Environmentalists protest Otter Tail plantPublished 10:53am Monday, April 14, 2008
Representatives from local tribal and environmental groups gathered at this morning’s annual meeting of Otter Tail Corporation shareholders to voice opposition to the Big Stone II project.
As shareholders filed into the Bigwood Event Center for the start of the 10 a.m. meeting, opponents of the project met in a Center conference room nearby to share their concerns.
Cesia Kearns spoke on behalf of the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign. Coal, she said, is not only increasingly expensive but a major obstacle to Minnesota’s clean air standards. The state is already dependent on coal, she said, and as with any business venture, Otter Tail Corp. should diversify its energy systems — meaning greater use of wind and solar resources.
“We’re asking that Otter Tail Corp. step away from Big Stone II, a risky project,” Kearns said.
Peggy Peters is a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton tribe and part of the group’s environmental protection council. She said a major concern for the tribe is the lack of communication from Otter Tail Corp. at the start of the project.
“As a sovereign nation, we had expected to be consulted,” she said. “We weren’t approached and because we hadn’t given them a formal declaration of opposition, there was some misspeaking” that suggested Sisseton Wahpeton was not opposed to the project.
This could not be farther from the truth, Peters said.
“Right now (tribal leaders) are currently going over an official opposition letter,” she said.
Both Kearns and Peters stressed their presence at the meeting was simply to get their messages across.
“We’re not coming here to point fingers,” Peters said. “We want to say in a peaceful manner that we want to work together to provide renewable energy.”
“They have a right to express their opinion and we respect that,” said Cris Kling, Director of Public Relations for Otter Tail Power. “It’s one of the neat things about living in this country.”
Opponents of the project had planned to present shareholders with a gift basket at the start of today’s meeting, emphasizing clean energy sources.