News Watch: Nov. 30

Posted by

Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Climate Change; Energy; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Paris Climate Talks; Transportation; Water; Wildlife & Fish

Agriculture & Food
MPR: General Mills sets timeline for cage-free egg use
MPR: For farmers, great harvests can bring on hard times
New York Times: Animals edited in labs raise ethical concerns (In Star Tribune)
NPR: Busted: EPA discovers Dow weedkiller claim, wants it off the market (In MPR)
NPR: Behind your holiday sweet potato dish, hard work in the fields (In MPR)
Pioneer Press: Metro State’s new program brings food, community, sustainability togetherfeaturing MEP member group Urban Roots

Climate Change
City Pages: Meet the Minnesota Legislature’s top 5 climate change deniers
MPR: Editor: New ownership won’t change Nat Geo’s climate change coverage

Editorial, Mankato Free Press: OUR VIEW: Global warming Climate change may be inevitable business trend

Austin Daily Herald: Xcel acquires Pleasant Valley
Bloomberg News: Operators of U.S. nuclear power plants want to extend life to 80 years (InStar Tribune)
Duluth News Tribune: Minnesota Power inks new deal to supply electricity to Minorca mine
Energy Wire: Initiative aims to reinvent utility industry the Minnesota way featuring MEP member group Center for Energy and Environment
Politics in Minnesota: U of M’s power plant is full steam ahead  
Renewable + Law: Xcel Energy Reports 24 Community Solar Garden Projects are Beginning Construction
RTO Insider: ERCOT, MISO, SPP All Record New Wind Peaks
Star Tribune: South-metro school districts investing in solar energy
Star Tribune: Southwest Minnesota wind farm sold out of bankruptcy to bank and local investors

Editorial, Brainerd Dispatch: Guest Opinion: Farmers, Minnesotans need all-of-the-above energy approach
LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s view: Minnesota Power can improve solar garden by Megan Spear of MEP member group Environment Minnesota
LTE, Star Tribune: Readers Write (Nov. 30): Community solar gardens, cover crops

AP: Minnesota braces for legal fight over PolyMet mine decisions (In MPR)
Brainerd Dispatch: Talon Metals lands $15 million to help Kennecott pinpoint copper deposit near Aitkin/Carlton County line
Duluth News Tribune: More exploratory drilling planned for copper-nickel deposit near Tamarack
Duluth News Tribune: State hiring law firm for PolyMet legal battle
Fergus Falls Journal: Minnesota prepares for legal fight over PolyMet mine featuring MEP and member groups Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and WaterLegacy
MinnPost: Minnesota’s permit for Northshore mine expansion riles tribes, environmental groups featuring MEP member groups WaterLegacy, Save Our Sky Blue Waters, and Save Lake Superior Association
Pioneer Press: Would PolyMet mine bring economic boom to Iron Range? featuring MEP member group Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
Star Tribune: On boom-or-bust Iron Range, this downturn feels different
Timberjay: Agencies seek legal help on PolyMet

Oil & Pipelines
Duluth News Tribune: Concerns over oil train safety cast shadow over rail deal
Star Tribune: Rail safety fight rolls into election politics

Paris Climate Talks
Duluth News Tribune: With climate talks set to begin, Duluthians hope to make a difference
NPR: 147 world leaders gather in Paris for U.N. climate conference (In MPR)
NPR: Kyoto treaty fizzled, but climate talkers insist Paris is different (In MPR)
NPR: 10 things to know about the U.N. climate talks in Paris (In MPR)
Pioneer Press: St. Paul mayor prepares to lead delegation to Paris climate summit featuring MEP member group Fresh Energy

Editorial, MinnPost: COP21: a one-of-a-kind chance to teach climate change in a real-world context by Kristen Poppleton of MEP member group Climate Generation
Editorial, Pioneer Press: Joe Soucheray: Paris climate conference is an exercise in hypocrisy
Editorial, Star Tribune: Climate conference offers an opportunity for a global response

Pioneer Press: Downtown St. Paul to MSP airport transit line has its options narrowed
Star Tribune: Bike advocates tout Minneapolis’ progress on protected bikeways, look for more
Star Tribune: Transit advocacy group is certifying groups going transportation-friendly featuring MEP member group Transit for Livable Communities
Star Tribune: Plans to upgrade MOA transit station fall short financially

LTE, MinnPost: Light rail, including Southwest LRT, will have a positive impact on metro area

Timberjay: “Meet the Tammens”

Editorial, Post Bulletin: Our View: We must act now to fix our water quality
Editorial, Star Tribune: The elephant in the water-quality room
Editorial, Star Tribune: Water quality is a worthy signature issue for Dayton
LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s View: Ensure the value of our water isn’t taken for granted by Peter Suechting of MEP member group Environment Minnesota

Wildlife & Fish
AP: DNR says plenty of pheasants remain in Minnesota fields (In MPR)
MPR: Hunters take 14 percent more deer despite another ‘conservative’ season
MPR: DNR eyes expanding elk herd in NW Minnesota
Star Tribune: U’s Raptor Center has had hands full this year
Star Tribune: Sudden shutdown of Monticello nuclear power plant causes fish kill

News Watch: Nov. 23

Posted by

Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food;  Climate Change; Energy; Frac Sand; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Parks & Trails; Pollinators; Transportation; Water; Wildlife & Fish

Agriculture & Food
InForum: Toxic Taters calls for study of RDO expansion plan
Star Tribune: Cover crops provide benefits but are a tricky proposition for Minnesota farmers

Climate Change
AP: On climate science, most GOP candidates fail (In MPR)
MPR: A plan for Minnesota’s parks in the face of climate change
MPR: Minn. environmental leaders, activists prep for Paris summit

Midwest Energy News: After devastating floods, Duluth pursues energy transformationfeaturing MEP member groups Izaak Walton League, Fresh Energy, and Sierra Club
MinnPost: As St. Paul’s waste steam becomes an ephemeral canvas, it sheds light on energy
Red Wing Republican Eagle: Commissioners warming to solar

LTE, Star Tribune: Readers Write (Nov. 22): Solar power, hydropower

Frac Sand
LTE, Winona Daily News: The people need to ban frac sand mining in Winona County

AP: Tom Bakk says GOP’s PolyMet special session plan could backfire (In Pioneer Press)
BBC: Brazil dam toxic mud reaches Atlantic via Rio Doce estuary
MPR: GOP wants mining, oil pipeline in special session talks
Star Tribune: Daudt: GOP will talk to Dayton about special session but have conditions
Timberjay: Mineral leases latest mining pressure point
Timberjay: Forest Service issues draft decision on PolyMet land swap

LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s view: Nolan does little for state’s mining industry

Oil & Pipelines
Star Tribune: Rail safety fight rolls into election politics
Star Tribune: More N.D. oil trains entering Twin Cities via the west metro suburbs

LTE, Winona Daily News: BNSF takes rail safety seriously

Parks & Trails
Star Tribune: State park in Soudan is Minnesota’s first in 30 years

Editorial, Duluth News Tribune: Our view: Offer input to bolster parks

Public News Service: Butterfly Tops List of Threatened Species in Minnesota

Fergus Falls Journal: City deemed bike-friendly
Pioneer Press: St. Pauls’ first rapid-transit bus line coming soon
Star Tribune: Development pops up along Red Line bus rapid transit in Eagan, Apple Valley
Star Tribune: U.S. DOT signs on to add more charging stations for electric vehicles
Star Tribune: Garofalo shows off self-driving technology in new Tesla
WCCO: MN Rep.: With ‘Driverless’ Cars Coming, Why Spend On Light Rail?

Editorial, Pioneer Press: Minnesota: If it must be spent, spend it on roads

AP: Dayton plans to convene statewide water quality summit (In MPR)
Duluth News Tribune: Officials celebrate St. Louis River habitat restoration, pledge money toward wetlands work
Star Tribune: Dayton to convene water quality summit
Star Tribune: Eagan gets a jump on cleaning up cloudy lakes
Star Tribune: State considers sensitive issue of limiting water drawn from ground
Star Tribune: Northeast metro put on notice over water use

Wildlife & Fish
MPR: How well do you know your bird calls?
NPR: Yellowstone Park proposes cull of 1,000 bison this winter (In MPR)
Star Tribune: While Wisconsin debates hunting rights bill, Minnesota quietly hands out tickets

Editorial, Star Tribune: We still have much to do to save Minnesota’s wolves

Becoming a Transportation Leader

Posted by

We are proud to announce that the Minnesota Environmental Partnership is applying for our Transportation Leadership Certification, from our member organization, Transit for Livable Communities.

What does this mean?

Well, it means that we are rethinking transportation, for our employees, as well as for our members, partners, guests, and others. 

Bike racks installed outside of MEP's St. Paul office

Bike racks installed outside of MEP’s St. Paul office

First, let’s back up – why is this a big deal?

Transportation is a major contributor to the causes of climate change. In Minnesota transportation accounts for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., second only to the power sector. Over half of that is accounted for by light vehicles and trucks on the road – the ones that you and I drive. Traffic congestion is also a major contributor to poor air quality. This means residents in these areas, which tend to be in the poorest in urban and suburban areas, confront the highest health risks due to poor air quality, such as asthma.

By moving more people with fewer vehicles, we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Solutions like light rail systems (which produce 62% lower greenhouse gas emissions per passenger mile than the average single occupancy vehicle (SOV)), bus transit (which produces 33 lower emissions than the average SOV), and active transportation options like biking and walking (which of course produce no emissions), are necessary to confronting our environmental challenges like air quality and climate change.

What we can do

Because of the reasons above, the Minnesota Environmental Partnership and our member organizations are pushing for systemic change through comprehensive, balanced, statewide funding for transportation that includes transit and bike/walk investments. We can’t afford not to invest in these solutions.

It’s also important for us to make changes on an organizational, and individual, scale.

Through Transit for Livable Communities‘ Transportation Leadership Certificate program, nonprofit organizations like MEP can opt to make critical changes that will encourage individuals to use alternative modes of transportation. This includes things like,

  • providing options to reduce transportation costs for employees and communities served;
  • improving employee health and productivity;
  • supporting transportation options for a diversity of staff, clients, and visitors;
  • taking advantage of the Green Line and connecting bus services to support transportation options; and
  • fostering a stronger connection within the community.

As part of this program, the Minnesota Environmental Partnership has adopted several changes and practices. Among them:

  1. We installed bike racks adjacent to our St. Paul office, making it easier for our staff and guests to get here via bicycle, with private bathrooms for changing available. 
  2. We updated our website to provide multi-modal directions on how to get to our office, which is highly accessible via transit and bikeways.
  3. We prioritize locations that are accessible by transit or options other than driving alone when planning off-site meetings or events.
  4. We provide an organizational memberships to HOURCAR and car2go for employees to use to get to work-related meetings and events.
  5. We’ve identified individuals on staff who can be a resource about using different modes — such as walking, biking, transit, and ridesharing.
  6. And more.

We encourage other nonprofit organizations to consider ways they can encourage all modes of transportation. If you are interested in learning more about the Transportation Leadership Certificate Program, please contact Hilary Reeves, at Transit for Livable Communities.



News Watch: Nov. 18

Posted by

Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Biofuels; Climate Change; Energy; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Parks & Trails; Pollinators; Transportation; Waste & Recycling; Water; Wildlife & Fish

Agriculture & Food
MN Daily: New wheat developed by U could help ecosystems
Star Tribune: Last working farm in Bloomington is for sale, likely to be developed commercially

Star Tribune: Ethanol industry making profits despite lower price of fuel
Star Tribune: Speed rules didn’t apply to ethanol train that derailed

Climate Change
MinnPost: Another surprise on sea-level rise: A big Greenland glacier is shrinking fast
MinnPost: How the world’s 20 largest economies help, and hinder, climate protection
MPR: NOAA scientist on climate change and wild weather events
Pioneer Press: St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman will still attend Paris climate talks

Editorial, Star Tribune: Editorial counterpoint: Obama plan will kill jobs, raise power rates
LTE, Star Tribune: Readers Write (Nov. 16): Clean Power Plan

Duluth News Tribune: Homeowner electric rates may rise to rescue taconite plants
Le Center Leader: Le Sueur County Planning Commission tables Waterville solar project
Mankato Free Press: Mapleton the latest target for a large solar array
Midwest Energy News: Calculator helps Minnesotans make financial sense of community solar
Midwest Energy News: Why federal tax credit expiration would hit Midwest solar the hardest
MinnPost: Xcel’s solar slow walk casts shade on energy savings for thousands by John Farrell of MEP member group Institute for Local Self-Reliance
MPR: Minnesota Power proposes residential rate hike
Northfield News: Residential, commercial solar use continues to shine in Northfield
Star Tribune: Solar garden options rolling out for Xcel Energy customers in Minnesota
Star Tribune: Solar gardens: What you need to know
Star Tribune: Iron Range mines and mills slated for electric rate relief that will boost homeowners’ bills
Star Tribune: Xcel proposes green-only electricity as customer option
Star Tribune: Mortenson creates unit to build grid-scale electric storage projects
St. Peter Herald: Gustavus solar tour highlights renewable energy efforts featuring MEP member group Environment Minnesota
Wall Street Journal: Will Solar Energy Plummet if the Investment Tax Credit Fades Away?featuring MEP member group Institute for Local Self-Reliance
WXOW: Senator Al Franken tours farm that’s implemented Rural Energy for America Program

Editorial, Duluth News Tribune: Our view: Minnesota Power rate hike will be tough sell
Editorial, Star Tribune: Counterpoint: Hydropower is a star among renewables
Editorial, Star Tribune: Is hydropower green? Not really

AP: PolyMet mine opponents call for objections to new review (In St. Cloud Times) featuringMEP and member groups Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and WaterLegacy
AP: PolyMet mine opponents to lay out objections to new review (In MPR)
AP: Minnesota considers public health assessment of proposed PolyMet mine (In Pioneer Press)
Business North: PolyMet opponents raise concerns about proposal featuring MEP member groups Izaak Walton League and Save Lake Superior Association
Duluth News Tribune: Governor considers PolyMet health impact study
Duluth News Tribune: Environmentalists urge more comments on PolyMet featuring MEP and member group WaterLegacy
Duluth News Tribune: Forest Service backs land exchange for PolyMet mine site featuring MEP member groups Izaak Walton League and Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest
Ely Echo: Superior National Forest publishes Draft Record of Decision for Northmet Land Exchange
Ely Echo: Federal reps in Ely, talk mining: Bureau of Land Management contingent meets local government leaders, tours Twin Metals Minnesota operation, hears opponents
Grand Forks Herald: Environmentalists want anti-PolyMet Minnesotans to stay involvedfeaturing MEP and member group WaterLegacy
KDQS: Community Members Discuss PolyMet Mine Proposal 
KSTP: PolyMet Public Objection Period Opens featuring MEP
MPR: For Iron Range towns, a bad economy gets worse
Star Tribune: Dayton considers health review of PolyMet copper mine
Star Tribune: Cliffs Natural Resources laying off 540 workers at Northshore Mining taconite operation
Timberjay: Debate heats up with final PolyMet review featuring MEP member group Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
WCCO: Opponents To PolyMet Plan Set To Voice Their Objections featuring MEP and member groups Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and WaterLegacy
WDIO: PolyMet Project Opponents Urge Public to Voice Concern featuring MEP member groups Save Lake Superior Association and Izaak Walton League

Editorial, Duluth News Tribune: Medical professionals view: Minnesota medical professionals call for PolyMet health-impact assessment
Editorial, Star Tribune: When talking PolyMet, don’t be fooled by Michigan’s Eagle Mine
LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s View: Quit the delays and move ahead on PolyMet

Oil & Pipelines
Bloomberg News: Bakken posts first year-to-year decline in over a decade (In Star Tribune)
Duluth News Tribune: Environmentalists to call for debate event on Enbridge projects featuring MEP member group League of Women Voters
MPR: Researcher’s quest: Oil pipelines that call for help before leaking
MPR: Enbridge announces 40 layoffs in Duluth and Superior
Star Tribune: Enbridge cuts 500 workers in U.S. and Canada

Editorial, Star Tribune: Wisconsin derailments highlight need to press on for rail safety improvements
LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s View: The oil industry is not to be trusted
LTE, St Cloud Times: Stop Bakken ‘bomb trains’

Parks & Trails
MPR: Black Friday freebie: Minnesota state parks waive entry fee
Star Tribune: At 100, National Park Service seeks younger, more diverse crowd featuring MEP member groups National Parks Conservation Association and St. Croix River Association
Star Tribune: Three Rivers looks at renaming its Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park
Star Tribune: Minnesota offers free admission to state parks on ‘Black Friday’

Bemidji Pioneer: Farmers can get monarch-saving money
Midwest Energy News: Commentary: Bees and butterflies can benefit from solar, too
MPR: USDA to spend $4 million to aid Midwest monarch butterflies

MinnPost: Environmental clean-up complete at old Army Ammunition Plant site in Arden Hills
MPR: Ramsey County says ex-ammo plant cleanup complete, ready for development

Duluth News Tribune: Organizers optimistic about the future of Grocery Express
Mankato Free Press: Ask Us: About those new bike lanes …
MPR: Green Line ridership surges past expectations
Star Tribune: Metro Transit seeks feedback on C-Line BRT at open houses this week
Star Tribune: MAC approves 18-month test of Car2Go service at MSP
Star Tribune: Hennepin is first county in Minnesota to achieve Bicycle Friendly status

Editorial, Star Tribune: Editorial counterpoint: The truth behind light-rail sticker shock
LTE, Star Tribune: Readers Write (Nov. 17): Light rail in the Twin Cities area by Dave Van Hattum of MEP member group Transit for Livable Communities

Waste & Recycling
Star Tribune: In a first, Minnesota garbage output declined as economy grew

InForum: Diversion lawsuit in federal judge’s hands
MinnPost: Safe, clean drinking water eludes many Wisconsinites
MPR: Officials hope public-private plan speeds Red River flood project
Public News Service: Minnesota Farmers Union to Debate EPA’s Water Rules, TPP
Star Tribune: Stormwater project will protect Roseville’s Lake McCarrons
Star Tribune: Chamber of Commerce calls out Klobuchar on water rule

LTE, Bemidji Pioneer: LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Value clean water? Make your voice heard by Peter Suechting of MEP member group Environment Minnesota

Wildlife & Fish
MPR: Spy like an eagle: DNR’s eagle nest cam returns
MPR: Senate bill would drop protections for wolves in MN
MPR: DNR presses muskie stocking plans in targeted Minnesota lakes
Pioneer Press: Our northern climes are fine for cougars – but they’re unlikely to settle here, UMN study says
Star Tribune: MnDOT builds condos for bats under I-90
WCCO: Minnesota Wolf Protection Would End With Senate Bill featuring MEP member group Center for Biological Diversity

Conservation groups object to PolyMet environmental study, encourage public to speak out

Posted by

Saint Paul, Minn (Nov. 13, 2015) –– Conservation groups objected to the PolyMet “final environmental impact statement” and encouraged the public to join them in objecting to the proposed sulfide mine during the 30 day public review period beginning today. Representatives of Minnesota Environmental Partnership, a coalition of over 70 Minnesota conservation groups and several member groups spoke out against the PolyMet sulfide mine proposal at the press conference.

Speakers at the event described the PolyMet proposal as a long-term threat to Minnesota’s clean water. Steve Morse, Executive Director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, stated that the PolyMet environmental review “fails to level with Minnesotans about the tremendous risk that PolyMet’s proposal poses to Minnesota’s clean water legacy.”

Aaron Klemz, of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, added, “Minnesotans will not accept polluting the Boundary Waters, Minnesotans will not accept 500 years of polluting the St. Louis River, the largest tributary to Lake Superior.”

Predictions in the “final environmental impact statement” that the PolyMet proposal would meet Minnesota water quality standards are flawed, based on bad data and incorrect assumptions. The computer models that were used to create the “final environmental impact statement” are inaccurate and understate the impact of the PolyMet proposal on water.

Paula Maccabee, of WaterLegacy, pointed out one critical assumption, that PolyMet can capture billions of gallons of polluted water before it left the site. “There is no real world experience approaching 99.5% seepage collection. Minnesota’s Minntac’s tailings pump back system gets about a 50% collection rate.” If polluted water is not captured and treated, it would flow downstream and threaten the environment and public health.

All of the speakers agreed that independent, third party review of the faulty science that underlies the “final environmental impact statement” was needed.

The PolyMet “final environmental impact statement” was officially published in the today, and a thirty day public review period ends at 4:30 PM on December 14th. Members of the public can file their objection through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website at

Watch the full event here:

# # #

Minnesota Environmental Partnership is a statewide coalition of more than 70 environmental and conservation organizations working together for clean water, clean energy and protection of our Great Outdoors. The Minnesota Environmental Partnership engages state leaders, unites environmental efforts and helps citizens take action for the Minnesota they love.

If Minnesota pipelines were footballs: Half time report

Posted by

MN oil pipeline proposals Honor the Earth

Courtesy of Honor the Earth

What if we looked at our fight against pipelines and for clean water and public safety like the way some of us look at football?

First, huge congratulations to the clean water advocates, landowners and tribes that won the big Keystone XL game last week. TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, was heavily favored to win, but with a tough defense and some key substitutions at President and Prime Minister, the pipeline fighters pulled off a stunning victory.

Minnesota still has three main pipeline battles. Combined, these proposed pipelines would carry more tar sands oil than the rejected Keystone XL. Here’s my personal “half time” report

Alberta Clipper
Also known as Line 67, this is the newest pipeline in Enbridge’s mainline corridor across northern Minnesota, and carries primarily diluted tar sands bitumen from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin. From Superior, the product goes either south or east to refineries.

This game was supposed to be about Enbridge trying to double the capacity of this line and the people trying to be involved and stop it. Instead, Enbridge pulled a blatantly illegal stunt and the State Department “refs” just watched. Enbridge tried to avoid federal permitting by switching from one line to another at the Canada/US border. That means increased oil crosses the border on an older pipeline. The tar sands oil is now flowing at double the capacity. But native tribes and clean water advocates threw out the challenge flag on that ruling; they’ve sued the State Department to ensure that Enbridge plays by the rules and ships only the oil it was allowed to.

Both sides have scored some points. Obama’s rejection of Keystone XL could, and should, lead to a rejection of the illegal Enbridge border scheme.

Half time score: Clean water advocates 13, Evil corporations 13.

Line 3 Co Rd 5 west

Enbridge Line 3 and the mainline corridor, just west of Carlton, MN (Andrew Slade

Line 3
Line 3 is also in Enbridge’s mainline corridor from Alberta to Superior. Line 3 cannot at this time carry tar sands bitumen because the pipeline is old and leaky and the added pressure of diluted bitumen would make its problems even worse. Enbridge wants to build an all-new pipeline and leave the old one in the ground. They call this a “replacement”.

From Clearbrook in northwestern Minnesota all the way to Superior, Enbridge wants to, umm, “replace” Line 3 in a completely new corridor, running way to the south across the heart of Minnesota’s lake country. This new corridor would also be the route of the proposed Sandpiper pipeline.

This game is about a brand new corridor of pipeline risk across northern Minnesota. It’s also like having two football games on the same field at the same time, the Line 3 game and the Sandpiper game. Whatever happens in one game affects the other. At halftime, Line 3 is under its own environmental review at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Half time score: All tied up.

Sandpiper is a planned all-American pipeline that would carry fracked oil from the Bakken Formation to Superior, Wisconsin. For most of its route across northern Minnesota, it would create a new pipeline corridor. The proposed corridor cuts across the heart of the Minnesota lake country. The proposed pipeline route has significant opposition, with the MPCA and even Congressman Rick Nolan calling for another option that avoids the precious lakes.

The Sandpiper game and the Line 3 game are happening on the same field at the same time, and it’s hard to tell who is doing what. In this game, some citizens might win by simply moving the pipeline out of the lake country. Others might win by rejecting the pipeline altogether.

In September, the state appeals court reversed a big chunk of the environmental permitting Sandpiper had already checked off, most particularly the “Certificate of Need” they got without full environmental review. It’s like they gave Enbridge a couple of 15 yard penalties all at the same time. It’s right before half-time in this game, and Enbridge has a fourth down with 40 yards to go. Looks like Enbridge is going for the Hail Mary pass by appealing to the Supreme Court. For the moment, the clean water advocates are winning.

Minnesota’s clean water advocates are ready for the second half of these pipeline fights. The pipeline fighters are drawing deep inspiration from the huge victory at the Keystone XL “game.” As French dramatist Alexandre Dumas put it, “Nothing succeeds like success.”

News Watch: Nov. 11

Posted by

Today’s Topics: Climate Change; Energy & Efficiency; Invasive Species; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Transportation; Wildlife & Fish

Climate Change
MinnPost: In Keystone XL rejection, many see a campaign on climate that won’t fade away
Star Tribune: The good fight: Defend the Clean Power Plan

Energy & Efficiency
Midwest Energy News: Commentary: While Xcel slow-walks on solar, customers can’t wait by John Farrell of MEP member group Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Rochester Post Bulletin: Energy is opportunity in Rochester’s future
SC Times: Sartell OKs its first solar garden
Utility Drive: Report: Minnesota efficiency program returns $4 for every $1 invested
WCCO: Group Worried Xcel’s Solar Program Won’t Kick In Before Credits Expire

Invasive Species
Star Tribune: Washington County vows to fight spread of emerald ash borers

Duluth News Tribune: Views on PolyMet final Environmental Impact Statement
Pioneer Press: Turning PolyMet ‘upside down, inside out, backwards and forwards’ cost a lotfeaturing MEP member group Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Pioneer Press: A long, careful process toward copper-nickel mine
Timberjay: Ely can’t have it both ways by Becky Rom of MEP member group Northeast Minnesotans for Wilderness

LTE, Timberjay: Sulfide ores best mined in the desert

Oil & Pipelines
MPR: Investigation probes what caused 2 Wis. train derailments featuring MEP member groupCenter for Biological Diversity
Pioneer Press: Minneapolis City Council resolution targets oil train safety
Rochester Post Bulletin: No environmental impacts seen in Alma ethanol spill
Star Tribune: Derailments bring safety worries to the fore
Star Tribune: The president’s long game on fossil fuels

SC Times: Input sought on regional bicycle network
Star Tribune: NexTrip goes digital at metro area bus stops

Wildlife & Fish
MPR: DNR OKs taking more winter walleye from Upper Red Lake

PolyMet’s Perilous Precipice: Say No to Falling Off the Cliff

Posted by

KLblog1-Lori AndresenLake Superior Headwaters, St. Louis River – Minnesota (Source: Lori Andresen)
Downstream of the proposed PolyMet Mine

The PolyMet final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was released to the public November 6th, 2015. How did PolyMet ever get this far? And why?

In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rated PolyMet’s draft EIS as EU-3, Environmentally Unsatisfactory-Inadequate. Here are some quotes from the comments: “The EPA believes that the project will exceed water quality standards because of discharges during the life of the mining operation and on a long-term basis, including the post-closure period. These water quality impacts are largely related to water that contacts acid-generating waste rock … and to wastewater escaping the tailings basin through seeps and in ground water.  …the analyses of the hydrogeological profiles at both the mine and processing site are inadequate to determine the full extent of impacts or to justify mitigation options. Consequently we believe that the DEIS likely underestimates water quality impacts and the project is likely to have additional unmitigated long-term discharges. EPA has identified information gaps relating to groundwater impacts, groundwater-surface water interaction, tailings basin stability and containment, and groundwater discharges to surface water. Furthermore, EPA does not agree with the compensation described for wetlands impacts… The DEIS did not provide information on financial assurance…”

The above are the same concerns brought forth by environmental groups as they made their way through hundreds of pages of the DEIS. These concerns included: “There is inadequate analysis. There is no substance to conclusions that claim there will be no water pollution. The scale of the mining operation is such that it will be impossible to contain water pollution. The tailings basin purchased from the former LTV Mining Company by PolyMet is already leaching sulfates and other pollutants into the watershed and is not designed to contain the amount or type of tailings that would be produced by PolyMet. The wetland loss at PolyMet’s NorthMet mine (nearly 1,000 acres direct/ 6,500 acres indirect) would be the single largest loss ever permitted by the St. Paul Army Corps of Engineers. The US Forest Service could deny an open pit mine operation on our public lands within Superior National Forest, rather than negotiating a land exchange that would privatize 6,500 acres of Superior National Forest lands, impacting wildlife and wildlife corridors. Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) and heavy metal pollution will be a problem for hundreds to thousands of years.”

The Devil Is in the Details

The PolyMet project should have been shelved in 2010. Instead, the Supplementary Draft EIS was released in December of 2013. In preliminary documents circulated prior to the SDEIS, environmental groups noticed that water treatment would be needed for at least 200 years at the mine site and at least 500 years at the plant site. PolyMet’s plan for perpetual treatment at its sulfide mine should not have been allowed to proceed, as long term treatment goes against Minnesota state law (CHAPTER 6132, NONFERROUS METALLIC MINERAL MINING, 6132.3200 CLOSURE AND POSTCLOSURE MAINTENANCE. Subpart 1. Goal. The mining area shall be closed so that it is stable, free of hazards, minimizes hydrologic impacts, minimizes the release of substances that adversely impact other natural resources, and is maintenance free.)

But instead, the agencies relegated the water treatment statement to one mention within the depths of the SDEIS, claiming that only passive water treatment would be needed at the mine site, and relying on Reverse Osmosis (RO) water treatment at the plant site, post closure.

The Dunka mine site, where LTV Mining Company removed some layers of sulfide-bearing rock in order to extract the taconite underneath, is a clear indication that passive water treatment is not enough.  Toxic heavy metals continue to drain from the Dunka mine waste rock into Bob Bay of Birch Lake. The passive water treatment proposed by the DNR appears to be dilution, as the contamination seeps into wetlands and eventually into a larger body of water. Active water treatment proved too expensive for the mining company, and the DNR has allowed the use of man-made wetlands as a stop gap solution to the ongoing pollution; these wetland materials need to be periodically dredged, removed, and then replaced with new material. (For more information, see “Mining Vs Water, Dunka site exposes breakdown in mine regulation,” Timberjay 10-7-15.)

The reverse osmosis (RO) pilot test that was prepared for PolyMet by Barr Engineering does not reflect the quantity or quality of water that would need to be treated upon mine closure.  It is known that RO is not effective on a large mining scale, as it is too costly, and because the concentration trapped in the RO filters is highly toxic and needs special containment. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency exempted Mesabi Nugget from using RO as “not technically feasible” and because it “would cause the discharger undue hardship.” In other words, RO was rejected due to the uncertainty of its effectiveness and its prohibitive cost. (Mesabi Nugget Delaware, LLC NPDES/SDS Permit No. MN0067687, pages 6-9, October 12, 2012) In addition, RO might be a moot point. If sulfate standards to protect wild rice are weakened by agency and legislative initiatives, or mining companies are given a variance from meeting existing standards, RO need never be installed.

SOS blog- Animas River

Animas River Mine Spill, August, 2015 – Colorado (Source: EPA)

Muddying the Toxic Waters

The SDEIS should have been the end of PolyMet. But instead, the final EIS (FEIS) has been publically released. Already, in preliminary documents reviewed over the summer, the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) has found major discrepancies in the water modeling. GLIFWC’s results using the same water modeling program done for PolyMet by Barr Engineering found that, upon closure, and due to the proximity and interconnectedness of PolyMet and the Peter Mitchell taconite mine at Babbitt, water from PolyMet would flow north into the Rainy River  watershed. This would increase pollution to both the Rainy River and Lake Superior watersheds; while adding pollution to the Rainy River watershed, water would be drained from the Lake Superior watershed, leaving the pollution there more concentrated. In its faulty final EIS process, the DNR is circumventing this information, and rather than running its own modeling, is relying on something called “adaptive management,” a concept that allows them to adapt to a problem as it comes up.

But the DNR record shows limited success in problem solving. Right now, all six taconite mines are operating under expired permits or variances–whereby the mine can continue polluting while claiming it will comply with standards somewhere down the line.  In effect, the taconite mines have been allowed to continue mining and to expand without meeting existing environmental standards.

For example, the issue of mercury and sulfates impacting our fish and wild rice has not been resolved. The DNR is attempting to figure out how to control ongoing sulfate pollution from Minntac’s tailings basin, while at the same time allowing Minntac to add more tailings as it expands. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is being pressured by legislators to lower or adjust the sulfate standard in order to accommodate mining expansion.  Proposed adjusting of the standard to fit various waterways would be basically impossible to monitor or enforce–thus perpetuating the problems caused from mining pollution. Yet the same agencies that have failed to control taconite pollution are now set to permit higher polluting sulfide mining.

Agency Bias and Political Influence

The Lands and Minerals Division of the Minnesota DNR is responsible for permitting our mines. If the agency stopped promoting mining, the agency division would basically put itself out of business.

Political leaders would also like to see PolyMet permitted and ready to go before the 2016 elections.  Copper-nickel sulfide mining has become a hot-button issue, splitting the Democratic Party in Minnesota. Governor Dayton is trying to play the middle by calling for “Community oversight” that would ensure that PolyMet is meeting pollution control standards.  If our agencies can’t (or won’t) enforce mining companies to meet standards, how will an “Independent Citizens Group” have the knowledge and authority and will to do so? Conversely, the call for a Citizen’s Authority acknowledges that our current regulatory agencies, such as the DNR Lands and Minerals Division, are ineffective and need to be replaced.

Mount Polly Mine Disaster, August 2014 – B.C., Canada (Source: Cariboo Regional District)

Mount Polly Mine Disaster, August 2014 – B.C., Canada (Source: Cariboo Regional District)

 Major Mining Disasters

Agencies and politicians would like to permit PolyMet before any more environmental disasters involving hard rock sulfide mining hit the news. In August of 2014, a breach in the tailings basin at the Mount Polley Mine in British Columbia became the largest mining waste spill in Canada’s history. Despite approval to restart, there are still no long-term plans regarding site clean-up costs, water treatment, and mining wastes management. (“No Reason to Celebrate One Year After Mount Polley Disaster” Mining Watch Canada, July 31, 2015) After the Mount Polley disaster, a panel of experts recommended using a filtering process to dry stack tailings, which would be much less of a risk for dam failure than the current wet tailings. Mining companies in Canada are resisting this improvement as being too costly in a wet environment. PolyMet has also rejected using such a system at their proposed NorthMet Mine.

All six of Minnesota’s taconite tailings basins are wet, potentially placing them at risk for breaches. NorthShore Mining’s Milepost 7 tailings basin is particularly precarious, as a dam break would send the tailings downhill and directly into Lake Superior. On February 2, 2012, HibTac discovered a crack  on the Western Dam South, which extended approximately 1,000 linear feet, resulting in discharges into adjacent wetlands, as reported by the Army Corps of Engineers, 2012 -00623-DWW.

The former LTV Steel Company tailings basin purchased by PolyMet has already been faulted for being unstable. In PolyMet’s case, the problem is more serious due to the low grade nature of the copper-nickel mineralization (less than 1%) and the great amount of waste material (99%) and the heavy metals and contaminants associated with the sulfides that would be added to the existing taconite tailings basin.

As further evidence of ongoing sulfide mining pollution, a U.S. mining disaster occurred in August of 2015 when 3 million gallons of wastewater and sludge from the dormant Gold King Mine poured into a tributary of the Animas River in Colorado.  Workers for the EPA were trying to install a pipe to drain water from the abandoned mine so that they could eventually plug the mine and prevent contaminated water from seeping out. Instead, the force of the water broke through the existing dam, turning the entire river a bright orange with mine waste pollution.  Unfortunately, this whole western region is riddled with abandoned mines, all seeping into ground and surface waters, while the EPA is lacking in money to clean up these super-fund sites.                                                                                                                                        

What kind of financial assurance would PolyMet need to post in order to cover potential tailings basin failure, as well as covering over 500 years (virtually forever) of water treatment? This issue isn’t even addressed in PolyMet’s FEIS.  Instead it will be negotiated between the DNR Division of Lands and Minerals and PolyMet–both with immediate and direct interest in the permitting of PolyMet.

To further highlight the potential for mine disasters, on November 5, 2015, an iron ore mine tailings dam burst in Germano, Brazil, resulting in at least 15 casualties and the evacuation of two towns.  The mine is owned by Samarco, a joint venture between Brazil’s Vale and Australia’s BHP Billiton, major players on the mining scene.

An Earthworks press release (Fatal Brazilian mine waste disaster shows modern mining is increasingly dangerous) on November 6, 2015, states, “A recent report, The Risk, Public Liability & Economics of Tailings Storage Facility Failure demonstrates that catastrophic mine waste failures are increasing in frequency and severity because of — not in spite of — modern mining techniques…”

Market Weakness

Of further concern are weak market conditions for metals. Glencore, the major investor in PolyMet, has lost 60% of its share value over the past year. The company over-expanded when the market was high, taking on a debt load that has now become a burden. Any delay or problems in PolyMet’s NorthMet project might mean that Glencore would pull out of the project in an attempt to further dump its debt.   See “Counterpoint: PolyMet’s Minnesota copper-nickel project is risky business,” Star Tribune, October 28, 2015 for more information. 


Decisions are being made right now that will likely impact the next 25 generations to inhabit this area. We are placing our immediate desire for metals above the long-term need for clean water. Decision makers are swallowing the philosophy of mass consumerism that requires ever-expanding consumption of goods–a concept which is out of balance with the natural world and resources of the planet.

We currently do not have the technology to mine highly disseminated low grade metals out of sulfide ores without degrading and polluting our environment for the next 500 years (or longer). Nor do we have the technology or the political will to clean up the pollution that is already here.

Northeast Minnesota contains the headwaters of three great watersheds–north to Rainy River, east to Lake Superior, and south to the Mississippi. The Arrowhead has been known as one of the most magnificent areas of the state, for its majestic forests, wetlands, and waters. Superior National Forest is a treasure for the citizens of this state and nation.  We all bear responsibility for what we will leave behind for the generations ahead. Clean water is a valuable resource in its own right.

It is time to say “No” to PolyMet for once and for all. Take the time to submit a comment on the PolyMet FEIS, which was released on November 6. No public meetings have been scheduled during the comment period, ending on December 14. Check or other environmental sites for more information.

Elanne Palcich
Chisholm, Minnesota

News Watch: Nov. 9

Posted by

Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Climate Change; Energy; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Transportation; Waste & Recycling; Water; Wildlife & Fish

Agriculture & Food
MinnPost: EPA’s broader ban on an insecticide is overdue, court-ordered and incomplete
Pioneer Press: Can University of Minnesota make Kernza the wheat of the future?
Star Tribune: Talking GMOs and future of farming with Monsanto’s Robert Fraley

Climate Change
City Pages: By 2050, climate change will radically change Minneosta. And it won’t be pretty
NPR: N.Y. attorney general investigates whether Exxon Mobil lied on climate change (In MPR)

LTE, Red Wind Republican Eagle: Letter: Who will walk the talk of climate change?

Bemidji Pioneer: Environmental report on NW Minnesota transmission line released
Star Tribune: Couple living near wind turbines in SE Minnesota say noise disrupting their lives

AP: PolyMet review: Water treatment needed long term (In Politics in Minnesota)
Duluth News Tribune: Twin Metals continues tests near Birch Lake
Duluth News Tribune: PolyMet primer: Where we go from here
Duluth News Tribune: PolyMet final environmental review made public featuring MEP member group Water Legacy
Kare 11: DNR: PolyMet’s mining plan meets standards featuring MEP member group Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Mankato Free Press: PolyMet review calls for cleanup assurance, monitoring featuring MEP member group Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
MPR: Key question in PolyMet mine fight: Whose data to trust? featuring MEP member group Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
MPR: DNR: PolyMet mine safeguards would protect NE Minn. environment featuring MEP member group Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
MPR: What’s next for PolyMet mine?
NPR: Mine wastewater floods countryside in Brazil after 2 dams fail (In MPR)
Reuters: Dam burst at Brazil mine devastates town, dozens still missing (In Duluth News Tribune)
Timberjay: DNR releases PolyMet Final Environmental Impact Statement
Star Tribune: PolyMet clears a hurdle with Minnesota regulators, though battle isn’t overfeaturing MEP member group Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
WCCO: Report Says Proposed PolyMet Mine Meets State Standards featuring MEP member group Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s Views: Boycott businesses that don’t support mining

Oil & Pipelines
AP: Train derailment spilled thousands of gallons of ethanol
AP: 2nd train derails in Wisconsin in 2 days, spills crude oil
Brainerd Dispatch: ‘Love Water, Not Oil’ event planned Thursday
InForum: Some Minnesotans still benefit from North Dakota oil; others wait for prices to rise
KSTP: Investigation: Environmental Oversight of Pipelines in Minn. Lacking featuring MEP member group MN350
MPR: Oil boom means sky watchers hoping for starlight just get stars, lite
NPR: President Obama rejects Keystone XL pipeline plan (In MPR)
Reuters: Obama rejects Keystone XL pipeline (In Duluth News Tribune)
Star Tribune: More than 18,000 gallons of ethanol spilled into Mississippi River after Wisconsin train derailment
Star Tribune: Keystone XL would have helped N.D. move some of its oil featuring MEP member group Sierra Club North Star Chapter
Star Tribune: Minnesota congressional delegation splits on Keystone rejection
Star Tribune: Editorial counterpoint: BNSF goes far beyond ‘minimum’ for oil-train safety
Winona Daily News: With 18,500 gallons of ethanol spilled into Mississippi, questions remain on impact
Winona Daily News: Our view: Train safety too important to put off

MinnPost: How Minneapolis is getting more kids to walk and bike to school

Waste & Recycling
Star Tribune: St. Paul to expand recycling services by 2017 featuring MEP member group Eureka Recycling

MPR: Why California may be setting an example for other water scarce places

Wildlife & Fish
AP: Minnesota hunters prepare for Saturday firearms deer opener (In MPR)
MPR: Influx of injured eagles puzzles, stresses Raptor Center
MPR: Photos: Juvenile bald eagle preps to fly free after rehab
NPR: Big trouble looms for California salmon — and for fisherman (In MPR)

News Watch: Nov. 5

Posted by

Today’s Topics: Climate Change; Energy; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Parks & Trails; Transportation; Waste & Recycling; Water; Wildlife & Fish

Climate Change
Brainerd Dispatch: Convocation talks climate change at CLC featuring MEP member groupClimate Generation
GreenWire: CLEAN POWER PLAN: 44 states take sides in expanding legal brawl
MinnPost: Good news: Antarctic ice is growing. Bad news: Sea levels are still rising.
Spokesman Recorder: Black churches show support for Obama’s Clean Power Plan

LTE- Alexandria Echo Press: LETTER: Republicans break ranks on climate change

Austin Daily Herald: Couple: Wind farm substation components overshot permitted space
Duluth News Tribune: Environmental review ends for Great Northern powerline
Finance & Commerce: Sustainable: Some businesses embrace community solar gardens
KQDS: Minnesota Power’s Great Northern Transmission Line reaches Major Milestone
KSTP: City of Jordan Moves Toward Solar Energy
Midwest Energy News: In Minnesota town, activists create a movement for community solar
Star Tribune: Xcel seeks 9.8 percent electric rate hike in Minnesota over three years
WCCO: Thinking Of Going Solar? Online Calculator Compares Power Costs

LTE- Duluth News Tribune: Local view: Minnesota Power has opportunity to shine even brighter with solar

Duluth News Tribune: Our view: Embrace PolyMet’s milestone
Timberjay: Dayton wants financial review

LTE- Duluth News Tribune: Geologist’s view: Minnesota will make sure mining done safely
LTE- SC Times: Vital report looms for mining plan

Oil & Pipelines
AP: Pipeline protesters refusing to leave Enbridge office are arrested and taken to jail (In Star Tribune)
LA Times: Company asks for Keystone XL pipeline delay (In Duluth News Tribune)
Duluth News Tribune: Several protesters arrested at Enbridge offices in Duluth featuring MEP members group MN350 and MPRIG
MN Daily: Students protest oil pipeline featuring MEP member group MPIRG
MPR: ‘Black Gold Boom’: The decision to drill
NPR: 5 things to know about the Keystone XL pipeline (In MPR)
Piolet Independent: Friends of the Headwaters support EIS for Sandpiper pipeline projectfeaturing MEP member group Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Star Tribune: Keystone XL delay is a setback for public safety in Minnesota

Parks & Trails
Pioneer Press: Walk-bike trail planned for former TCAAP site in Arden Hills

Austin Daily Herald: Putting the pedal to the metal; Austin kicks off Bike Friendly effortsfeaturing MEP member group BikeMN
Spokesman Recorder: Blue Line transit extension through North Mpls revised
Star Tribune: Pop-up demo of proposed North Side greenway delayed until spring
Star Tribune: Southwest LRT foes channel Seuss’ Lorax in “Speak for the Trees” event
Star Tribune: Streetcar vs. rapid bus study for West Broadway nears completion

Waste & Recycling
MN Daily: U area lags with recycling
Waste360: Anaerobic Digestion’s Role in Dealing with America’s Food Waste featuring MEP member group Institute for Local Self Reliance

Mankato Free Press: New ag water quality project launched
MinnPost: Keep pressure on officials to reduce Mississippi River pollution by Peter Suechting of MEP member group Environment Minnesota

Wildlife & Fish
MPR: DNR busts Minnesota snapping turtle poachers, frees turtles
MPR: Snowy owls coming to Minnesota earlier and more often
Pioneer Press: Dayton: Time for Minnesota to get tough on turtle poachers
Pioneer Press: County attorney says Dayton wrong to blame her office for turtle poaching case