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Center works for green

BY SHANE ERSLAND | APRIL 22, 2009 7:26 AM

Plains Justice, a Cedar Rapids-based law center working for environmental justice in the Midwest, plans to further challenge the creation of new coal plants in Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota, the company’s president, Carrie La Seur, told Iowa City community members Tuesday night.

To help celebrate Earth Month, the UI Center for Human Rights hosted La Seur as part of its “Careers of Change” lecture series. She spoke to a crowd of UI students and Iowa City residents about raising awareness to environmental concerns in the University Capitol Centre during two separate sessions Tuesday.

La Seur said her company has provoked change, citing its work influenced public opinion on a proposal to build a power plant in Marshalltown, Iowa.

Plans for the coal-fired electric generating station in Marshalltown were canceled in March, following a string of court dates that pitted Plains Justice against Interstate Power & Light, a subsidiary of Alliant Energy. Interstate Power & Light cited several reasons for the cancellation, including the financial climate and uncertainty over emissions.

“We tried to keep the pressure on as Alliant was making a decision,” La Seur said.

The environmentalist noted several ways the Iowa City community could help environmental causes, including taking advantage of free energy audits, insulating homes, and purchasing carbon-light products.

UI junior Julia Zalenski, who attended the speech, said consumers need to be willing to drive fewer miles in more efficient vehicles.

“The biggest thing people need to do is be willing to give things up,” the 20-year-old said.
Plains Justice recently started Clean Up Coal Advocacy, a project attempting to regulate the building of power plants, La Seur said.

La Seur said the program pushes for the most protective air emission permits possible and monitors compliance with existing permits. Because coal combustion is one of the biggest drivers of global warming, she said these plants are worthy of the organization’s attention.

La Seur said constant pressure needs to be put upon public authorities regarding environmental issues.

“We are still fighting these battles,” La Seur said. “The need for public outcry to elected officials is as real now as ever.”

Zalenski agreed the environment does not receive enough attention.

“When people run up against logistical problems, they are willing to let the environment fall to the backs of their minds,” she said.


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