I’m no expert on the history of South Dakota’s proposed Big Stone II coal-fired power plant, but I do know that on January 15, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted unanimously to approve the construction of transmission lines into Minnesota, a vote that paved the way for the project to proceed. Minnesota, whose Next Generation law dictates progressive reductions in our state’s carbon emissions, endorsed significant increases in emissions thanks to more coal, and lots of it, just across our border.
This is the kind of bass-ackward news Americans are far too accustomed to hearing and enduring. Learned helplessness has taken root in us over the course of the Bush administration. Bad news and failures have bred cynicism and toxic complacency.
But that’s the bad dream. And it’s over. As hard as it is to believe, we have just awoken into a new reality. A week after the PUC’s depressing decision, the Environmental Protection Agency swooped in like a golden eagle bearing a letter to Big Stone II, citing illegalities in their pollution control permitting process. With this swift action, the EPA put a halt, for now and possibly for good, to this terribly misguided proposal.
Wow! The EPA moved to protect the environment? Listened to the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action and other organizations who’ve been fighting Big Stone II for years? Exercised federal authority to do the right thing? Pinch me.
It still feels as if the Inauguration of President Obama transpired in the suspended light of a dream instead of the chill of a winter’s day in Washington, D.C. It seems too good to be true. The EPA’s action is proof that we now have people in power who value science, take climate change seriously and are taking steps to avert catastrophe.
My middle son is rehearsing his role as the Wizard in a school production of The Wizard of Oz . For my part, I feel like the fur-helmeted soldier who bows at Dorothy’s feet and barks out gruffly, “Hail to Dorothy! The Wicked Witch is dead!”