First of it's kind health-equity study examines impacts of fossil fuels on Minnesotans
The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Sierra Club, Fresh Energy and Clean Grid Alliance commissioned Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy to conduct a health equity study as part of our comment on Minnesota Power’s Integrated Resource Plan.
While a few other states have started using health analyses in the regulation of the power sector, the concept is still novel in Minnesota. Our coalition hopes that changes.
Our report focused on the following questions:
- How are Minnesota Power’s resources impacting Minnesotans’ health?
- Which Minnesota communities are suffering the worst impacts?
- What communities are facing the biggest energy cost burden?
- If built, what are the actual expected greenhouse gas emissions of Minnesota Power’s proposed Nemadji Trail Energy Center considering upstream methane emissions?
Here is a high level summary of the report’s related key findings:
- Coal and biomass facilities cause respiratory illness, hospital admissions, heart attacks, and even premature death. Minnesota Power’s coal facilities – Boswell 3, Boswell 4, and Milton R. Young – are estimated to have caused a combined 9 deaths in 2021. If Minnesota Power’s current IRP for 2021-2035 is implemented, the coal plants are projected to cause an additional 58 deaths and cause approximately $644 million in health impact costs. Minnesota Power’s Hibbard coal and biomass plant caused roughly 6 deaths last year and $70 million in health impacts. If allowed to continue operating until 2035, as Minnesota Power currently proposes, Hibbard is projected to cause another roughly 40 deaths and $437 million in health impacts.
- The populations surrounding Hibbard and Boswell are predominantly low-income. Additionally, those surrounding communities rank high on the authors’ “Demographic Index” indicators, which considers whether the community is a population of color, is low income, is linguistically isolated, has low education attainment, and has a high proportion of residents under 5 and over 64. Overall, those findings indicate the populations surrounding Boswell and Hibbard are particularly vulnerable to pollution.
- Households in low-income census tracts where there are higher shares of renters and Black residents are facing the highest energy cost burdens.
- While Minnesota Power’s proposed NTEC is projected to directly emit 2.24 millions tons of CO2 annually, PSE’s analysis found that actual greenhouse gas impacts from the plant will be double that over the next 20 years due to the upstream fugitive methane associated with gas production, processing, and transmission