Meet Julie Risser!

June 17th, 2005

Today I had the opportunity and good fortune to meet Julie Risser! She’s the one who wrote the Letter to the Editor in this Wednesday’s Northfield News, cut and pasted below. She’d said in her letter that she’d be here for the Carleton 2005 reunion, and so we found some time to get acquainted today (anyone who writes a letter like that, as my “little brother” would say, “Must be some friend of Carol’s!”). It turns out she and I went to the same high school, Southwest in Minneapolis, where her father was a teacher. I only went there for a semester before transferring to the Central Magnet Program, and we’re nearly a generation apart, but maybe it’s our early background similarities that lead to our similar beliefs now. It sure isn’t our present lives — she’s an Edina stay-at-home mom who used to teach Art History at Carleton, needless to say, our lives are worlds apart, which we both find amusing.

Julie got into energy issues when one of her daughters came home from school and asked about acid rain, and she naively said, “Mommy can stop acid rain.” Since then, she’s focused on coal plants, is working on energy legislative issues with the League of Women Voters, and recently went to testify about mercury in our water at a federal hearing in Chicago. Her daughters Helen and Allison are featured a Sierra Club handout on mercury called The Bush Administration Serves up Mercury to Women and Children. Here’s a version of it used in Kentucky, sans the photo of the Risser daughters!

Here’s her Northfield News Letter to the Editor:

Reader questions bill

To the editor:

As a Carleton alum planning on attending reunion weekend; as a parent who knows energy legislation is personal because it effects our economy, air quality, water quality, and even ability of our children to learn; and as a concerned citizen who traveled to Chicago to testify for preservation of the Clean Air Act, I took interest a letter printed in June 11’s paper. The writer’s position that the 2005 Omnibus Energy bill is a reflection of the governor’s “guiding energy policies of promoting reliable, low-cost energy from environmentally superior sources” left me impressed with adjective selection — but unconvinced; indeed the primary argument offered is superficial: a lot of elected officials and some special interests liked it.

I so want to believe that the Omnibus Energy bill will serve Minnesota wind farmers well. Yes, the community-based Economic Development (CBED) tariff will set a favorable higher initial price for community-owned wind projects, but there is nothing in the legislation that requires utilities to purchase this electricity. The writer contends the Omnibus Energy bill “keeps the state on track to have 20 percent of electric energy used in the state come from renewable energy sources by 2015.” Most people, especially in Northfield where wind turbines exist, probably thought this meant energy from Minnesota wind farms. Think again. There is no requirement that the renewable energy be produced here in Minnesota. There is no Renewable Energy Standard in this bill, only the 2001 optional “objective.”

This legislation also allows for “streamlining” of the transmission line approval process for energy sources that are for renewable generation, but also for generation that is not renewable. It’s a huge win for the utility companies and coal interests in the Dakotas that will use Minnesota transmission and deposit mercury in Minnesota waters. That is not a win for Minnesotans.

The writer leaves readers with the impression that Rep. Cox and Gov. Pawlenty did well by Minnesotans when they approved this legislation. If Cox and Pawlenty are serious about Minnesota’s economic and environmental sustainability, they would have supported the Renewable Energy Standard (RES). Northfielders should know that Cox voted against RES and Pawlenty did nothing to advance it. This bill should have closed the loophole allowing coal gasification plants to tap the State’s Renewable Energy Fund, $10 million that was then denied to legitimate renewable energy projects, and it should have revoked Excelsior Energy’s exemption from Certificate of Need and revoked Excelsior’s power of eminent domain. The fact that none of these things got done and because coal interests benefit from the Omnibus Energy bill indicates that legislators care more about Western mining interests and out-of-state wind interests than Minnesota wind farmers and economic development, our health, or our waters’ purity.

Julie Risser

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