Forever Green, Forever Clean

Posted by

Clean water is a Minnesotan value. We all have our favorite body of water that we escape to, whether it’s the Mississippi River running through the Twin Cities or an isolated lake in the Boundary Waters. The connections we as Minnesotans feel to our water is something that unites us all. Just as we treasure our clean water heritage, farming is an equally important part of our state’s economy and history. These two integral parts of Minnesota’s culture often come in to conflict with each other, as the fight to restore water quality often places much of the blame on agricultural practices.

We don’t need to pit clean water against agriculture in order to have vibrant, thriving farming communities and waterways that are swimmable, fishable and drinkable. Minnesota has the tools to reimagine our traditional practices into sustainable, economically feasible options through the University of Minnesota’s work with the Forever Green Initiative. This isn’t an either or situation. We can have clean water and farming coexisting side by side, which will benefit Minnesotans for many generations to come.

On April 19th, the Minnesota Environmental Partnership and the University of Minnesota welcomed Governor Dayton and other state officials to hear more about the Forever Green initiative and tour the research first hand as part of Water Action Week. The Forever Green Initiative relies on funding through the Minnesota Legislature and is a key component of MEP’s Clean Water and Living Landscapes initiative this session. This vital program needs steady reliable funding so research can continue uninterrupted for many growing seasons to come. 

Tour of 'Forever Green' research at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul campus.  April 19, 2016.

Pennycress, a Forever Green winter annual cover crop used for advanced biofuels production. Credit: David Hanson, University of Minnesota

Agricultural runoff is the largest source of pollution in Minnesota’s waterways. The annual crops that make up the majority of Minnesota’s farming systems are only growing for three to four months out of the year, leaving fields exposed to the elements for the other eight months. Without root systems or vegetative cover in place, the soil is susceptible to erosion and runoff, leaving it and the chemical fertilizers it contains to be carried into nearby waterways.

IMG_2884

Demonstration showing runoff from different forever green crops compared to bare soil

Luckily, there are solutions that farmers can employ that work with their existing agricultural practices, and even add value to their crops. The University of Minnesota’s Forever Green Initiative researches perennial and cover crops that can extend the growing season and preserve soil and water health. The Initiative works on finding solutions that farmers can employ easily, giving them the freedom to choose a method that doesn’t hurt their bottom line. However, they are also focused on developing new innovate farming techniques that move away from the traditional annual cropping system of farming to perennial year round cover.

One of the most exciting crops in development is Kernza, an intermediate perennial wheatgrass grown that the Forever Green Initiative sees as one of its breakout stars. Unlike traditional wheat, the Kernza plant comes back year after year; reducing tilling and the need to buy seed each season. Because it is a perennial, Kernza’s roots extend deep into the ground, making it more able to withstand periods of drought. These long roots hold the soil in place while the plant is dormant during the winter months, preventing it from blowing away or washing into waterways. 

IMG_2893

Kernza’s dense roots hold soil in place, and filter clean water

Not only do perennial crops like Kernza prevent runoff into lakes, rivers, and streams, they also improve soil quality by adding nutrients back into the soil. Agricultural systems that replenish their own nutrients don’t require expensive fertilizers, cutting costs for farmers. It’s also an economically viable crop – local restaurant Birchwood is already using it in their kitchen, and other small businesses are testing out its uses as well. 

 

Forever Green is changing the way we practice farming in Minnesota without farmers having to sacrifice their economic future. We need to continue funding the innovation of Forever Green for generations to come. Projects that create solutions for farmers as well as water quality must be a priority for our state. Accelerating the development of economically viable perennial crops will move us forward towards cleaner water and healthier soil. In order to continue long term growth, we need long term investment in this research as it is ongoing over several growing seasons. Let’s make a smart investment in our future and fully fund the Forever Green Initiative for years to come.

IMG_2872

Governor Dayton tries Kernza scones from Birchwood

Tour of 'Forever Green' research at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul campus.  April 19, 2016.

They’re a hit! Gov. Dayton with Don Wyse, lead researcher on the Forever Green Initiative. Credit: David Hanson, University of Minnesota

News Watch: Apr. 21

Posted by

Today’s Topics: Climate Change, Earth Day, Emissions, Energy, Mining, Oil & Pipelines, Parks & Trails, Pollinators, Transportation, Waste & Recycling, Water, Wildlife & Fish

Climate Change
New York Times: 2016 already shows record global temperatures
New York Times: A new dark age looms
NPR: Climate change? Some people may not be sweating it because the weather is nicer (In MPR)

Earth Day
Star Tribune: Earth Day approaches; dig in with these ideas
Star Tribune: Appreciating Earth’s beauty is one way to steward

Emissions
NPR: What will Volkswagen do for its diesel customers? (In MPR)

Energy
Fox 9: Solar fields bring concerns, not excitement in Buffalo, Minn.
KQED Public Media: A rare look at factory Tesla hopes will revolutionize energy use (In MPR)
Midwest Energy News: Minnesota study challenges ‘coal car’ claims about electric vehicles
MinnPost: Environmental and community groups join forces to take on an old foe: the HERC featuring MEP member groups Sierra Club and MIPRG
MPR: ‘Killing for Coal: America’s Deadliest Labor War’

LTE, New York Times: Coal mining in national forests

Mining
Duluth News Tribune: Interior secretary touts BWCAW as special place featuring MEP member group Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness
Duluth News Tribune: PolyMet forum outlines permit process
Fox 9: The Twin Metal Mine has some worried about the environmental effects featuring MEP member group Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness
MPR: PolyMet supporters, critics expected at permit info meeting
MPR: Meeting paves the way for PolyMet permit applications
Timberjay: PolyMet project timeline unclear
Timberjay: Interior Secretary touts BWCAW as “special place” featuring MEP member group Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness

Oil & Pipelines
AP: Oil tanker laden with North Dakota crude reaches Netherlands (In Star Tribune)
Duluth News Tribune: Which agency should lead pipeline environmental studies at issue?

Parks & Trails
Brainerd Dispatch: Klobuchar, Franken, Nolan introduce land swap bill for Voyageurs National Park

Pollinators
New York Times: Do honeybees feel? Scientists are entertaining the idea

Transportation
MN Daily: Automated cars could be the new norm
MPR: Met Council: Business booming along Twin Cities light rail lines
Pioneer Press: Did the Green Line directly spur $4.2B in development?
Politics in MN: Green Line continues to attract developers
Star Tribune: Met Council touts developments near LRT stops

LTE, Star Tribune: Readers Write (April 19): Transit funding

Waste & Recycling
MinnPost: Will Keurig coffee pods really become recyclable? Don’t hold your breath
Star Tribune: What Minnesotans are throwing away, but could be recycling

Water
Brainerd Dispatch: The Nature Conservancy launches campaign to protect Minnesota headwaters
Brainerd Disptach: MPCA to host open house on water quality assessments
MPR: Dayton presses Minnesota lawmakers to do more to protect water
MPR: Proposed water bill to replace lead pipes, boost Iron Range economy
NPR: 3 face criminal charges over Flint water crisis (In MPR)
Pioneer Press: Mark Dayton renews call for water-quality funding in Minnesota
SC Times: Lynden wells topic of meeting

Commentary, Austin Daily Herald: Others’ Opinion: Water quality – Don’t undercut buffer law
Commentary, Duluth News Tribune: Governor’s View: On water quality, failure is not an option
Editorial, Post Bulletin: Our View: Action needed to protect our water
LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s view: Wastewater spills show potential for failure

Wildlife & Fish
AP: Isle Royale study: Moose thriving, but wolf population down to 2 (In Pioneer Press)
Duluth News Tribune: Researchers: Too late to save current Isle Royale wolves
MinnPost: Now, Isle Royale research can shift to all that’s being lost with the wolves
MPR: When two is the loneliest number: Isle Royale wolf population drops again
Star Tribune: Wolves on Isle Royale down to two
Star Tribune: DNR beefs up its Mille Lacs walleye management toolbox with a stocking trial

LTE, Star Tribune: Readers Write (April 21): Wolves at Isle Royale

News Watch: Apr. 18

Posted by

Today’s Topics: Climate Change, Energy, Frac Sand, Mining, Oil & Pipelines, Transportation, Water, Wildlife & Fish

Climate Change
MPR: Climate Cast: Why Minnesota corporations are greening up
Star Tribune: Warming temps will squeeze North Shore ski season, but bring surge in May

LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s View: Why use our atmosphere as an unpriced sewer?

Energy
Duluth News Tribune: PUC gets Minnesota Power solar project plan

Commentary, Duluth News Tribune: Local view: Minnesota has ways to go on renewable energy
LTE, Mankato Free Press: Solar deals shine bright

Frac Sand
Post Bulletin: Winona County Board puts frac sand ban back on agenda featuring MEP member group Land Stewardship Project

Mining
AP: PolyMet supporters, opponents prepare for permit meeting (In MPR)
Ely Echo: Pro-mining group seeks gov’s records
Star Tribune: Sen. Bakk warns Cook County that anti-mining stance could cost it

LTE, Star Tribune: Readers Write (April 15): Twin Metals mining by Paul Danicic of Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness

Oil & Pipelines
LTE, Brainerd Dispatch: Reader Opinion: Pipelines versus trains

Transportation
Austin Daily Herald: Red Bike pedals out
Pioneer Press: You’ll be able to use your phone to ride Metro Transit soon
Star Tribune: Fix for nasty Franklin-Cedar-Minnehaha junction needs one last approval
Star Tribune: Minneapolis City Council retains four lanes for 3rd Avenue downtown
Star Tribune: Franken urges state funding for Southwest Corridor light rail
Star Tribune: Some in St. Louis Park want city to curb its enthusiasm for sidewalks

Commentary, SC Times: Counties see big need for transportation aid
Commentary, SC Times: Knoblach’s Northstar plan doesn’t add up
Editorial, Star Tribune: Don’t delay needed transportation funding in Minnesota

Water
AP: Dayton renews call for water quality funding in Minnesota (In Star Tribune)
Bemidji Pioneer: Senate votes to eliminate buffer confusion
Mankato Free Press: Officials get clearer picture on buffer strips from DNR water maps
Pioneer Press: Minnesota Senate moves to clarify buffers, part of new water quality law
Star Tribune: Senate unanimously passes changes to contentious buffer law featuring MEP member group Friends of the Mississippi River
Star Tribune: Thirsty cities begin to eye water from the Great Lakes
Star Tribune: Gov. Mark Dayton kicks off water quality week

Editorial, Mankato Free Press: Our View: Water quality Don’t undercut buffer law

Wildlife & Fish
AP: Keeping trout from streams OK beginning Saturday (In MPR)
Star Tribune: Conservationists see politics creeping into Minnesota’s designated fish and wildlife spending featuring MEP and member group Izaak Walton League

MEP and members urge Governor Dayton to vote NO on Waukesha diversion proposal

Posted by

Minnesota Environmental Partnership and our member groups delivered the following letter to Governor Dayton urging him vote no on the Waukesha proposal to divert water from Great Lakes.

Dear Governor Dayton,

On behalf of the undersigned conservation and environmental organizations and their tens of thousands of Minnesota citizen-members, I am writing to express our shared concern that the City of Waukesha’s proposed Water Diversion Application fails to meet the appropriate conditions established under the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact. As the first state to approve the Great Lakes Compact (Compact), Minnesota should be the first state to uphold it. We ask you to vote NO on the Waukesha proposal.

The Compact is an agreement adopted by all eight of the Great Lakes states (MN, WI, IL, IN, MI, OH, PA, NY), passed by Congress in 2008, and backed by a parallel agreement between the U.S. and Canada. It provides a structure within which the Great Lakes states and provinces work together to manage, protect, and conserve Great Lakes Water.

We’ve fought hard to keep Lake Superior water clean and plentiful. The lake gives us drinking water, cool air, and a distinct culture. A gubernatorial veto of Waukesha’s unwarranted proposal to divert Lake Michigan water of the Great Lakes basin is critical to defend our hard-won protection of Lake Superior and Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin water.

The decision on Waukesha’s proposal will be an important first test of and a critical proving ground for the Compact. As you know, the Compact bans water diversions outside of the Great Lakes Basin, except under extraordinary conditions.  Any community located outside the Great Lakes Basin that applies for a diversion of Great Lakes water must demonstrate that it is applying for the diversion only as a last resort rather, never as a preferred option; i.e., that it has exhausted all other available options to obtain water.  A community also must show that the amount of water requested is not more than what is needed.

We ask that you vote NO because the City of Waukesha: 1) has reasonable alternative safe water sources; 2) is asking for 50% more water than it actually uses; and 3) proposes to divert Great Lakes water to communities that do not need it. These failings in the proposal are further explained below:

1)    Waukesha has a Feasible and Much Less Expensive Alternative to Meet its Water Needs.

Under Section 4.9.3.d of the Compact, an applicant for a diversion must demonstrate that “There is no reasonable water supply alternative within the basin in which the community is located, including conservation of existing water supplies.” A July 2015 report by two independent engineering firms found that Waukesha has a feasible water supply alternative. The report concluded that Waukesha can use its existing deep and shallow water wells to provide ample clean and safe water to its residents now and in the future if it invests in additional water treatment infrastructure to ensure the water supply meets state and federal standards. This treatment alternative costs much less than a diversion, secures water independence for Waukesha residents, protects public health, and minimizes adverse resource impacts. Treating their existing wells for radium in order to provide potable water is an obvious option that the City of Waukesha does not even consider in the application. Over three dozen other communities in Wisconsin alone, not to mention scores of other communities around the country, have chosen this route and already provide potable drinking water to their residents. With a proven, reasonable alternative available, the proposed diversion is not consistent with the Compact.

2)    Waukesha Fails to Demonstrate its Need for Water.

The amount of water Waukesha requests far exceeds its need. Under Section 4.9.4.b of the Compact, “The Exception will be limited to quantities that are considered reasonable for the purposes for which it is proposed.” Waukesha is requesting 10.1 million gallons per day as an annual average to meet projected demand at full build-out. However, the application fails to demonstrate why the city needs so much more water than it is currently using, and independent analysis demonstrates that the request cannot be reasonably justified. A National Wildlife Federation report authored in February of 2013 by Jim Nicholas, a scientist and retired director of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Michigan Water Science Center, shows that Waukesha’s forecasts of average-day demand and maximum-day demand are based on models that inflate the city’s need for water in the future and are inconsistent with historical trends. Waukesha’s per capita water use or demand is declining and has been declining for about three decades. Waukesha’s demand forecast for 2050, however, assumes a significant increase in per capita water use, despite planned implementation of conservation measures aimed at reducing water use. Without an explanation justifying the higher demand, the proposed diversion cannot be considered reasonable and, therefore, is inconsistent with the Compact.

3)  Diverting Great Lakes Water for Towns that Don’t Need It

If its proposal were approved, Waukesha would divert Great Lakes Water to other towns that don’t need it. Under Section 4.9.3.a of the Compact, “The Water shall be used solely for the Public Water Supply Purposes of the Community within a Straddling County that is without adequate supplies of potable water.” The city’s application proposes that Great Lakes water be diverted for other towns in Waukesha County, including Pewaukee and the towns of Delafield and Waukesha, among others, that do not need Great Lakes water. To date, none of the communities in this “extended service area” has demonstrated that it is without adequate supplies of safe drinking water. In fact, on February 26, City of Delafield Mayor Michele DeYoe stated, “We don’t have an issue right now, but that’s not to say that someday we will.”

The Compact is clear that a need for water must exist in the community to be eligible for a diversion. If these areas are included as part of Waukesha’s diversion application, they must demonstrate that they meet all requirements of the Compact, including that they are without adequate supplies of potable water and that there is no reasonable water supply alternative, including conservation, before the application is approved.

In closing, we respectfully request that you veto Waukesha’s diversion request as inconsistent with the clear terms of the Great Lakes Compact.  We are not alone in making this request.  We are aware that of the more than 11,200 comments submitted to the Regional Body and Compact Council, only 75 (less than one percent) commented in favor of the diversion.  Your office has received more than 3800 comments opposed to the proposal. In addition, at the listening session hosted by the Minnesota DNR in Duluth last month, more than 70 Minnesotans attended, and while no speaker supported the Waukesha proposal, 23 spoke in opposition to it. 

We appreciate your consideration of our comments. We applaud the Minnesota DNR’s efforts in hosting an independent public review process to ensure that Minnesotans have the opportunity to have their voices heard on this precedent-setting decision.

If you have specific questions about our comments, please contact Gary Botzek of the Minnesota Conservation Federation at gary@capitolconnections.com, Allison Wolf with Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy at awolf@mncenter.org, or Matt Norton with Minnesota Environmental Partnership at mattnorton@mepartnership.org. We look forward to working with you throughout this process.

Sincerely,

Steve Morse, Executive Director
Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Alliance for Sustainability

Clean Water Action – Minnesota

Duluth Audubon Society

Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness

Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest

Izaak Walton League of America – Minnesota Division

Land Stewardship Project

Lower Phalen Creek Project

Lutheran Advocacy – Minnesota

Mankato Area Environmentalists

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

Minnesota Conservation Federation

National Wildlife Federation

Save Our Sky Blue Waters

Sierra Club – North Star Chapter

St. Croix River Association

Transit for Livable Communities

WaterLegacy

 

News Watch: Apr. 14

Posted by

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

Agriculture & Food
Austin Daily Herald: Lessons from the soil: CHS specialist helps farmers maximize potential
MPR: Study: Many Minnesotans face long trips to buy fresh food
Star Tribune: Minnesota among 10 worst states for access to fresh healthy food

Climate Change
Duluth News Tribune: Gardening event touts planting for new climate reality
Grist: Here’s everything we know about how to talk about climate change

Energy
New York Times: Coal giant Peabody Energy files for bankruptcy protection (In Star Tribune)
WCCO: Why aren’t more power lines buried underground?
Winona Daily News: Tri-County merger overwhelmingly approved; change takes effect next year

Commentary, MinnPost: Clean energy: It’s creating jobs, and it’s affordable
Commentary, Washington Post: Bulb standards: Bright lights, big savings, no fuss after all (InStar Tribune)
LTE, Brainerd Dispatch: Reader Opinion: Clean energy

Frac Sand
Winona Post: Winona Co. Board will consider sand ban featuring MEP member group Land Stewardship Project

Invasive Species
AP: Starry stonewort discovery prompts efforts to stop algae (In MPR)

Editorial, Star Tribune: Boost the fight against Minnesota’s newest aquatic invader

Mining
Duluth News Tribune: Nolan: Minnesota can have mining and clean water
Duluth News Tribune: Cook County board stays mum on copper mining

Commentary, Star Tribune: In blocking Twin Metals’ leases, Dayton rules by fiat

Oil & Pipelines
AP: Minnesota regulators set 12 public meetings on oil pipelines (In Star Tribune)

Parks & Trails
Brainerd Dispatch: A conservation controversy: Multi-use trail proposal on Legacy land raises concerns

Pollinators
AP: Garden-care giant Ortho to drop chemicals linked to bee declines (In Star Tribune)
NPR: Home and garden giant ditches class of pesticides that may harm bees (In MPR)

Transportation
Austin Daily Herald: Red Bike roll out
Austin Daily Herald: Get on a bike and ride; Respect, ridership will key Red Bike success
MinnPost: The downtown Third Avenue redesign debate: Which is better — four lanes or a ‘road diet’?
Politics in MN: Bill seeks oversight of high-speed rail plan
Star Tribune: Headaches expected as major metro road projects get underway
Star Tribune: North Minneapolis rapid bus project on Penn Avenue faces new delay

LTE, Star Tribune: Readers Write (April 14): U.S. Bank stadium and birds, transportation policy, 35W and 3rd Avenue projects
LTE, Star Tribune: Readers Write (April 13): Third Avenue redesign

Water
Austin Daily Herald: Farmers sought for water-quality certification program; Producers encouraged to contact Mower SWCD office in April
Austin Daily Herald: One Watershed, One Plan launches statewide
Austin Daily Herald: Big state bonding session this year for CRWD
Brained Dispatch: MPCA team from Brainerd to conduct water monitoring
International Falls Journal: MPCA starts water quality monitoring
NPR: Chicago’s upgrades to aging water lines may disturb lead pipes
Star Tribune: St. Croix waterfront case sets up property rights showdown

Commentary, Austin Daily Herald: State should embrace Gov. Dayton’s clean water infrastructure plan
LTE, Brainerd Dispatch: Reader Opinion: Protect our water

News Watch: Apr. 11

Posted by

Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food, Climate Change, Conservation, Emissions, Energy & Efficiency, Mining, Oil & Pipelines, Parks & Trails, Sustainability, Transportation, Waste & Recycling, Water, Wildlife & Fish

Agriculture & Food
Public News Service: Expanding rural Minnesota food access through mobile, farmers markets

Editorial, Washington Post: White House dirt-digging should continue to grow (In Star Tribune)
LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s view: Evidence is mounting against using Roundup
LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s View: The more we know about our food the better

Climate Change
International Falls Journal: Spring gardening event focuses on adapting to climate change

LTE, Star Tribune: Readers Write (April 10): Paying for pollution

Conservation
MinnPost: Half of world’s best natural places are under pressure from industrial activity

Emissions
Commentary, Duluth News Tribune: Local View: Environmental cost may exceed public benefit

Energy & Efficiency 
Southwest Journal: Minneapolis has room to grow on solar
Star Tribune: Largest wind farm proposed; trade seminars; tech firm money raise off to good start
Star Tribune: Report faults Xcel’s handling of solar garden project
St. Peter Herald: Community forum a good conversation on solar energy featuring MEP member groups Environment Minnesota and Conservation Minnesota

LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s View: Investment in energy conservation will pay off by Will Nissen of MEP member group Fresh Energy
LTE, Mankato Free Press: Solar energy could benefit all St. Peter residents

Mining
Ely Echo: Twenty RAMS members lobby Dayton
Ely Echo: Governor defends stance to Ely officials, slams project, but says he won’t make final call
MPR: Mine layoffs bring new calls to remake Iron Range economy, but into what?
Wall Street Journal: Mining dams grow to colossal heights, and so do the risks

LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s view: Mining, oil industries integral to protesters

Oil & Pipelines
Brainerd Dispatch: GOP legislators ask Dayton to release state investigation on Sandpiper comments
Star Tribune: Minnesota legislators want railroads to open books on emergency response

Parks & Trails
Star Tribune: Park Board, neighbors seek to beautify Cedar Lake beach

Sustainability
Commentary, Duluth News Tribune: Local View: Sustainability is an evolution that is here to stay

Transportation
Politics in MN: Hope and nope as deadlines pass for small bills featuring MEP member groups Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota and Transit for Livable Communities
Pioneer Press: Nice Ride is taking off – and waiting for St. Paul to catch up
Star Tribune: Pedestrian group battles for wider 3rd Avenue sidewalk at City Hall

Commentary, Austin Daily Herald: Sparks: Transportation a priority for 2016
Commentary, SC Times: Here’s how Northstar extension might work
Commentary, Star Tribune: A comprehensive transportation bill is sorely needed for roads, bridges, transit in Minnesota
Commentary, Star Tribune: Emissions by the numbers: Gas vs. hybrid vs. electric
Commentary, Star Tribune: It’s time to pull the plug on electric-car subsidies

Waste & Recycling
NPR: What happens when fashion becomes fast, disposable and cheap? (In MPR)

Water 
AP: U.S. water systems repeatedly exceed federal standard for lead (In MPR)
Duluth News Tribune: Photo show kicks off monthlong ‘One River, Many Stories’ collaboration
MPR: Lead poisoning still a worry for kids in pockets of Minnesota
Star Tribune: Cover Crops may improve water quality near farms

Commentary, Star Tribune: Minnesota should embrace governor’s clean water infrastructure plan

Wildlife & Fish
AP: Federal agency offers reward for arrest in eagle killing (In MPR)
MPR: DNR lifts live bait ban on Mille Lacs walleye fishing
Pioneer Press: Mille Lacs walleye fishing could close by Aug. 1 without live-bait ban, DNR warns
Star Tribune: EagleCam eaglets are growing up; banding next week

Spotlight on Session: Legislative Updates 4/8/2016

Posted by

It’s a rapid fire legislative session. Bills move fast. There’s a lot to pack in during a session only 11 weeks long. Today was an important deadline – from here on out, the focus will be on cleaning up the finance aspects of the legislation.

MPCA Citizens’ Board: Since the midnight abolition of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Citizen’s Board at the end of the last session, many legislators have been focused on reinstating the Citizens Board. This is highly critical because up until the end of the 2015, the Citizens Board was the decision making body for the MPCA. Four different bills were introduced in the Senate to reinstate the board, and Senator Marty’s bill moved forward. As of now there is not a companion bill in the House. The bill is moving forward to the Finance Committee on the Senate side. 

Sustainable Economic Development: A bill that’s moving forward with a good chance of passage is Border-to-Border Broadband funding, which would provide funding to support broadband infrastructure in greater Minnesota. Access to broadband expands economic development outside of mining in greater Minnesota. Both the House and the Senate are interested in funding border-to-border broadband, though they disagree about the level of funding. The Governor and Senate are proposing $100 million in funding for broadband in greater Minnesota, and the House is proposing $28 million. This means that both parties are interested in funding this, and will need to come to a compromise on the extent of funding. Watch for a post in upcoming weeks about what this means for the environment.

Perennial Biofuels: We are excited to report that the Working Lands Watershed Restoration and Perennial Biofuels funding bill is moving forward in both the Senate and the House. Last session, a bill was passed into law that incentivized the addition of perennial biofuels to operating biofuel production plants. However, there was no mechanism for incentivizing biofuel growers to grow the perennial crops needed to meet the perennial biofuel production incentive. This bill would close this gap, and create a monetary incentive to Minnesota growers for producing the perennial grasses to be used in the next generation of cellulosic biofuels production. This will help to grow our agricultural economy, and make ethanol production in Minnesota more sustainable. 

Forever Green: As we enter the finance-focused portion of session, we will be focusing more and more on our Forever Green funding initiative. Forever Green is a program at the University of Minnesota developing cover crops and alternative crops for Minnesota farmers. These crops are critical to increasing the amount of continuous living cover on our farmlands and expand profitable cropping options for farmers. Cover crops greatly reduce runoff and nutrient pollution from farmland, protecting our waters. This is a program at the University of Minnesota that fund graduate student research in cutting-edge agriculture technology. The Forever Green initiative has received funding for one year for the last two years, and the goal this year is to secure long-term funding. It’s difficult to plan research, and attract graduate students, when the funding needs to be renewed every year. We want to make funding for the Forever Green Initiative stable. 

Transportation: Finally, we are still seeking long term funding dedicated to multi-modal transportation infrastructure repairs and improvements. This would include funding for roads, bridges, public transportation systems, and safe biking and walking connections across the state. Much of this will play out under financial negotiation. Some legislators are arguing that we should spend half of the budget surplus on transportation infrastructure, and we need to make sure that public transit is included.

We still have several weeks left in the session, and we will keep you updated on how these critical initiatives move forward.

News Watch: Apr. 6

Posted by

Today’s Topics: Climate Change, Conservation, Energy, Mining, Oil & Pipelines, Parks & Trails, Transportation, Waste & Recycling, Water

Climate Change
MPR: Will climate change open up the Arctic to tourism?

Commentary, Star Tribune: How to fight climate change? Put a price on pollution
LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s view: Climate change skeptic used discredited arguments
LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s View: Ignore misinformation; climate change is real
LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s View: Climate change skeptics ignore the hard truth

Energy
AP: Solar power project in southwestern Minnesota gets approval (In Politics in MN)
Brainerd Dispatch: Cass County Board: Deep Portage approved for solar panels
Business Wire: Andersen Corporation announces commitment to Community Solar
E&E: Minn. poised to import Canadian hydro to cut carbon featuring MEP member group Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Mankato Free Press: St. Peter residents, staff talk solar future featuring MEP member groups Conservation Minnesota and Environment Minnesota
MPR: Controversial solar farm near Marshall gets OK to start construction
SC Times: Stearns to hear input on solar rules
Star Tribune: State’s largest wind farm yet proposed in southwest Minnesota
Star Tribune: Solar `speed dating’ matches consumers with firms that are building solar gardens featuring MEP member group Fresh Energy
Star Tribune: Large solar project approved near Marshall, Minn. for Xcel Energy customers

Commentary, MinnPost: Clean energy drives Midwest job growth
Commentary, MinnPost: Clean energy is about keeping people healthy
Editorial, New York Times: A renewable energy boom

Mining
MPR: State’s new PolyMet consultant in line for $309K
Northland News Center: Gov. Dayton meets with Ely officials featuring MEP member groupNortheastern Minnesotans for Wilderness
Star Tribune: Schafer: Here’s why this time really is different for Minnesota mining
Timberjay: Dayton defends position on Twin Metals

Commentary, Star Tribune: Proposal to limit mineral lease rights would cost Iron Range
Editorial, Duluth News Tribune: Our View: Props to Dayton; even if law broken
LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s view: Boundary Waters is dear, old friend in need of help
LTE, Star Tribune: Readers Write (April 6): Minneapolis’ plastic-bag ban, mining, pipelines by Don Arnosti of MEP member group Izaak Walton League

Oil & Pipelines
Duluth News Tribune: Duluth Enbridge protesters found guilty of trespassing
MPR: Senate panel oks tougher railroad reporting standards
Pioneer Press: Investigation: MPCA worker’s Sandpiper emails had ‘poorly chosen words,’ not opposition
Pioneer Press: Stassen-Berger: State investigation of MPCA employee done, but not public

LTE, Bemidji Pioneer: Commissioners support Enbridge projects
LTE, Brainerd Dispatch: Reader Opinion: Stopping Sandpiper

Parks & Trails
Bemidji Pioneer: DNR commissioner highlights Itasca needs in capital bonding request

Transportation
Bemidji Pioneer: Capitol Chatter: Driverless cars struggle when looking for lane lines
Fergus Falls Journal: Can Fergus get more pledges to bike than Little Falls? featuring MEP member group Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota
Pioneer Press: Traditional GOP allies – businesses – are challenging party on transit
Politics in MN: Metro Transit hopes to add electric buses
Politics in MN: Shuttles may answer traffic issues near soccer stadium
Public News Service: National Walking Day highlights need for safe school routes featuring MEP member group Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota
Star Tribune: Council panel deadlocks on 3rd Avenue lane redesign proposal
Star Tribune: Affordable housing a must along Southwest LRT, according to strategy
Star Tribune: City officials across Minnesota vie for aid to rebuild crumbling streets
Star Tribune: Nicollet Mall redo back on track, on budget with new bids
West Central Tribune: Bikes Alliance seeks input at open house

Commentary, Duluth News Tribune: Bicycle Advocate’s View: Sharing the road a shared responsibility
Commentary, SC Times: Northstar needs to prove its worth 1st
Commentary, SC Times: Knoblach’s Northstar plan for St. Cloud is promising
Editorial, Duluth News Tribune: Our view: Just who’ll ride the rails?
LTE, Star Tribune: Readers Write (April 4): Free-transit proposal

Waste & Recycling
MPR: Minneapolis moves to ban plastic bags
Redwood Falls Gazette: Walking for the water featuring MEP member group CURE
Star Tribune: Minneapolis council votes to ban plastic bags, impose paper-bag fee
Star Tribune: Minneapolis City Council votes to ban plastic bags

LTE, Star Tribune: Readers Write (April 5): Plastic bag ban

Water
AP: Federal judge throws out complaint over Red River diversion
Bemidji Pioneer: New bill alters sulfate discharge limits at Keetac mine featuring MEP member group Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Mankato Free Press: A united front on cleaner lakes in Lake Crystal
NPR: Drought-plagued Californians are still too thirsty (In MPR)
NPR: Elevated levels of suspected carcinogen found in states’ drinking water (In MPR)
SC Times: Lynden well tests: Metals from nature

Editorial, Mankato Free Press: Our View: Water quality: Be proactive on St. Peter’s Lake Hallett

News Watch: Mar. 31

Posted by

Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food, Climate Change, Conservation, Energy, Mining, Parks & Trails, Pollinators, Transportation, Waste & Recycling, Water, Wildlife & Fish

Agriculture & Food
AP: Grocery retailer Supervalu joins move toward cage-free eggs (In MPR)
Bemidji Pioneer: Lawmakers support Minnesota urban agriculture effort
MPR: Scientists worry massive Chinese lake a global bird flu cauldron

Climate Change
Echo Press: Ice leaves Lake L’Homme Dieu early
New York Times: The invisible catastrophe
New York Times: Climate model predicts West Antarctic Ice Sheet could melt rapidly 
New York Times: Exxon Mobil climate change inquiry in New York gains allies
Washington Post: Antarctic loss could double expected sea level rise by 2100, scientists say (In Pioneer Press)

Conservation
Star Tribune: Hearing a call to protect the prairie in southwestern Minnesota

Divestment
Star Tribune: DFL legislators want pension fund investments in fossil fuel firms to end

Energy
Duluth News Tribune: Duluth mayor would invest in energy conservation
Midwest Energy News: Minnesota co-ops rolling out high fixed charge for solar customers featuring MEP member group Fresh Energy
New York Times: As nuclear security summit begins, materials remain vulnerable to theft
Utility Drive: How utility collaboration can cut community solar costs up to 40%

Mining
AP: Dayton to visit Eveleth after opposing Twin Metals project (In Star Tribune)
Duluth News Tribune: Dayton will meet with Ely, Iron Range officials about Twin Metals
Duluth News Tribune: State hires firm to figure PolyMet insurance fund
Timberjay: Ely officials to discuss mining with Gov. Dayton

Commentry, SC Times: Kudos to Dayton for protecting BWCAW
Editorial, Ely Echo: Governor attacks Ely’s economic future

Parks & Trails
Duluth News Tribune: Minnesota DNR seeks bonding money to fix state park buildings, roads
Pioneer Press: DNR wants millions to fix these Minnesota state park facilities
Pioneer Press: DNR says it needs $132M. So why is it only asking for $33M?
SC Times: Lawmaker: Require local OK before clear-cutting state land
Star Tribune: Dakota County seeks $2.2 million for railroad crossing on Mississippi bike trail
Star Tribune: DNR wants $33 million to fix state parks, trails

Commentary, Duluth News Tribune: Park president’s view: Investments, momentum growing for Duluth parks

Pollinators
NPR: Adopt a beehive — save a beekeeper? (In MPR)

Transportation
Bemidji Pioneer: Commuter rail extension to St. Cloud wanted
Pioneer Press: The disabled should have access to driverless cars, Minnesota lawmaker says
Politics in MN: Knoblach aims to extend Northstar to St. Cloud
Reuters: Self-driving cars confused by poor road conditions
SC Time: Knoblach pitches bill to extend Northstar to St. Cloud
Star Tribune: Minn. high school teams racing to Eco-Marathon
Star Tribune: Minnesota legislators buzzing with electric, plug-in hybrid car rebate

Waste & Recycling
LTE, Star Tribune: Readers Write (March 31): Proposed plastic bag ban
LTE, Star Tribune: Readers Write (March 30): Minneapolis parks, proposed plastic-bag ban

Water
AP: Dayton, cabinet members, visit SW Minnesota to talk water
AP: Indigenous people lead water walk along Minnesota River (In Politics in MN)
Austin Daily Herald: Seeking third CREP in Minn. for water quality, habitat
Duluth News Tribune: Public hearings Thursday on Minnesota water quality rules featuring MEP member group WaterLegacy
MinnPost: Some of our smallest water systems have biggest contamination problems
MPR: Walkers along Minnesota River highlight need for clean water
Star Tribune: Gov. Mark Dayton travels to Edgerton, heart of farm country, to talk water quality

Wildlife & Fish
MinnPost: Can we have our fish and eat them too? Maybe so — with better management
MPR: That baby squirrel may not actually need your help
Timberjay: DNR: walleye numbers ‘exceptionally strong’

News Watch: Mar. 28

Posted by

Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food, Climate Change, Energy, Leg & Agency, Mining, Oil & Pipelines, Parks & Trails, Pollution, Sustainability, Transportation, Waste & Recycling, Water, Wildlife & Fish

Agriculture & Food
NPR: How little Vermont got big food companies to label GMOs (In MPR)

Climate Change
MPR: Is climate change affecting fishing in Minnesota? featuring MEP member group Trout Unlimited
Star Tribune: Warmest 12 months on record for Minnesota, but arctic slap is 1 week away

LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s view: Climate change funds should be diverted

Energy
LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s view: Clean, renewable energy makes ‘cents’
LTE, Mankato Free Press: Big box stores should go solar featuring MEP member group Environment Minnesota

Leg & Agency
Editorial, Star Tribune: White Earth Nation is best-suited to manage conservation project

Mining
Duluth News Tribune: Silver Bay City Council draws criticism for decision to remove Bent Paddle beer

Commentary, MinnPost: Why Minnesota can’t afford mining near the Boundary Waters featuring MEP member group Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness
LTE, Star Tribune: Readers Write (March 28): Mining, beer and speech

Oil & Pipelines
Star Tribune: No change in review process for Minnesota crude oil pipelines

Parks & Trails
Star Tribune: DNR says aging Itasca State Park in urgent need of refurbishment
Star Tribune: State briefs: Minnesota DNR seeks $72.5 million for repairs at state parks

Pollution
MPR: MPCA detects high lead levels in north Minneapolis
Star Tribune: Scrapyard owner responds to MPCA air-quality concerns

Transportation
Austin Daily Herald: 30 bikes ready to roll out with Red Bike debut next month
Pioneer Press: The east metro ruckus over $485 million Gold Line is getting louder
SC Times: 5,000-signature for rail service hits Capitol
Star Tribune: The Drive: Lessons learned with pilot Route 494
West Central Tribune: Regional transportation plans to be discussed

Commentary, Star Tribune: My tourism plan can make us the envy of the world

Sustainability
MN Daily: Like its neighbors, Marcy introduces green initiative

Waste & Recycling
MN Daily: City moves to ban single-use bags
West Central Tribune: Kandiyohi County sees progress in recycling

Commentary, Star Tribune: In praise of Minneapolis’ proposed plastic-bag ban cowritten by MEP members Deanna White of Clean Water Action, Ryan Kennedy of MPIRG and Mathews Hollinshead of Sierra Club North Star Chapter
Editorial, Star Tribune: Minneapolis has more work to do on plastic bag ordinance
LTE, Star Tribune: Readers Write (March 28): Proposed plastic-bag ban, mining, beer and speech

Water
Duluth News Tribune: No new confirmed aquatic invasive species in Great Lakes for 10 years
East Side Review: New director of Lower Phalen Creek Project continues the non-profit’s dreams featuring MEP member group Lower Phalen Creek Project
Mankato Free Press: Indigenous people lead spiritual water walk along Minnesota River
MinnPost: An iconic Wisconsin lake goes murky, and a tiny invader is at fault
MN Daily: U team improves bioreactors to clean up fertilizer runoff
NPR: Gov. Snyder’s sweeping plan for Flint water crisis gets a reality check (In MPR)
Star Tribune: St. Croix River steward helps people understand protective regulations featuring MEP member group St. Croix River Association
West Central Tribune: Walking the length of the river: Spiritual journey calls attention to contamination of the Minnesota River

Wildlife & Fish
Duluth News Tribune: Steelheaders wanted: Genetics study aims to examine steelhead/kamloops rainbow trout interbreeding featuring MEP member group Trout Unlimited
NPR: Japanese fleet kills 333 whales in the Antarctic (In MPR)
Pioneer Press: Mille Lacs walleye impact: ‘We’re hurting.’ Should state offer aid?