View Case Record, RP-16-386
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The Otter Tail Power Integrated Resource Plan is encouraging in its proposed expansion of wind and solar power and retirement of the Hoot Lake coal-fired power plant. These measures are clearly in the best interests of Minnesotans. It is well-accepted that coal plant pollution has very significant impacts on our health and environment.
However, the proposal for a natural gas plant deserves closer examination. Natural gas or methane is many times more potent than carbon dioxide in retaining heat energy in our atmosphere. When it escapes without being burned it becomes a dangerous addition to the chemical stew trapping heat and warming our planet. And the warming climate has had a number of unfortunate effects here in Minnesota including: more frequent, severe and expensive extreme rain and flood events; longer pollen seasons and worsening air pollution causing more asthma, allergies and heart disease; and milder winters allowing the spread of disease causing insects. It is in the best interests of Minnesotans that we avoid any fuel sources likely to worsen this situation.
Recently 100,000 metric tons of methane leaked from a storage facility near Los Angeles. Detected in October 2015, the leak was finally sealed in February. Such episodic major releases are superimposed on sustained leakages of over 3% of produced gas around the United States. Gas is leaking from fracking operations, gas pipelines, pumping stations, and storage facilities. U.S. methane emissions have mushroomed in the 20 years since fracking technology has been widely deployed. Methane from the oil and gas industry is the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gases in the country.
Compressor pumping stations are placed every 50-100 miles along pipelines to keep the gas moving. As of 2008 there were 305,000 miles of gas pipeline with over 1,400 compressor stations operating in 48 states. Compressor stations emit hundreds of thousands of tons of greenhouse gases and pollutants that include known carcinogens and compounds toxic to humans of all ages. Releases are often in the form of bursts or spikes that may be undetected by air-quality monitors. Last year the American Medical Association adopted a resolution, “Protecting Public Health from Natural Gas Infrastructure,” supporting comprehensive Health Impact Assessments of all such installations.
I urge our Public Utilities Commission to consider these issues when evaluating the Integrated Resource Plan of Otter Tail Power.
Thank you, Bruce D. Snyder MD