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Mindy Ahler Testimony PUC 4-3-14

Mindy Ahler Testimony

Public Utilities Commission 4/3/2014

                                                  Photo by Christy Newell

My name is Mindy Ahler and I am here to voice my opposition to the certificate of need to upgrade the Alberta Clipper pipeline.  I speak today as a global citizen and for those in the world community that are already impacted by climate change and will be most adversely affected by climate change.

My church, St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis has a 20-year relationship with a community in Guatemala, Tierra Nueva Dos, outside of Guatemala City.  I have traveled to Guatemala 9 times in that 20-year period and have friends who live there who are like family to me.  The relationship between our two communities is based on solidarity and part of our mission together is to look at the impact that policies and practices in our own countries and in our own lives have on the other community and the greater world community.  I wear this Guatemalan scarf today as a symbol of our solidarity.

This mission and deeply engrained value compels me to speak and to look at the impact that an expansion of the Alberta Clipper capacity and the additional tar sands that will be extracted to meet that expanded capacity will have on the environment and on greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.  Because climate change does not stop at country borders.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report focused on the impacts of Climate Change and indicated that increasing periods of drought and rainfall coming in shorter heavier periods are likely.

The effects of climate change are already visible in Guatemala: rainy season (mid-May to mid-October) starts later and finishes earlier, and downpours are concentrated into shorter periods of time, often triggering landslides and flooding of entire towns.  At the same time, UN reports indicate that food security in Guatemala is threatened by prolonged droughts.

My friends in Tierra Nueva Dos live on fingers of land along deep ravines.  In recent years as climate change created heavy rains come, the land is giving way and homes have been lost to landslides.  On one of my visits to the community, a landslide caused the collapse of several homes killing 4 children and causing many families to be evacuated from their homes due to the risk of further land slides.  I assisted the community in providing food as they set up a local community center as an emergency shelter for the displaced families.  These are families with very few resources.  They don’t have the money or land access to move to another location.  They work hard to provide for their families and care for one another as community.  They have taught me much about caring for ones neighbors.  I have told them I would be here today to speak on their behalf.

I have learned that Guatemala is one of the world’s 10 countries most affected by climate change (according to the Global Climate Risk Index) yet has one of the lowest carbon-emission rates per capita.  The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean determined that all Central American countries combined contribute less than 0.5 percent of global greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.  So they are suffering the impacts of the behaviors of others such as those of us in the US and Minnesota.  That makes this issue even more personal and urgent to me.

When I look at the potential impacts to global climate change that this pipeline expansion entails:

This added tar sands consumption would release an additional 80 million metric tons of greenhouse gases per year to the atmosphere – the equivalent of an additional 16 million cars or 23 coal-fired power plants.

Tar sands oil is more harmful to the environment than conventional oil because its extraction and refinement produces up to 37% more greenhouse-gas emissions.

Removal of boreal forest by surface mining in Alberta, Canada causes further risk, as the Canadian boreal forest is one-half of the earth’s remaining boreal forest and absorbs much of the world’s carbon emissions. Tar sands production means we lose this sponge while emitting more carbon.

As a society and as a planet we cannot afford to extract or use this additional tar sands oil.  Increasing the capacity of the Alberta Clipper pipeline makes us bad neighbors to the global community.  We have a moral and ethical responsibility to consider all of our global neighbors in this decision.  This is clearly not in the interest of the global public.  For their sake, for the sake of those I love in Guatemala, I ask you to deny this Certificate of Need request.