Xcel Energy’s Sherburne County Power Plant is Minnesota’s Biggest Global Warming Polluter, 21st Most Carbon-Polluting Plant in the Country

Media Releases

Media Contacts
Michelle Hesterberg

Environment Minnesota Research and Policy Center

 Minneapolis, MN – On the heels of summer storms that caused record power outages in the Twin Cities and in the midst of a severe drought across the Midwest, a new report from the Environment Minnesota Research & Policy Center finds that Xcel Energy’s Sherburne County or “Sherco” Power Plant is the state’s biggest carbon polluter, producing as much global warming pollution as 2.7 million cars each year. Sherco is the 21stmost carbon-polluting power plant in the country, according to the report.

Scientists predict that extreme weather events will become more frequent and severe for future generations, unless we cut the dangerous carbon pollution fueling the problem.

“America’s dirtiest power plants are the elephant in the room when it comes to global warming,” said Michelle Hesterberg, Federal Field Organizer for Environment Minnesota.  “If we want a cleaner, safer future for our kids, we can’t afford to ignore power plants’ overwhelming contribution to global warming. For Minnesota, tackling the problem means cleaning up the dirtiest power plants.”

The report, titled America’s Dirtiest Power Plants,’ comes as the Obama administration readies a new set of rules to tackle global warming. It illustrates the scale of carbon pollution from Minnesota’s power sector and ranks Minnesota’s biggest carbon polluters.

Key findings from the report include:

  • In Minnesota, the top five most polluting power plants are Sherco near St. Cloud, Clay Boswell in Grand Rapids, Allen S King in Stillwater, Black Dog in Burnsville, and the Taconite Harbor Energy Center on the North Shore.
  • Minnesota’s power plants are responsible for 31% of the state’s carbon emissions.
  • Xcel Energy’s Sherco Power Plant is the 21st most carbon-polluting power plant in the nation.
  • Minnesota’s power plants produce as much carbon each year as 6.1 million cars.

“If we continue emitting carbon at this rate, Minnesota will lose its northern conifer forest and about one-third of associated wildlife species native to Minnesota, including moose, lynx, and some songbirds,” said Lee E Frelich, Director of the University of Minnesota Center for Forest Ecology. “This business as usual scenario would result in Minnesota looking like Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas by the end of the century.”

“Of all the issues we face as a society, the problem of global warming is paramount and we, as a society, must make it our first priority. There is no room for debate, climate change is happening now as a result of global warming,” said Sharla Gardner, Duluth City Councilor, 3rd District. “It’s happening as a direct result of human beings as individuals, and those responsible for industry and power plants, discharging carbon emissions into the atmosphere.”

This summer, President Obama directed his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to propose limits on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants, the largest single source of carbon pollution. In a major step, the EPA is expected to propose an updated rule for cutting carbon pollution from new power plants on September 20. Minnesotans have already submitted nearly 50,000 public comments in support of limiting carbon pollution from power plants.

“Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard has made Minnesota a leader in climate solutions like wind energy,” said Beth Soholt, Executive Director of Wind on the Wires. “But this report shows that we can’t solve the climate crisis without continuing to invest in more renewable energy like wind and solar.”

“Public agencies bear the responsibility of doing what is in the best interest of the public, which is why St. Louis County has aggressively pursued energy efficiency, energy conservation, and renewable energy initiatives, projects, and programs for the past 15 years,” said Tony Mancuso, Property Management Director for St. Louis County. “Fiscal and environmental responsibility – everyone wins.”

Environment Minnesota called on state leaders like Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken to demonstrate strong support of the President’s plan and support national limits on carbon pollution from power plants. “Minnesota’s success with our Renewable Energy Standard and new solar energy policies means we have an obligation, and a great opportunity, to lead on cutting carbon,” said Hesterberg.