Clean power celebrates its first anniversary

Keith Dent (second from right), and Keith Ellison (center) along with attendees (including students of the Just-B-Solar Camp) of the August 17 Clean Power anniversary event (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

Minnesota’s Clean Power Plan is now a year old. Activists, elected officials and others recently celebrated the anniversary at the Minneapolis Urban League’s Northside headquarters.

The plan was first announced in August 2015 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the first national effort to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Commissioner John Linc Stine told the gathering of adults and children that Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton should be given credit for his advocacy to ensure that the Power Plan becomes a reality during his term in office.

“This has been a journey,” said Karen Monahan. “Some of you have been a part of this since the beginning.”

Monahan is a longtime local environmental justice activist and senior organizing representative for Beyond Coal, a Sierra Club campaign. Its “main objective is to replace dirty coal with clean energy by mobilizing grassroots activists in local communities,” according to their website. Monahan noted that a coalition of local groups, such as Neighborhoods Organizing for Change and MPIRG, among others, as well as such national organizations as the Sierra Club, labor unions and elected officials, came together to work for racial and economic justice, of which environmental justice is a core value.

(l-r) SEIU Vice President Jigme Ugen, MPIRG Organizer Mahyar Sorour, and Beyond Coal campaign’s Karen Monahan.
(l-r) SEIU Vice President Jigme Ugen, MPIRG Organizer Mahyar Sorour, and Beyond Coal campaign’s Karen Monahan. (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

“She can bring everyday people to the room and reach out to people who don’t usually come together,” stated SEIU Vice President Jigme Ugen as he praised Monahan’s work.

U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) recalled several years ago when Monahan and others began meeting at the Urban League on environmental justice issues. “We have the right to live in a clean, safe environment just like anyone else,” Ellison said.

“When we are talking about Black lives matter, I’m [also] talking about racial justice and environmental justice,” noted Michael McDowell of Black Lives Matter, who was there to commemorate the occasion and also performed a spoken word piece based on “A Change is Gonna’ Come.”

“I’m proud to be standing here celebrating,” added Barni Hussein, who was an environmental justice intern. She is now a Minnesota DFL community organizer. Several children who participated in a week-long “Solar Camp” at Shiloh Temple Church gave a short presentation on what they learned. They also had exhibits at the event.

“The kids did excellent,” says its director Keith Dent, who owns Just-B-Solar, a solar business. (See “Just-B-Solar Camp introduces youth to their future,” in the MSR’s August 25 issue, which features an interview with Dent.) “It was a learning experience. I’m looking forward to do more events.”

Monahan said there is more work to be done to not only ensure that the state Power Plan is in place, but also “to make sure racial and economic justice [issues] are at the forefront of the final plan.”

Although the EPA’s Clean Power Plan has been challenged in the courts, the MPCA is continuing its work to complete the state’s plan. Currently all states are required to submit their final plans by September 2018. “We want your input,” stressed Stine.

The event was a time to celebrate if only for an evening, said Monahan. “I’m so pleased to see our community come together,” she said. “This is about a celebration, a fellowship.”


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