation of youth leaders communicated how Minnesotans want them to act--we need our Senator Klobuchar and Senator Franken take a stand in protecting clean air and vote against the Congressional Review of the Cross State Air Pollution Rule and other attempts to weaken the Clean Air Act.
Youth Leaders Present at Lobby Meetings:
Lauren Snively from UMN Crookston and student representative to the UMN System-wide Sustainability Committee, Nick Moe from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Mike Wardwell from University St. Thomas Environmental Law Society, Natalie Tungsvik - MPIRG Student Board of Directors Chair from Hamline University, Cora Ellenson-Myers and Logan Bailey from the UMN MPIRG chapter, Tim Sheehan and Cole Norgaarden - Co-Chairs of Yea!MN, Leah Norman from Yea! MN, Alyssa Tucker from the MN Youth Environmental Network, Gretel Lee and Jason Bender from UMN Campus Beyond Coal, Timothy Den-Herder Thomas - Co-foudner of Grand Aspirations, Joe Kruse - Yea!MN Coordinator, and Christy Newell - Will Steger Foundation Intern and from UMTC EcoWatch.
Our Senators need to hear from you!
The Clean Air Act is known as one of the most successful public health programs in American history. With $30 in benefits for every dollar invested, it’s also one of the best investments Americans have made. Now, with a new tool, Clean Air Act Where You Live, provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we can calculate how two EPA safeguards will impact us here in Minnesota.
The Cross State Air Pollution Rule and the proposed Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, nationally, will save tens of thousands of lives, prevent hundreds of thousands of asthma and heart attacks and avert millions of missed school and work days – yielding hundreds of billions of dollars in benefits to our communities.
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