Citizens ‘Die-in’ at Department of Public Health and Environment in Coal Protest | Mobilization for Climate Justice
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Group calls on the Air Quality Control Commission to deny the Cherokee coal plant’s ‘permit to pollute’

November 30, 2009

Brian Bernhardt; CU Graduate Student; 703-439-0725;
Amy Guinan, CU-INVST; 303-999-6374;

Denver, CO – This morning, approximately fifteen local citizens, representing a diverse coalition of groups, demonstrated at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (DPHE) to demand the denial of the Cherokee coal plant’s permit to pollute. The early morning protest greeted DPHE employees as they arrived for work and called on the department to close down Cherokee. Protestors did a ‘die-in’ in front of the building’s main entrance to highlight the grim consequences that coal has on our lives and those of future generations. At the same time, other activists in hazmat suits roped off the area with “Global Warming Crime Scene’ tape and chanted against coal plants.

“The Department of Public Health and Environment needs to stand up for public health and the environment. They can do this by beginning to phase out coal-fired power plants,” said Kate Clark, a graduate student in Environmental Studies at CU-Boulder.

The DPHE’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) recently held a public hearing on the Cherokee coal plant, in which citizens overwhelming called for denial of the plant’s air pollution permit. In addition, over 200 citizens turned out to express their opposition to the Valmont coal plant in Boulder this past July and over 300 participated in a protest of the plant on October 24th. Beyond that, activists, dressed in Gov. Ritter masks and clown suits, demonstrated in Denver calling on the governor to not be a ‘climate clown.’ Today’s action was meant to amplify public opposition to the Cherokee coal plant as the AQCC prepares to make a decision on the future of Cherokee in the coming weeks or months.

“The Air Quality Control Commission has an opportunity to put Colorado on the path for a clean energy future. We hope they have the courage to do the right thing,” said Amy Guinan, a student in the CU-INVST program.

Today’s protest is part of a national day of action called for by the Mobilization for Climate Justice, a coalition of some 50 environmental and human rights groups. The day of action – called N30, referring to Nov. 30 – hopes to build grassroots momentum for climate justice in the lead-up to the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen this December. Climate justice refers to the effort to repower our world in ways that fairly distribute the burdens and benefits of energy production by promoting local solutions, sustainable technologies and democratic communities.

“For our health, our plant and our future, it is clear that we need to begin the process of decarbonizing Colorado. To do that we have to start closing down coal plants and Cherokee is the right place to start,” said Brian Bernhardt, a graduate student in Political Science at CU-Boulder.

Climate justice advocates points out that our current system of energy production places a disproportionate impact on poor people of color. Globally, those nations who have done the least to contribute to climate change bear the greatest risks from rising sea levels and droughts. Locally, the Cherokee coal plant pumps mercury and other pollutants into neighborhoods in North Denver that are 90 percent people of color.

The coalition of groups organizing N30, along with those who are organizing historic protests in Copenhagen to coincide with the conference, are demanding real action on climate change that address the root causes of the crisis and promote solutions that are far-reaching, effective and fair.

November 30th is also significant because it is the 10th anniversary of the shutdown of the World Trade Organization’s meeting in Seattle in 1999.


Additional Information:
*Photographs available throughout the day at:
*Information on the National Day of Action for Climate Justice:

*Key facts on the Cherokee coal plant and renewable alternatives:

  • Cherokee coal plant is the second largest greenhouse gas contributor in Colorado and releases over 160 pounds of mercury and 10,000 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxide (equivalent to 550,000 cars) every year.
  • Cherokee coal plant has violated clean air laws 10,000 times in the last five years
  • Approximately 63,000 people live within three miles of the coal plant; the neighborhoods closest to the coal plant are 90 percent people of color.
  • Xcel has already received solar and wind energy bids which would total twice the company’s peak generating capacity – more than enough to offset Cherokee.

*** Statistics provided by Jeremy Nichols at WildEarth Guardians***

This post was submitted by Brian Bernhardt.

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