BlueGreen Alliance

Good Jobs, Clean Environment, Green Economy

Posts About Minnesota

Cities in the United States are struggling with aging and failing infrastructure systems—ones that will likely be unable to withstand the severe impacts of climate change. We’ve seen this with Hurricane Sandy, and in Duluth, Minnesota, where the roads were washed away several years ago by the worst flood in Duluth’s history.
This problem is observed in today’s Star Tribune, with an editorial outlining what the mayors of two of the state’s major cities say is the biggest problem they have yet to fix: the cities’ aging infrastructure for street, sewer and related systems.
Building smarter cities will not only improve our infrastructure and make our cities more efficient, it can have a significant impact in the fight against climate change.
A new working paper from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate outlines the importance of building smarter cities as a strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In "Accelerating Low-Carbon Development in the World’s Cities," the Commission says that two-thirds of the global population will live in urban areas by 2050, and recommends that cities “commit to developing and implementing low-carbon urban development strategies by 2020,” calling for an aid package of $1 billion to unleash $5-10 billion in private investment. 
As reported by The Guardian:
“Putting cities on a course of smart growth – with expanded public transit, energy-saving buildings, and better waste management - could save as much as $22tn and avoid the equivalent in carbon pollution of India’s entire annual output of greenhouse gasses, according to leading economists.”
The report comes just a few months ahead of critical negotiations in Paris around a global agreement to fight climate change. The report’s contributors say that this strategy could help close the gap between currently committed reductions in greenhouse gases and that which is needed to limit the world’s global temperature increase to 2° C.
Building smarter cities seems like a no brainer. Building efficiency, transit, renewable energy and waste management are all strategies worth pursuing in cities in the United States and across the world.
But political will is needed to make these changes, both in Paris and here in the United States.  
Posted In: Minnesota, Infrastructure, Climate Change


The U.S. is facing international pressure to put our money where our mouth is on climate change, but President Obama faces an uphill battle to get the funding needed for the U.S. to contribute to a $100 billion fund to help poor countries adapt to climate impacts. (The Hill)


This week – The EPA will be honing in on the Clean Power Plan and a rule to protect the nation’s waters as the comment periods for them start to wind down. And, public interest groups will push for stronger health and safety protections by increasing enforcement of safeguards already on the books. (The Hill)

Cutting ties- Google became the latest company to sever ties with the ultra-right wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) because they say ALEC is “literally lying” about climate change. (Tech Times)

Carbon pricing – This piece examines the political realities facing the U.S. when it comes to putting a price on carbon pollution. (New York Times)

Oh, hey, more gridlock! – A proposal from Republican Senator Lamar Alexander may make the National Labor Relations Board as deadlocked as Congress. (Los Angeles Times)

Economic risk of climate change – Kate Gordon focuses on the economic risks of climate change that America will face if we do not act. (Wall Street Journal)

Badger State – In Wisconsin, utilities are still trying to push for policies that will limit the ability of homeowners and businesses to adopt solar energy. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Lake Erie – As our climate changes, it will make it harder to protect the Great Lakes from dangerous algae blooms—like the one that left hundreds of thousands of residents along Lake Erie without water earlier this summer. (Toledo Blade)

Congrats – United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard was named by President Obama to the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations. (Insurance News Net)


New York Times: A Global Climate Treaty Is Crucial

The Hill: European Cars 38% dirtier than standards say

Louisville Courier-Journal: Indiana boosts use of renewable energy

New York Times: A Group Shout on Climate Change

Midwest Energy News: Advocates: FirstEnergy efficiency cuts part of larger pattern

Philadelphia Inquirer: Change in the air

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Posted In: Minnesota

On a beautiful summer morning on Minnesota’s Iron Range last week, local members from several unions including the United Steelworkers—many of whom work in the taconite mines—and International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) met with U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (MN – 8) to talk about the need and opportunity presented by repairing America’s infrastructure systems and making large, industrial energy users in Minnesota more efficient. About 25 union members gathered in Mountain Iron for the roundtable discussion that also featured State Rep. Jason Metsa (DFL –Virginia). 

Congressman Nolan spoke on a variety of topics, including the need for Congress to address critical transportation needs by passing a long term, fully funded transportation bill by through Congress and the importance of strong Buy America provisions to ensure materials used to repair our infrastructure systems are made here in the U.S. “I was pleased to be part of this great event and it is critical that we invest in our infrastructure to make our communities safe and healthy, create family-sustaining jobs for workers, and to cut down inefficiencies,” said Nolan. 

"it is critical that we invest in our infrastructure to make our communities safe and healthy, create family-sustaining jobs for workers, and to cut down inefficiencies. - U.S. Rep. Nolan

Bob Ryan, Rapid Response Coordinator for United Steelworkers (USW) District 11 also spoke to the gathering saying, “Repairing our infrastructure will create good, union jobs making the steel to rebuild bridges and rails and the concrete that will be poured to repair our roads, and building the systems used to generate renewable energy, like wind turbines and solar panels. And, it will help our environment.” 

In addition to the infrastructure focus, the group discussed the need to make Minnesota’s industry more energy efficient, highlighting a new law that passed this year that will allow the Department of Commerce to provide low-interest loans to companies, hospitals, and other large energy users to cut their energy waste. Rep. Metsa championed the law in the legislature and Ryan said of it, “this is a good start toward improving energy efficiency for large energy users and we should build on this program to implement other strategies to help companies remain competitive by reducing energy waste.” 

Earlier this year, the BlueGreen Alliance released recommendations for policy changes and executive actions to spur industrial energy efficiency efforts in the state. Competing to Win: Spurring Industrial Energy Efficiency in Minnesota summarized the benefits of increasing industrial energy efficiency, quantified the opportunity for the state of Minnesota, identified the barriers preventing projects from being installed, and issued a series of recommendations to address these barriers.   

All in all, it was a fine event at the local city hall where solar panels from a local manufacturer help power the facility and wind turbines stand majestically on a ridge overlooking the small community. We thank Congressman Nolan, Rep. Metsa, and the union members who joined us to show their support for a more prosperous and efficient economy. 

Posted In: Minnesota, Energy Efficiency, Infrastructure, United Steelworkers, Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union

The following blog is from Roxanne Johnson, Research Analyst with the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation 

I read last week that the shutdown of the federal government cost the economy $24 billion. That’s a huge number! What does $24 billion even look like? (I am, of course, thinking of this.) I knew I wasn’t the only one asking what else we could have done with that money, so I looked around for some perspective.  Here’s what I found.

Slate tells us that Congress could have spent that $24 billion on the following:

  • 1.5 NASAs
  • Every American could get 15 $5 Footlongs from Subway
  • Paid for the damage of Hurricane Charley and Hurricane Frances combined
  • Sent 1,078,119 kids to college in their home state gives us:

  • The American Red Cross's total yearly operating expenses... multiplied by seven.
  • 83 Boeing Dreamliner planes.
  • 6,315 Super Bowl ads. out of Alabama gives us some state-specific perspective:

  • Sending everyone in Alabama 500 pounds of 16/20 count shrimp, headless, from the Gulf of Mexico.
  • 7,092,198 years of Affordable Care Act coverage in Alabama.

These are all interesting, but I spend a lot of my time thinking about infrastructure (thinking, reading, writing, dreaming, obsessing…). So what occurred to me was with that $24 billion, we could have repaired a lot of America.

Below are some numbers I pulled together.

  • Forty percent of the cost of necessary infrastructure repairs for the state of Minnesota (where I live) for the entire year; which could have created or maintained up to 866,000 jobs.[1]
  • According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the national highway-funding gap in 2010 was $63 billion. The $24 billion spent on a government shutdown could have funded forty percent of this gap, creating or maintaining up to 667,000 jobs.
  • According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the existing deficiency for transit investment is $74 billion. The $24 billion spent on a government shutdown could have funded 32 percent of this gap, creating or maintaining up to 866,500 jobs.
  • According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the drinking and wastewater capital spending gap in 2010 was $54.8 billion. The $24 billion spent on a government shutdown could have funded 44 percent of this gap, creating or maintaining up to 480,000 jobs.

This shutdown cost us $24 billion. It seems like an unfathomable (is that a word?) amount of money to me as an individual, but in terms of a three trillion dollar national budget I guess it’s just a tiny piece. Pretty sure that doesn’t justify wasting it, though.

[1] BlueGreen Alliance Minnesota Infrastructure Jobs Report (to be released, so stay tuned)

Posted In: Minnesota

While clean energy activists in many other parts of the country are working to protect current renewable energy policies, Minnesota today has a new law that will spur growth in the state’s solar sector and will create good jobs for workers. Governor Mark Dayton signed into law a solar energy standard of 1.5 percent by 2020 for investor-owned utilities, with a goal of 10 percent solar energy by 2030. The standard was part of a larger omnibus energy bill that passed the Minnesota State House and Senate last week. 

In states like North Carolina, Ohio, and Kansas, there have been legislative attempts to reduce or eliminate their clean energy policies driving growth. The best defense against them has been that, in each of those states, those policies have created good jobs for workers.  These attempts have been clearly driven by groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council — a group funded by billionaires looking out for their own profits at the expense of clean air and good wages and benefits for workers. 

Thankfully, most of these attacks have been fended off for the moment. But, ALEC and their ilk have succeeded in their goal of preventing further progress on clean energy by putting activists and clean energy supporters on the defensive. Instead of focusing on where to go next, many state legislatures are instead deliberating going backwards. 

That’s why it’s such good news to see what Minnesota has been able to do. Leaders in the legislature and Governor Mark Dayton have moved the ball forward on solar energy in the state. It is a first step toward more bold measures — like making the Minnesota Renewable Electricity Standard stronger and reducing red tape standing in the way of getting clean energy projects off the ground. 

We can have a cleaner energy future if we keep working to push our local, state and federal government to be bold. California, Minnesota, Vermont and many other states have been leading the way. Now, it’s time for the federal government to act to ensure we reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change, creates good jobs for workers in every part of the country, and leaves a strong environment and a prosperous economy for future generations of Americans to build upon.

Posted In: Minnesota

Carol Dombek and Jerome Balsimo at the MN State Capitol. Last week, the Minnesota State Energy Sector Partnership held an event at the State Capitol in St. Paul to highlight the success of the grantees of their three-year, $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The partnership was funded as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The BlueGreen Alliance Foundation’s Anoka Green and Minnesota Green programs were among the grantees that received funding from the grant and their successes were highlighted during the daylong event. 

Jerome Balsimo, Training Manager for the GreenPOWER program, was on hand at the event to share the successes of both the programs. “We’ve had great success helping people find jobs and giving them job skills they can use to make the companies they work for more efficient and green,” said Balsimo. “Eighty-five percent of the unemployed participants in the Anoka Green program were placed in jobs and 76 percent of the participants in the Minnesota Green program have gotten jobs so far.” 

Anoka Green combines the GreenPOWER training — a series of workshops designed to help workers find energy and water efficiency and reduce waste, saving money for companies — with a Precision Sheet Metal training course at the Anoka County Technical College. Minnesota Green combined GreenPOWER with additional training in medical device manufacturing or customized welding training. Over 53 percent of the participants in Minnesota Green found employment in the medical device field, with the remainder finding jobs in the welding industry. 

Pairing green skills that reduce waste and increase profits for companies with manufacturing skills was a natural match and was especially important during the recession, when jobs were scarce and there plenty of competition for the jobs that were available. 

“Our intent was to do all this training and get all these jobs, but no one was hiring. We had to regroup,” said Carol Dombek, the Program Manager for the Minnesota State Energy Sector Partnership. “We’ve got some great projects here in Minnesota, we’re getting people trained and getting people into jobs. 

“We will exceed all of our goals by the time the project is done on June 1,” she added. 

Dombek says the Minnesota State Energy Sector Partnership was recognized as one of the 25 top performing ARRA grants. The partnership funded 25 projects around the state in total, training over 1,700 workers and 1,000 workers are expected to enter employment by mid-2013. You can get more information on the Governor’s Workforce Development Council website

Photo: Jerome Balsimo and Carol Dombek at the Minnesota State Capitol.

Posted In: Minnesota, Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency

Recent weeks have seen a big shift in attention in Minnesota’s Legislature on two key issues for the states future: clean energy and transit.


Earlier this week, transit advocates — including the BlueGreen Alliance’s Regional Program Manager for Minnesota Katie Gulley — held a news conference to promote a bill to fund and expand transit around the state. Dozens gathered in the State Capitol to support the effort. From Twin Cities Daily Planet

The goal is a “comprehensive build-out” of public transit in Minnesota, one designed to keep the state’s economy competitive – and its environment clean.

Transit is a “vital component to our cleaner future,” said Katie Gulley, regional program director for the BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of labor and environmental groups. Expanding the transit system, she added, will reduce carbon emissions and “ensure people around the state can get where they need to go efficiently and cost effectively.”

Of course, transit investments also create jobs – a fact not lost on the hard-hat-wearing students from Summit Academy OIC, who flanked speakers at the transit press conference. The Minneapolis vocational school provides training for adults from economically depressed communities.

Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, a Minneapolis DFLer whose district includes Summit Academy, co-authored Senate File 297. “In addition to getting people to jobs, this bill is critical to jobs,” he said.

Clean Energy 

An effort by organizations — including the BlueGreen Alliance — to raise the state’s Renewable Electricity Standard to 40 percent by 2030, increase energy efficiency, and implement a state solar energy standard, had hearings in the House earlier in the week and in the Senate yesterday. 

After passage of the House bill, the Minnesota Clean Energy & Jobs campaign released this statement:

“Today, we are one-step closer to a cleaner energy future in Minnesota. The House Energy Omnibus bill includes an increase in the Renewable Electricity Standard, establishes a solar energy standard for our state, and includes critical local power provisions that will make these clean energy sources more affordable for Minnesotans. All of these measures will help to ensure that Minnesota is a center for clean, renewable energy and that we are creating and supporting jobs in our state.” 

It’s an exciting time to be a Minnesotan. Like other parts of the country, such as California, forward-thinking leaders are working build up clean energy and transit, not tear them down like in other parts of the country. 

We’ll keep you informed of the progress of both these important measures.

PHOTO: The BlueGreen Alliance's Katie Gulley addresses reporters at a press event supporting transit investment in Minnesota. 

Posted In: Minnesota, Transportation

The following post is from Stephanie Hernandez, Communications Intern for the BlueGreen Alliance.

The recent report that shows Minnesota’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions fell three percent from 2005 to 2010 is great news. Like many parts of the world, Minnesota’s climate has been affected by climate change and the news of reduced carbon pollution shines a light on future opportunities to reduce emissions even more. A three percent reduction is no small achievement, but recent testimony by local scientists on the changes we’re seeing in local weather demonstrate that there’s much more to be done.

We can see evidence of the changing weather locally in events like the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, which for a second year in a row faces the chance of postponement or cancellation due to insufficient snow. Recent testimony at the Minnesota State House of Representatives hearings, provided by University of Minnesota scientists, echoed troubling evidence of weather changes we’re seeing across the country. The U.S. Global Change Research Project reported earlier this month that “the American Midwest could see another 4.9-degree increase in average temperatures by midcentury.” An increased temperature — in addition to the 3-degree increase already seen in Minnesota over the last 30 years — can only mean more storms and unpredictable weather.

With this in mind, there is a push for legislators to work towards policies that do even more to address climate change. Minnesota is already a leader in renewable energy — passing a Renewable Electricity Standard that was signed by then-Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty — as well as energy efficiency and renewable fuels. Due to these efforts, electricity production and transportation led to declines in utility emissions- dropping 13 percent —and transportation emissions — dropping 10 percent. Where there’s a concerted effort to address climate change, we are seeing results. The real question is where we can capitalize on opportunities to reduce emissions even more in the future.

One of the unintended consequences of the economic recession and slowing manufacturing production was a drop in emissions. Now that industrial production is picking back up again, we’ll need to find a new way to cut back on emissions.  

David Thornton, assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, stated about emissions “We’re not sure about where it’s going to stabilize. Emissions from transportation are likely to continue to fall as automakers work toward raising the current mandated average fuel efficiency from 29 miles per gallon to 54.5 in 2025.”

Without a doubt, Minnesota’s drop in greenhouse gas emissions is a crucial indicator that emission reduction is a realistic possibility. Minnesotans should continue to lead the way towards greener climate and energy efficiency. And, if their past efforts are any indication of future performance, they will. 

Posted In: Minnesota, Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency

The following post is from Tarryl Clark, National Co-Chair of the BlueGreen Alliance’s Jobs21! campaign. 

Earlier today I joined dozens of proud Minnesotans who heard U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announce a $3.3 million grant for the St. Cloud areas Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC) to renovate its bus operations center to accommodate vehicles powered by Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). In addition, the funds would be used to build a CNG fueling station. The last 10 buses purchased by the MTC were purchased locally from the New Flyer Bus Company in St. Cloud, who employs members of IUE-CWA.

The Secretary was joined by local leaders and U.S. Senator Amy Kloubchar, and he spoke about the importance of sustainable transportation systems to jobs and our environment. “In Minnesota and across the country, President Obama is committed to investing in sustainable transportation systems that improve access to jobs, education and medical care for millions of riders, while bringing cleaner air to our communities and reducing our dependence on oil,” said Secretary LaHood. “These projects will also help transit agencies operate more efficiently, so they save money in the long run.”  

The grants are part of the Clean Fuels Grant Program, and in total 27 projects around the U.S. are receiving almost $60 million in funds to get communities to purchase greener buses that reduce emission and have improved fuel economy. Check out this map to see what clean fuel projects were funded near you. 

St. Cloud is a great example of rural transit in the U.S. The city of just over 70,000 has a vibrant transit system, with buses running seven-days-a-week throughout the city and smaller communities surrounding it. However, like most transit systems, it has to raise rates to make up for lost funds from the federal, state and local level over the last few years. 

Transit is a necessary component to a strong economy and a key component of the Jobs21! plan. It was great to see the Obama administration show their support for St. Cloud’s transit system today and reward them for their forward thinking plans for a cleaner, more efficient bus fleet. 

Posted In: Minnesota, Transportation

The following post is from Katie Gulley, Regional Program Manager for the BlueGreen Alliance.  

You might not think of Duluth, MN as a haven of wind energy jobs, but the truth is that workers at the port in that city understand how important wind energy is to them when they’re shipping blades and components through the Great Lakes. Yesterday I was in Duluth, on the shore of Lake Superior on a beautiful summer day, with local environmental and labor leaders from the Sierra Club, United Steelworkers and other unions to call on Congressmen Chip Cravaack from Minnesota and Sean Duffy from Wisconsin to push for and support an immediate extension of the Production Tax Credit for wind power. If this 2.2-cent per kilowatt hour tax credit isn’t extended, America could lose half the jobs in its wind industry and part of the reason the Duluth port has been so bustling will be a distant memory. 

Workers at the event focused not just on the local job impact, but on the larger impact to Minnesota, Wisconsin and the rest of America. Ray Pierce, Jr., a member of United Steelworkers Local 6115 said, “Every one of these wind turbines consists of 8,000 parts and 200 tons of steel. And, when you consider that since 2005 the domestic content in American wind turbines has grown from less than 25 percent domestic content to 60 percent in 2011, that’s a lot of jobs for workers from Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as workers throughout the U.S.” 

The impact won’t just be felt economically, it will be felt environmentally, according to John Doberstein, an Executive Committee member of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter. “The wind power installed in Minnesota will avoid 5.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. In Wisconsin, wind avoids 800,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. For Congressmen Cravaack and Duffy, this should be a no-brainer.” 

Check out coverage from the event from Fox21 in Duluth.


Posted In: Minnesota, Clean Energy, Sierra Club, United Steelworkers
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