Sherco coal plant is the largest single source of air pollution in Minnesota. Each year it emits approximately 16,000 tons of nitrogen oxides and 25,000 tons of sulfur dioxide into the air. Between 2002 and 2004 two of Sherco’s three coal boilers caused or contributed to visibility impairment in the Boundary Waters on 230 days and at Voyageurs National Park on 165 days. The same pollution that causes haze and smog in these parks also impacts public health. According to data compiled by the National Parks Conservation Association, health impacts from the plant include 91 premature deaths, 1,600 asthma attacks, and 12,062 lost work days in 2010.
In September 2009, MCEA and others petitioned the Federal Land Manager to certify Sherco as reasonably attributable to visibility impairment (RAVI) in these national parks. The Federal Land Manager agreed and certified Sherco as RAVI. A RAVI certification requires EPA to determine best available control technology (BART) to reduce the smog and haze-causing pollutants that the plant emits. Two and half years after the RAVI certification, EPA still had not acted, and MCEA and partners issued a notice of intent to sue. EPA still failed to act in the following six months, and therefore MCEA and co-plaintiffs filed a suit in the U.S. District Courts for Minnesota in December 2012.
In June 2014, MCEA and its partners settled the lawsuit against EPA that could lead to big changes at Sherco 1 and 2, Xcel's large, old coal plants in Sherburne County. MCEA's lawsuit alleged that the federal findings triggered a duty for EPA to determine the extent of the impairment and what additional pollution controls are needed at Sherco to eliminate it. The settlement calls for EPA to issue a draft determination in February 2015 that will be finalized in August 2015. The result, we hope, will be cleaner air for our precious parks and for those of us who breathe in Sherco's harmful pollutants every day.
Click to read the press release concerning the settlement of the lawsuit (6/25/14)
Click to read the consent decree between MCEA and the U.S. EPA settling the lawsuit (6/24/14)
Other MCEA Documents
Notice of Intent to Sue (5/9/2012)
Sherco RAVI BART Complaint (12/5/2012)
Sherco Complaint Exhibit A (12/5/2012)
Sherco Complaint Exhibit B (12/5/2012)
Sherco Lawsuit Press Release (12/05/2012)
EPA to reassess Sherco coal power plant's effect on two national parks, Star Tribune, June 25, 2014
Xcel's Sherco plant draws EPA scrutiny over Voyageurs haze, Pioneer Press, June 25, 2014
EPA to examine Sherco pollution in haze dispute, Minnesota Public Radio, June 25, 2014
EPA agrees to consider whether Sherco power plant contributes to haze at national parks, BWCA, Star Tribune, June 25, 2014
Clean Air Groups call on EPA to require Clean up at Minnesota’s Dirtiest Coal Plant, Press Release, May 9, 2012
Green groups threaten EPA with lawsuit, Minnesota Public Radio, May 9, 2012
Clean Air Groups call on EPA to require Clean up at Minnesota's Dirtiest Coal Plant, National Parks Conservation Association, May 9, 2012