News Watch: Jul. 2

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Air Quality; Climate Change; Energy; Environmental Education; Forests; Frac Sand Mining; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Pollinators; Sustainability; Transportation; Water; Wildlife; 

Agriculture & Food
 
Air Quality
 
Climate Change
 
Energy
Red Wing Republican Eagle: More solar could be coming 
 
Environmental Education
 
Forests
 
Frac Sand Mining
 
Mining
Star Tribune: Environmental groups want Dayton to intervene in copper-nickel mine review featuring Kathryn Hoffman of MEP member group MCEA 
 
Oil & Pipelines
 
Pollinators
 
Sustainability
 
Transportation
 
Water
 
Wildlife

 

News Watch: Jun. 25

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Climate Change; Energy & Electricity; Environmental Movement; Mining; MPCA Citizens’ Board; Oil & Pipelines; Pollinators; Transportation; Waste & Recycling; Water; Wildlife; 

Agriculture & Food
 
Climate Change
 
Energy & Electricity
New Yorker: Power to the People 
 
Environmental Movement
 
Mining
Duluth News Tribune: DNR set for mineral lease auction 
Duluth News Tribune: PolyMet report ready for review 
Mesabi Daily News: Keeping the faith on PolyMet 
Mesabi Daily News: PolyMet EIS takes a big step 
 
MPCA Citizens’ Board
 
Oil & Pipelines
 
Pollinators
 
Transportation
Minnesota Daily: Green Line boosts job access 
 
Water
 
Wildlife

 

News Watch: Jun. 29

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Air Quality; Climate Change; Energy; Invasive Species; Legislature & Agency; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Sustainability; Transportation; Waste & Recycling; 

Agriculture & Food
 
Air Quality
 
Climate Change
 
Energy
 
Invasive Species
 
Legislature & Agency
Star Tribune: Sack cartoon: Environmental oversight 

Sustainability

 
Mining
 
Oil & Pipelines
 
Sustainability
 
Transportation
 
Waste & Recycling

The State of Community Solar in Minnesota

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post-top-installingsolar
It’s a big week for the future of solar in Minnesota. Will we get “solar for all” or will we get something less?
 
In 2013, Minnesota passed two laws to take advantage of the rapidly declining costs of solar electricity:
  1. A solar energy standard, requiring that the state’s investor-owned utilities generate 1.5 percent of their electricity from solar by 2020.
  2. A requirement that the state’s largest electric monopoly, Xcel Energy, make a community solar program available to customers in its service territory. The specifics of the community solar program were directly negotiated and agreed to by Xcel Energy in order to provide a “solar for all” offering that any customer could choose.
Moving with diligence, Xcel has already finalized plans to meet its solar energy standard requirements three years early. When construction on the projects is completed, everyone in Xcel service territory will be getting 1.5 percent solar as part of the standard electricity mix. In its June 1 solar energy standard report, Xcel reported on this success and said that it will not build any additional utility solar on its system until 2025.
 
The community solar program that allows anyone to purchase 100 percent of their power from solar has been an entirely different picture. In numerous filings with the Public Utilities Commission, Xcel has sought to delay and dramatically change the rules of the program — even threatening to unilaterally cancel more than 75 percent of all proposed projects. It’s been eyebrow-raising behavior from the state’s largest monopoly that normally has a good working relationship with the Commission.
 
One of the challenges stems from Xcel confusing utility solar with community solar. Today, both programs rely on ground-mounted solar, but that’s where the similarities end.
CommunitySolarComparison
 
Three Phases of Community Solar Development
The first phase of a successful community solar program is getting the rules right. Minnesota settled this back in September of 2014 at the Public Utilities Commission.
 
The second phase is attracting community anchors — “anchor tenants” — to ensure that solar sites can secure the financing need for construction. 
 
The third stage is filling out the community solar gardens with a broad diversity of residential subscribers — two companies last week announced programs intending to offer community solar to many of Minnesota’s 600,000 renters who are otherwise unable to choose solar.
 
Throughout this three-phase process, garden developers are contributing to our shared prosperity though job creation, while also making solar accessible to those with less means, who have been most effected by poor air quality, the opportunity to participate.
 
Developers have secured financing and built their projects in accordance with the rules approved in 2014 by the Public Utilities Commission and implemented by Xcel when they opened the community solar program December. Now, Xcel is pushing for retroactive changes that would jeopardize two years worth of project development, dozens of signed contracts, major private sector investments, and numerous hiring decisions.
 
If left to their own plans, Xcel would have all Minnesotans wait until 2025 to go beyond 1.5 percent solar.
 
Thinking about the decisions ahead this week, there’s a simple question to ask — should we ignore what customers want or should we enforce the rules of the program as they were agreed upon last year?

News Watch: Jun. 22

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Climate Change; Energy; Environmental Movement; Forests; Legislature & Agency; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Outdoors; Transportation; Waste & Recycling; Water; Wildlife; 

Agriculture & Food
 
Climate Change
 
Energy
 
Environmental Movement
 
Forests
 
Legislature & Agency
 
Mining
Duluth News Tribune: Environmental View: Minnesota officials bowing to demands of mining companies written by Don Arnosti of MEP member group Izaak Walton League 
 
Oil & Pipelines
 
Outdoors
 
Transportation
 
Waste & Recycling
City of Minneapolis: City sets recycling goals 
 
Water
 
Wildlife

News Watch: June 18

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Climate Change; Encyclical; Energy; Legislature & Agency; Mining; Transportation; Water; Wildlife; 

Agriculture & Food
 
Climate Change
 
Encyclical
 
Energy
 
Legislature & Agency
 
Mining
 
Transportation
 
Water
 
Wildlife

News Watch: Jun. 16

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Climate Change; Energy; Environmental Movement; Health; Invasive Species; Legislature & Agency; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Parks & Trails; Transportation; Water; Wildlife & Fish; 

Agriculture & Food
 
Climate Change
 
Energy
 
Environmental Movement
 
Health
 
Invasive Species
 
Legislature & Agency
 
Mining
 
Oil & Pipelines
 
Parks & Trails
 
Transportation
 
Water
St. Cloud Times: Opinion: Our way of life depends on clean water written by Gary Botzek of MEP member group Minnesota Conservation Federation 
 
Wildlife & Fish

News Watch: Jun 11

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Air Quality; Clean Power Plan; Energy; Invasive Species; Legislature & Agency; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Outdoor Recreation; Pollinators; Transportation; Waste & Recycling; Water; Wildlife; 

Agriculture & Food
 
Air Quality
 
Clean Power Plan
 
Climate Change
 
Energy
 
Invasive Species
 
Legislature & Agency
 
Mining
 
Oil & Pipelines
Star Tribune: Letter: Pipeline Protest 
 
Outdoor Recreation
 
Pollinators
 
Transportation
 
Waste & Recycling
 
Water
 
Wildlife

No more tar sands? Easy as 1-2-3

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“ONE: We are the people.”

“TWO: We are un-i-ted.”

“THREE: We will not let you build this pipeline.”

Of all the chants that rang through the streets of downtown St. Paul during Saturday’s Tar Sands Resistance March, that’s the only one still ringing through my head. It was a beautiful day for a march. Five thousand people, from all over the Midwest, sang and chanted their way from the Mississippi River to the State Capitol lawn.

Okay, get the rhythm: da DA da DA da… da DA da DA da

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“ONE: We are the people.”

This was the most diverse gathering of protesters and activists I’d ever been in. Native Americans organized the event and led the march with sacred ritual and dance. Landowners affected by pipeline projects came from northern Minnesota, from Nebraska, Wisconsin and Michigan. The faith community had the best flags and banners. There were “Raging Grannies” from Grand Rapids and infants in strollers. Rev Greenwood from the Hip Hop Caucus emceed the stage event alongside Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Environmental Movement. It’s pretty easy to claim that “We are the people” when it looks like everyone is there. Watch Indigenous Environmental Network’s video from the march here.

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“TWO: We are un-i-ted.”

The message was pretty clear. No more pipelines. No new pipelines. Not here in the water-rich Midwest. This wasn’t tepid bargaining language. No one was demanding “Balance water quality impacts and economic development…NOW!”

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“THREE: We will not let you build this pipe – line.”

If you could ever measure the level of people power, your meter would have been at 110% on Saturday. For a few hours, at least five thousand people knew in their hearts that, driven by their collective will, they will stop corporations like Enbridge and TransCanada from carrying any more tar sands or fracked oil across the Midwest. That’s the energy that packs public hearings, that inspires people to lie down in front of bulldozers, that shifts the vote toward candidates who support clean water over dirty power.

So it’s one, two, three, and go. Let’s keep that energy, the diversity and the unity, the clarity of purpose.

At the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, we are working to inform landowners along the Minnesota pipeline routes and help them to get involved. We’ll keep working to protect Lake Superior from impacts of crude oil shipping. We’ll keep working on that united voice for the Great Outdoors of Minnesota.

That chant might just keep ringing until the work is done.

News Watch Jun. 8

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Climate Change; Energy; Invasive Species; Legislature & Agency; Oil & Pipelines; Pollinators; Transportation; Waste & Recycling; Water; Wildlife;

Agriculture & Food
 
Climate Change
 
Energy
 
Invasive Species
 
Legislature & Agency
 
Oil & Pipelines
 
Pollinators
 
Transportation
 
Waste & Recycling
 
Water
 
Wildlife