Environmental lobby discusses legislation in Rapid City

Group seeks to deter energy producers from fossil fuels, put money in consumers' pockets.

RAPID CITY, S.D. – An influential environmental lobby group came to the Black Hills to discuss climate legislation.

About 90 people from across the north central United States descended on Rapid City’s Cedar Canyon Camp and Retreat for the sixth annual Citizens’ Climate Lobby North Wind Regional Conference. This marks the first time the conference has been held in South Dakota.

A group of high school students lead a roundtable discussion about environmental issues during the 6th Citizens' Climate Lobby North Wind Conference in Rapid City Saturday. Photo Date: Sep. 29, 2018.

High school students lead a roundtable at the conference.

The focus of the conference was a proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.

“We only have this planet and so we’re all in this together,” said Mary Deibert, state coordinator for the South Dakota Citizens’ Climate Lobby. “That’s what this conference was all about.”

The proposal is called “Carbon Fee and Dividend.” It is a market-driven model that would levy a tax on fossil fuels mined, pumped, or imported into the United States.

The idea is to incentivize energy producers to invest more in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy. Mindy Ahler, regional coordinator for the North Wind Region Citizens’ Climate Lobby said the program also aims to put the money collected back into the hands of consumers.

“This is a revenue-neutral plan,” Ahler said. “The government won’t keep any of the money. It all goes back as dividends to households, which we see as a better way since it allows consumers the choices of what they do with that money.”

One study cited by the lobby suggests that putting money into the hands of consumers could benefit the economy and the renewable energy industry.

“A study by an organization called REMI (Regional Economic Modeling Incorporated) has shown that we produce more jobs through this fee and boost the economy. By putting the fee on our fossil fuels, it does give a boost towards renewable energy, towards wind and solar.”

That could be beneficial to South Dakota’s economy, which along with neighboring states like Iowa, has large wind power generation potential.

“Iowa is already leading the nation and has some of the lowest energy prices in the country because of that,” Ahler said. “So they have attracted new businesses like Google and Facebook to open data centers in Iowa because their energy costs are low, and because the consumers who use those products want to see more renewable energy from those companies.”

Among the next steps is to present the proposal to legislators in Washington D.C.

To learn more details about the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and their work, visit their website, www.citizensclimatelobby.org.

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