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!
In less than a week hundreds of youth climate organizers will gather in Cleveland for Midwest Power Shift, a regional conference run by and for youth aimed at engaging and preparing the next generation of Midwest climate leaders to lead the transition to a clean and just energy future. Youth organizers across the region are hard at working finalizing workshops and logistics around the five main conference tracks coal, fracking, political engagement, tar sands, and the clean energy economy. A dynamic list of workshop are available online, including:
- Energy Efficiency on Your Campus: It’s in Your Hands
- Beyond Madison: Rural Wisconsinites Stand Up for Their Communities
- Building Power for the 2012 Election
- Food Desserts and Solutions to Food Access in the Inner City
- New Media for New Organizers
- Follow the Sun: Starting a Solar Company in the Midwest
Each of these tracks aim to empower coordinated regional or cross-state action/collaboration. Furthermore, members of the Midwest Youth Coalition are leveraging the opportunity of Midwest Power Shift to launch a youth steering committee with representation from each Midwest state, tasked with the following responsibilities:
- Support for coordinated actions/campaigns/events
- Cohesive messaging from a regional youth perspective
- Resource bank
- Asset mapping process
In the tradition of National Power Shift, Midwest Power Shift will also provide space for state breakouts as a means to supporting state networks. Currently, MI, OH, and IL are the only states with a formal state network structure, with MN and MO in the process.
The registration page is still open for any last minute participants, and features a phenomenal blog roll from youth organizers across the US:
For a quick overview of the goal, purpose, and tenor of Midwest Power Shift, check out this inspiring video from conference organizer and Director of the Ohio Student Environmental Council, Janina Klimas:
Many educators who attended our Summer Institute expressed an interest in having access to Mary Spivey’s informative presentation about climate change and Minnesota’s biomes. We now have a video available of her presentation if you would like to review it, it is embedded below.
Mary Spivey’s PowerPoint presentation from the Summer Institute is also available to download from the online classroom if you would like to share it with your students. It can be found on the agenda of the Summer Institute page: http://classroom.willstegerfoundation.org/about/summer-institute
If you received an email from Ann with a survey about a possible spring event and have not yet responded, please do so. We would greatly appreciate your input, and thanks to those who have already responded!
Going to Education Minnesota on Thursday? Don't forget to stop by the Will Steger Foundation table or send colleagues to Kristen's session Explore Minnesota's Biomes in Your Classroom, 2:45-3:50 in Room 10!
Enjoy the cool autumn weather!
CERTs Seed Grants
The 2012 CERTs Seed Grants have been released, which support community-based clean energy projects. They are looking for projects that inspire other community groups to take action and provide models that can be replicated. Past funding has gone to projects in schools. For more information: http://www.cleanenergyresourceteams.org/rfp
Application deadline: November 15, 2011
Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow Video Contest
Grades 6-12 public schools can win a technology kit to create a video and then compete for technology grants for your school. The videos need to show how science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) can help improve the environment in your community. For more information: https://pages.samsung.com/us/sft/home.htm
Application deadline for project proposal: October 31, 2011
Want your students to get involved with YEA MN and learn about current climate events?
Join the YEA MN video conference with youth at the UN Climate Conference in Durbin, South Africa. This will take place Saturday, December 3 at the Edina Library from 12pm to 2pm. Contact Joe, YEA MN Coordinator with any questions about this event,
Co-sponsored by the Citizen’s Climate Lobby and Cool Planet.
This month we are turning our attention to the Arctic, which seems fitting given the recent scientific reports that are being released about the summer sea ice conditions and the important discussions that are unfolding regarding mineral rights, infrastructure, political power of indigenous peoples, and waterway access. It should be no surprise that extreme climate conditions are becoming the norm in the Arctic and that with these changes bring additional challenges for Arctic nations, including the United States. Minnesotans are already contributing to U.S., Canadian and broader international efforts to address the challenges and opportunities of the changing Arctic. To build further understanding of these critical issues, the Will Steger Foundation and the Consulate General of Canada in Minneapolis are pleased to partner with the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the Institute on the Environment to bring a first-of-its-kind discussion of The Changing Arctic: International Cooperation and Development to the Twin Cities, on October 27. Along with experts from Minnesota, Canada and elsewhere, we will examine diplomacy and international cooperation, economic and social development, as well as education, exploration and science in the Arctic from 1-6 pm at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School.
Our Clean Air Act Defense work continues, despite the Obama administration’s delay to set standards to reduce carbon pollution from power plants and continued Congressional attacks. We are organizing a series of meetings for youth climate leaders and health professionals with staff from Senator Franken and Klobuchar’s offices regarding the importance of a strong Clean Air Act this month. Youth are sending the message that they will make up 22% of eligible voters in the 2012 elections in Minnesota and as young people, they want the Clean Air Act to be protected for their future.
Nicole Rom, Executive Director
By Will Steger
Americans, at our core, traditionally have aspired to be the best at what we do. First in flight. First on the moon. Leading in innovation and medical discovery. We strive to lead. And that definitely resonates here in Minnesota.
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