Minnesotans Demand Environmental Review of Oil-burning Power Plant Proposal

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Tuesday, May 10, 2022
Hudson Kingston (202) 792-1277
Patty O’Keefe (952) 221-3977
Anne Borgendale (320) 269-2984


Minnesotans Demand Environmental Review of Oil-burning Power Plant Proposal

Groups Encourage MN Residents and Landowners to Sign MEPA Petition


Cambridge, MN —A proposal to allow a Cambridge, Minnesota gas-fired power plant to burn both gas and diesel fuel oil runs afoul of Minnesota environmental law, according to a petition launched this week by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and two other environmental groups. The petition asks the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (Commission) to conduct a review of the environmental effects of burning gas and diesel fuel at the plant.

Minnesota law allows state residents to petition agencies to perform an environmental review when a project they oversee has the potential to significantly affect the human environment. Great River Energy (GRE), which operates the Cambridge plant, has attempted to skirt environmental reviews by calling its proposal to burn gas and diesel fuels a “minor alteration” of an existing permit in its application to the Commission.

“Great River Energy’s proposal would allow the plant to burn dirtier fuel, which would greatly increase the plant’s emissions of greenhouse gases, arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, and other hazardous air pollutants” said Hudson Kingston, a Litigation and Policy Attorney at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “This is not a ‘minor alteration’ – it is a huge step backwards for Minnesota’s climate efforts.”

The groups’ petition notes that a comparison of the Cambridge plant to GRE’s plant in Elk River, Minnesota that already burns diesel fuel demonstrates that the potential for a large increase in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions is likely.

“The potential climate change and air pollution impacts of this ‘minor alteration’ to the Cambridge plant are clearly dangerous to our local and global communities,” said Patty O’Keefe, Beyond Coal Senior Organizing Representative at the Sierra Club North Star Chapter. “Our members’ families live and play in the Cambridge area and don’t want to see a new oil-burning plant on their doorstep, when the state has to get to zero emissions in order to keep our air clean and prevent catastrophic climate change.”

“The Commission needs to undertake an environmental review of GRE’s proposal to burn dirty fuels in our communities,” says Erik Hatlestad, Energy Democracy Program Director at Clean Up the River Environment (CURE). “The negative impacts of plant operations and delivery trucks on those using nearby sports fields and playgrounds, not to mention a nearby elementary school, could be enormous,” he continued, noting that trucks will be used to deliver the 500,000 gallons of diesel for on-site storage, and the potential for spills on nearby waterways and agricultural land has not been assessed.

If the petition receives 100 signatures from Minnesota residents it will require the Commission to decide on whether the proposed project will undergo an Environmental Assessment Worksheet or Environmental Impact Statement. The groups plan to submit the petition to the Environmental Quality Board and the Public Utilities Commission when the petition signature period ends on May 23. The Commission is accepting comments on the proposal through May 27, and both Minnesota residents and non-residents can file comments in the docket.


Read the MEPA petition here

Submit your comment directly to the PUC in docket 22-122 here 
Follow the instructions, or send comment directly to (indicate comment is for docket 22-122) 

Learn more about PEER’s climate work here

Learn more about CURE’s rural energy democracy work here

Learn more about the North Star Chapter’s Beyond Oil Campaign here

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