News Watch: Sept 2

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Climate Change; Energy; Fish & Wildlife; Invasive Species; Natural Disasters; Oil & Pipelines; Transportation; Waste & Recycling; Water; Wilderness; Loon Commons Blog

Agriculture & Food
Associated Press: Wisconsin apple growers say crop looking good (In Pioneer Press
Duluth News Tribune: Locally Laid eggs popular at Whole Foods Co-op in Duluth 
Inforum: Bad rap on food prices 

Climate Change
Brainerd Dispatch: An environmental experiment 
MinnPost: Community Voices: Taking steps to curb climate change would have big impact on public health 
NPR: There’s a big leak in America’s water tower (In MPR

Energy
Midwest Energy News: For Minnesota churches, clean energy is a higher calling 
Midwest Energy News: Survey finds customers support solar as utilities push back 
Red Wing Republican Eagle: Tribe ‘disappointed’ in waste storage rule 

Fish & Wildlife
Associated Press: Wolf vs. dog warning issued in Cook County (In MPR
MPR: DNR to address declining walleye population in New Brighton tonight 
MPR: Snakes in the grass: A key to Minnesota’s vanishing prairie 

Invasive Species
MPR: DNR: Check for invasive species as summer wraps up 

Natural Disasters
NPR: Volcanoes in Iceland, Papua New Guinea keep residents on edge (In MPR

Oil & Pipelines
Associated Press: Halliburton reaches $1.1B oil spill settlement (In Pioneer Press
MPR: Enbridge wins Minnesota OK for oil pipeline 

Transportation
MinnPost: Minneapolis City Council approves Southwest LRT 
MinnPost: Minneapolis has OK’d Southwest LRT. So what happens now? 
Politics in Minnesota: Big wheels line up in transportation push 
Red Wing Republican Eagle: Letter: Zip Rail, with Cannon Falls would be beneficial 

Waste & Recycling
Pioneer Press: St. Paul presses ahead with plans for bids on recycling 

Water
Associated Press: West Virginia whitewater industry official blames chemical spill in part for drop in bookings (In Star Tribune
Inforum: Rep. Cramer claims EPA is keeping secret maps 
MPR: St. Louis River cleanup ‘jump started’ 

Wilderness
Duluth News Tribune: For many, wilderness is about wonder, renewal 
Duluth News Tribune: Local view: Keep Wilderness Act’s flame burning brightly 
Star Tribune: Commentary: Keeping the wilderness untrammeled 
Star Tribune: Star of the North: Late-summer trek to BWCA is family tradition 

  

Midwest voters support increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy sources

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For immediate release: August 28, 2014

Media Contacts:
Christine Durand, Minnesota Environmental Partnership, 651-789-0654, christine@mepartnership.org

St. Paul, Minn. (August 28, 2014) – Seven out of ten Midwesterners say that renewable energy like wind and solar power is a reliable, affordable option that is an increasing source of good jobs, according to a new region-wide public opinion survey released this week by a collaboration of environmental and conservation organizations within the RE-AMP network.  According to the poll results, eight out of ten people surveyed believe that renewable energy will allow us to be more self-reliant and make our energy supply more secure. 

The survey of 2, 477 Midwesterners in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin was conducted this summer by a bipartisan team — Public Opinion Strategies, which conducts polling for Republican candidates, and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, which specializes in polling for Democratic candidates.

The study found that voters in the Midwest, across political party, gender, age, and income categories,  broadly agree that energy efficiencies, along with increasing solar and wind sources of energy are necessary to meet our future energy needs:

  • 95% support increasing energy efficiency.
  • 91% support increasing the use solar energy.
  • 87% support increasing the use of wind energy.

Voters overwhelmingly said that we should move toward cleaner sources of energy (4 out of 5), while just 29% said that we should focus on drilling and digging for more oil, natural gas, and goal, in the U.S. to meet America’s future energy needs. When asked if they would be willing to pay a little extra on their energy bills to promote clean energy and energy efficiency, more than 80% said they would be willing to pay at least $1 per month.

 
The study found that voters will be looking for candidates this fall who want to improve the economy by creating middle-income jobs in the clean energy and clean technology industries and training workers to fill those jobs.

Download the full report

The Minnesota Environmental Partnership is a coalition of more than 70 environmental and conservation nonprofits in the state and is a member of the RE-AMP network. RE-AMP is an active network of 160 nonprofits and foundations across eight Midwestern states working on climate change and energy policy.

 

In Historical Move, MPCA Orders EIS on Proposed Factory Farm

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By Paul Sobocinski, Land Stewardship Project

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Citizens’ Board ruled this week that Riverview LLP’s proposed 8,850-cow dairy operation in Stevens County must undergo an in-depth Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). To my knowledge, this is the first time that the MPCA has ordered an EIS of a factory farm.

This is a good decision. An EIS will allow the proposal’s negative impacts on water quality and quantity, local roads and existing independent family dairy farms to be fully analyzed before the project is allowed to seek a permit.

The proposed operation in Baker Township would house 8,850 cows and 500 heifers, making it among the largest operations of its kind in the state. Riverview LLP is already the largest dairy-producing firm in Minnesota, owning several other massive operations throughout this state, as well as South Dakota. In total, Riverview LLP owns over 45,000 cows, according to a 2013 article in Beef Magazine.

Fortunately, the MPCA Citizens’ Board took a careful look at concerns raised by neighbors and voted 6-1 for an EIS on Aug. 26. Water quantity and quality were chief among neighbors’ concerns. Many streams in the Pomme de Terre watershed, where the factory farm is proposed, are already polluted.

Another concern was that the cumulative impacts of already existing large feedlots, especially Riverview LLP-owned operations, needs to be assessed, including the impacts on water availability. Riverview LLP has four large operations in Stevens County, each over 5,000 cows. One has over 6,000 cows and is within six miles of the proposed operation. If approved, the Baker Township dairy alone would use almost 100 million gallons of water annually.

Neighbors to the proposed dairy are very concerned about hydrogen sulfide and its effects on their health. Hydrogen sulfide is a gas given off by liquid manure lagoons. Exposure to low levels of hydrogen sulfide over time can cause respiratory problems, headaches, eye irritation, insomnia, nausea and dizziness. If exposure is chronic, it can impact neurological functioning and cause more serious lung problems.

Hydrogen sulfide modeling for the proposed Riverview LLP operation indicates that the levels of hydrogen sulfide produced will be near the public health threshold. An MPCA Citizens’ Board member raised concerns that, if the Riverview LLP operation is approved, on-going monitoring for hydrogen sulfide must be required, and that this health concern should not be simply addressed through computer modeling.

Just as importantly, an EIS of the Riverview proposal will address socio-economic impacts. For example, many moderately-sized and beginning farmers in the area are concerned that the Riverview LLP operations push land prices to unaffordable levels. As a hog and beef farmer myself, I know that livestock operations on diversified family farms are essential to stewardship of the land and rural economic prosperity.

Factory farms like Riverview’s, however, displace family farms and generate many millions of gallons of raw liquid manure which is a waste product that is inevitably over-applied on neighboring fields. The MPCA Citizens’ Board decision was the right one for family farmers, the land and rural Minnesota.

Land Stewardship Project organizer Paul Sobocinski raises crops and livestock in southwestern Minnesota’s Redwood County. He can be reached at 507-342-2323 or sobopaul@redred.com.

Taking steps to curb climate change would have a big impact on public health

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Ozone over earth

CC/Flickr/NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

Too often, health impacts are left out of the conversation on climate change. That is unfortunate, because climate change threatens our ability to protect Minnesotans against the dangers of air pollution and increased allergens and asthma triggers linked to warmer summers, extreme weather and smoke from wildfires. This is especially true of the most vulnerable Minnesotans — the young, the elderly and those living with lung disease.

Power plants are the largest stationary source of greenhouse gases in the United States, and are a major source of air pollution in Minnesota. Placing carbon limits on existing power plants will not only reduce greenhouse gases, it will also reduce the amount of particulate pollution these plants emit. The negative health impacts of particulate pollution are well documented and include exacerbating lung diseases and causing cancer or premature death.

We know that temperature is a factor in ozone pollution, one of the major types of air pollution the American Lung Association has been fighting against for years. Our 2014 State of the Air report showed that warmer temperatures increased ozone pollution in large areas across the United States, including communities in Minnesota.

Extreme weather’s impacts

Climate change is associated not only with warmer summers, but extreme weather changes in many forms. Subtle changes in temperatures around the globe can mean drought and wildfires in one region, floods or blizzards in another. All of these extremes have negative effects on lung health, either because of the direct hazards of breathing particulate or ozone pollution, or the indirect health problems many Minnesotans would face due to increased levels of pollen, dust and mold extreme weather can cause.

Climate change is a serious public health issue. Unless it is addressed soon, more Minnesotans will be exposed to conditions that can result in illness and death due to respiratory problems, heat- and weather-related stress and disease carried by insects. These health issues are likely to have the greatest impact on our most vulnerable communities, including children, older adults, those with serious health conditions and the most economically disadvantaged.

As a nation, we have a very important choice to make. Placing first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants is a vital step to prevent the worst effects of climate change. The Clean Power Plan proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would not only reduce carbon pollution by 30 percent, it would reduce ozone and particulate pollution 25 percent by 2030 as it is implemented. That would result in an estimated reduction of 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 fewer asthma attacks in children each year.

Act now, as we did 40 years ago

Forty years ago, we faced a similar choice as we confronted growing air pollution in our most populated area. We responded by passing the Clean Air Act, and by creating a strong federal agency to enforce the nation’s new clean air laws. They have been a tremendous success, making our air cleaner and healthier without hampering our economy or our ability to produce goods and services.

As a health charity dedicated to the mission of protecting the air and improving lung health, we know our nation must act against climate change immediately. To protect the health of Minnesotans, please join with us in fighting for air.

Robert Moffitt is the communication director for the American Lung Association in Minnesota. This post originally appeared in MinnPost.

The Environmental Benefits of Cycling for Minnesota

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Bicycling more and driving less offers numerous advantages, both for the individual as well as the community. As a transportation alternative, bicycling benefits public health and safety, reduces transportation costs and fuel consumption, decreases traffic congestion, boosts the local consumer economy, and reduces environmental impacts, among other things. While we certainly believe the economic, individual and public health, and quality of life benefits are important, this post focuses on some of the important and perhaps surprising ways in which cycling affects the environmental impact of our overall transportation system.

One oft-touted perk of cycling is a “zero-emissions” form of transportation. This of course is over-simplified – and slightly overstated – but it is true that the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that result from riding a bike are far less than other forms of transportation. The European Cycling Federation (ECF) recently published a study comparing the emissions from different forms of transportation and was able to quantify the emission of carbon dioxide (the most abundant GHG) resulting from the production, operation, and maintenance for bicycles, cars, and buses (1). They calculated that riding a bicycle contributes about 21g of emissions per kilometer traveled. Of that amount, 16g is attributable to the “fuel” – the food energy consumed by the rider. Since food is quite literally a cyclist’s fuel, their already-minimal emissions could be reduced much further by consuming a diet featuring local and sustainable menu choices. It should also be noted here that the emissions for electric-assist bikes was calculated to be an almost-identical 22g/km. The emissions for a bus at average occupancy was found to be about 101g/km per passenger, or approximately 5x the emissions of riding a bike. The emissions for automobiles was calculated conservatively taking into account average number of passengers, size and efficiency of the vehicle, and type of driving. In this study, they reported an average for European drivers of 271g/km, or 13x more greenhouse gas pollution per distance traveled compared to a bike. Since the actual distances traveled are on average much greater for motorized transit, the relative benefit of cycling is even greater. Increasing cycling in our transportation mix and thereby reducing usage of motorized vehicles will reduce the overall emissions from our transportation systems.

Group in green shirts that read "I'm Greener than this shirt

Biking is a near-zero-emissions transportation option. Photo credit: Norco Bikes via Flikr.

The ECF analysis only considered the GHG emissions, particularly carbon dioxide; these are considered harmful emissions due to their potential to influence climate change. As many people now realize, global climate change is recognized as a significant environmental challenge and has been linked to many serious public health and safety issues (including rising sea level, increased severe weather events and intensity, water scarcity, loss of agricultural productivity, species loss, air pollution, ocean acidification, and more). Motorized transportation is also associated with particulates and other forms of air pollution which are considered harmful to the environment and human health but were not considered in the above study. The more than communities can support transitioning to less-polluting transportation, the easier and less costly it will be to mitigate against the future impacts of these harmful emissions. As a transportation alternative, cycling certainly offers significant reductions in GHG emissions compared to motorized vehicles.

The ECF analysis also did not attempt to quantify the impact resulting from the infrastructure of each modality, but this is certainly another distinct difference between active- and motorized-transit. In another recent study done by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, they found that the cost of building protected bikeways was more than 100x less expensive per mile than roadways (2). The total distance of bikeways also tends to be smaller, and the associated maintenance is less frequent, so again the relative benefits are even greater than the figured cited. Beyond the costs, there are significant differences in the environmental impacts resulting from the infrastructure of different transit systems.

In addition to the costs of building and maintaining motor vehicle infrastructure, another significant impact is the physical space that is occupied by the infrastructure. A typical cloverleaf intersection, for example, occupies 10-20 acres of space. More and larger roadways increases the distance between destinations, and is a major contributor to urban sprawl and habitat loss for wildlife. More cars also require more spaces for parking, especially with many city ordinances requiring businesses to provide abundant parking even if it rarely is fully occupied. The ECF study estimated that parking spaces alone might increase the total impact of automotive transit by 10% — an additional 27g/km, and more than the total impact of using a bicycle. In many US cities, automotive infrastructure accounts for 33-50% of the total area of a city. This is an astounding figure, and yet many people simply accept this reality as an inevitability of modern society. By decreasing the use and dependence on cars, bicycles allow higher-density more efficient urban development which reduces costs and impacts.

A hyper-abundance of motor vehicle infrastructure and the associated urban sprawl is negatively correlated with measures of community walkability and quality of life. The further apart places are located and the more roadways between those places, the more challenging and dangerous it becomes for pedestrians and cyclists to travel within their communities. The impermeable surfaces which nearly always comprise this infrastructure are further associated with more detrimental environmental impacts, including increased stormwater runoff, water scarcity, and the urban “heat island” effect. Because the automotive infrastructure is impermeable to surface precipitation, it creates runoff which must be managed rather than allowed to absorb into the ground or natural systems and can lead to erosion, flooding, and pollution of surface waters from oil and debris found on and along roadways. As the surface runoff is carried away into larger bodies of water, it isn’t allowed to absorb into the ground where it would eventually seep into the underground aquifers that many communities depend on for drinking water, agriculture, and industrial uses; in this way roads also contribute to water scarcity. And because the infrastructure absorbs solar radiation during the day and re-radiates it into the atmosphere, it increases local temperatures in an effect known as the “urban heat island”. It is estimated that this effect might account for as much as 10 degrees (F) of heating in urban environments on sunny days. All of these negative impacts can be reduced by increasing the share of safe and convenient active-transportation choices in our overall transportation system.

Clearly active transportation offers some significant advantages compared to motorized options, including major reductions in environmental impacts. Increasing cycling and walking as viable transportation alternatives is therefore an important priority.

CJ Lindor is an Education Specialist with the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota. The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota envisions a state where cycling is a safe, easy, fun, and cool choice for everyone and where bicycling is truly integrated as part of the transportation system. To that end we advocate for bicycling and educate both children and adults throughout the state with the goal of more people bicycling more often.

If you want to learn more about and support these efforts, please visit www.BikeMN.org

(1) http://www.ecf.com/wp-content/uploads/ECF_BROCHURE_EN_planche.pdf
(2) http://www.sfbike.org/news/biking-by-the-numbers/

News Watch: Aug. 28

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Climate Change; Conservation; Energy; Frac Sand Mining; Invasive Species; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; State Fair; Transportation; Water; Wilderness; Wildlife; Loon Commons Blog

Agriculture & Food
 
Climate Change
 
Conservation
 
Energy
 
Frac Sand Mining
 
Invasive Species
West Central Tribune: Zebra Mussel Look-out 
 
Mining
 
Oil & Pipelines
 
State Fair
Minnesota 2020: VIDEO: The Eco Experience 
 
Transportation
 
Water
 
Wilderness
 
Wildlife

News Watch: Aug. 25

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Conservation; Development; Energy; Invasive Species; Mining; Natural Disasters; Oil & Pipelines; Transportation; Waste & Recycling; Water; Wildlife; Loon Commons Blog

Agriculture & Food
MPR: State seeks fairgoers’ help for honeybees 
NPR: California drought has wild salmon competing with almonds for water (In MPR
Star Tribune: Aug. 2: ‘Superweeds’ emerge to challenge farmers 
Star Tribune: Commentary: A Cargill pig operation in Arkansas is contradictory 
Star Tribune: Weed blaster shows promise as alternative to herbicides 

Conservation
Timberjay: Managing rock outcrops 

Development
Corcoran News: Best practices from Green Building Tour (In TC Daily Planet
MPR: $28M affordable housing complex set for Green Line route 

Energy
Associated Press: US nuclear expert calls for California nuclear plant shutdown until proven safe (In Star Tribune
Grand Rapids Herald Review: DNR is paving the way toward energy savings 
Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal: Colorado solar player expanding to Twin Cities 
Red Wing Republican Eagle: County moves ahead on solar energy rules 
Star Tribune: Letter: Utility collaboration with active communities is necessary 

Invasive Species
Albert Lea Tribune: MnDOT to remove emerald ash borer infested trees 

Mining
Ely Echo: Editorial: Returning Ely to its mining roots 
MPR: McFadden makes mining an issue in Senate race against Franken 

Natural Disasters
MPR: Biggest earthquake to hit California in 25 years leaves mess in its wake 

Oil and Pipelines
Brainerd Dispatch: Opinion: Pipeline would benefit Aitkin County 
Inforum: Letter: Ag commissioner dismisses worries 
MPR: More Canadian crude could soon flow across northern Minn. under State Dept. plan 
MPR: North Dakota aims to boost rail safety checks 
Star Tribune: DNR: Consider rerouting proposed Sandpiper pipeline 
Think Forward: Tar sands, trade rules and the guttin of human rights for corporate profit (In TC Daily Planet

Transportation
MinnPost: Commuting by transit, walking and cycling linked to lower weight and less body fat 
MPR: Along the Green Line, lives and businesses changed for good and bad 
MPR: Blue Line extension clears hurdle 
MPR: St. Paul leaders chafe at Green Line criticism 
NPR: Did an NPR story empower road rage against bicyclists? (In MPR
Star Tribune: Editorial: Minneapolis and the region would benefit from Southwest LRT 
Star Tribune: Editorial: Transportation should be a topic on the campaign trail in Minnesota 
Star Tribune: Met Council can design Blue Line extension to northern suburbs, feds say 
TC Daily Planet: Bike shops in the Twin Cities 
TC Daily Planet: The biggest transit show in Minnesota: The State Fair 

Waste & Recycling
Corcoran News: Residential organics drop-off coming to the South Transfer Station (In TC Daily Planet

Wildlife
Associated Press: More reports of large fishing spider in Wisconsin (In MPR
Associated Press: Wisconsin DNR considers inland Atlantic salmon stocking 
MinnPost: There will be blood: Minnesota’s state bird – the mosquito – is living large in 2014 
MPR: D.C.’s famous snowy owl dies in Minnesota 
Star Tribune: Commentary: Bird deaths: On this, we all live in glass houses 

 

News Watch: Aug. 21

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Candidates & Legislature; Climate Change; Conservation; Energy; Forestry; Great Lakes; Invasive Species; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Sustainability; Transportation

Agriculture & Food
 
Candidates & Legislature
Star Tribune: Time For A New Minnesota Miracle (written by Paul Austin, Director of MEP member group Conservation Minnesota)
 
Climate Change
 
Conservation
 
Energy
 
Forestry 
 
Great Lakes
 
Invasive Species
 
Mining
Mesabi Daily News: Twin Metals gets high marks 
 
Oil & Pipelines
 
Sustainability
 
Transportation

 

 

 

 

News Watch: Aug. 18

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Conservation; Energy; Invasive Species; Oil & Pipelines; Transportation; Water; Wildlife

Agriculture & Food
 
Conservation
Duluth News Tribune: Minnesota Land Trust, Duluth partner to market outdoors (featuring MEP member group Minnesota Land Trust
 
Energy
Star Tribune: Power surge in Minnesota 
 
Invasive Species
 
Oil & Pipelines 
 
Tranportation
Twin Cities Daily Planet: Blog: Green Line, green lights 
 
Water
 

 

News Watch: Aug. 14

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Conservation; Corporate Accountability; Energy; Fish & Wildlife; Frac Sand Mining; Legislative & Agency News; Mining;  Oil & Pipelines; Outdoor Recreation; Parks & Trails; Pollution; Transportation; Water; Loon Commons Blog

Agriculture & Food
 
Conservation
Pope County Tribune: State Land Trust launches Wetland Protection Plan (featuring MEP member group Minnesota Land Trust) 
Twin Cities Daily Planet: Loon Commons: Saving Minnesota’s grasslands: Conservation, cattle and community (written by Brian DeVore of MEP member group The Land Stewardship Project and featuring Steve Chaplin of MEP member group Minnesota Nature Conservancy
 
Corporate Accountability
 
Energy
 
Fish & Wildlife
 
Frac Sand Mining
Rochester Post Bulletin: Opinion: DNR silica sand mine decision was right for Houston County  (written by Marilyn Frauenkron Bayer of MEP member group Land Stewardship Project)
Legislative & Agency News
Mining
 
Oil & Pipelines
 
Outdoor Recreation
 
Parks & Trails
 
Pollution
 
Transportation
Minnesota 2020: Bike Sharing and Safety 
 
Water