League Women Voters holds event with Sierra Club

The Sierra Club, “American’s largest and most influential grassroots organization,” is fighting for clean energy and has brought the battle to Dunkirk.

“There’s no such thing as clean coal,” said Jennifer Tuttle, who spoke on behalf of the Sierra Club at a recent Chautauqua County League of Women Voters meeting. The LWV invited Tuttle to discuss the importance of clean energy solutions at an informative luncheon at Katerina’s Restaurant.

Although clean energy is a hot topic all over the world, the matter hits home because of the Dunkirk and Cayuga coal plants.

A press release from the grassroots organization – which has formed a campaign called Beyond Coal to focus on uniting clean energy activists across the country – states that the Public Service Commission is trying to decide whether to approve a repowering of the plants or replace the power generated with transmission upgrades.

Tuttle’s presentation focused on the future of the community and how she would like people in the Dunkirk area to become involved in a “nationwide effort to move from fossil fuels to a future of solar, wind and geothermal power.”

Tuttle wrote in an editorial posted on the OBSERVER website, “Citizens must help those in power to make decisions concerning the economy vs. the environment.”

At the meeting, she focused on the power of wind farms, solar panels and geothermal energy (energy which is stored within the Earth and flows in the form of heat from the core to the surface).

Wind power is largely used in Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and California, among other states. According to a study performed by the American Wind Energy Association in 2011, 14.7 percent of North Dakota’s electricity is generated from wind power. Iowa and South Dakota’s percentages were even higher.

“There is no excuse why North Dakota is further along as a national example than New York state,” Tuttle said.

On a global level, Canada and Germany have developed Feed-In Tarriffs where people buy into the energy grid.

In 2010, a study performed at the University of California, Berkeley stated that “enacting a FIT would create 28,000 jobs and 27,000 indirect and induced jobs per year, over $2 billion in additional tax revenue and stimulate tens of billions in new investment” from 2011 to 2020 in California.

A FIT is essentially a fixed price, long-term contract for a utility to buy electricity produced by renewable energy generators, the study said.

California later implemented a FIT and revised it this year.

“Eighty jurisdictions worldwide have feed-in tarriffs,” Tuttle said. “California and Long Island have feed-in tariffs. If they can do it, we can.”

Tuttle said the use of renewable energy would have several economic benefits. Health benefits aside, it would create several jobs.

“We want jobs and we want them now,” Tuttle exclaimed.

During the question and answer portion of the meeting, Judy Lutz-Woods of Dunkirk said, “We desperately need jobs. Twenty to 25 percent (of people) in this community are living below the poverty line. It could help our future and the future of our grandchildren.”

Tuttle said the next step for incorporating renewable energy in Western New York and possibly creating those jobs is bringing legislators on board on local and state levels.

“Bring them to the table,” she said. “Call Assemblyman Andy Goodell and talk to local elected officials. It’s our environment. It’s our health.”

Sierra Club Chairwoman Lynda Schneekloth said, “I invite all of you to at least present it to your local boards.”

Tuttle finished the luncheon saying, “We need to give people the benefit of the doubt and say ‘Hey, this is what’s going on.'”

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