PUC to take closer look at pollution costs

By KBJR News 1

December 20, 2013 Updated Jan 12, 2014 at 10:09 PM CDT

St. Paul, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission wants to take a closer look at how much pollution is costing the state.

An environmental group, The Clean Energy Organization, submitted a petition asking the PUC to reopen a docket that addresses methods used to estimate pollution costs when planning utility projects.
The method of developing estimated costs has not been updated since 1993 and science and technology have changed considerably since then.

The PUC did agree to move forward on the docket, but it will take a little more time before it is approved.

"(it will) take a little time first to have the Pollution Control Agency or Department of Commerce examine or develop a scope of this study and what they would want a consultant to help them with determining how to review all of the evidence." Said Beth Goodpaster, a representative of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

Opponents of the petition said the re-evaluation could be redundant because the Obama Administration is already seeking to alter carbon standards on existing power plants and it would not benefit rate payers.

"And they're going to pay for two years of studying something that we can't come up with a definitive answer for and I think that's a good reason to deny the petition" Said Betsy Wergin, a Public Utilities Commissioner.

Those in favor of the petition argued that current pollution cost estimates do not take into account Sulfur Dioxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, or fine particulate matter which are known to be hazardous to health.

A June 2013 "Health and Environmental Costs of Electricity Generation in Minnesota" report found fossil fuel power pollution costs Minnesotans 2.5 billion dollars annually in health and environmental impacts with 94 percent of the impact from coal pollution.

Bryce Henry