Surprise buffer law rollbacks a major disappointment

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Without a buffer strip of grass or other perennial vegetation, water runs straight off a farm field, carrying phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment into nearby streams, lakes and rivers.

Without a buffer strip of grass or other perennial vegetation, water runs straight off a farm field, carrying phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment into nearby streams, lakes and rivers.

Originally published by Friends of The Mississippi River

Bowing to pressure from agribusiness groups and Republican lawmakers, Gov. Mark Dayton made statewide news with a surprise announcement in late-January: a major portion of the 2015 buffer bill is being rolled back. As a result, hundreds of miles of private ditches will be exempt from buffer requirements and will continue to carry polluted farm runoff into Minnesota’s waters.

Buffer law a bright spot of 2015

The passage of Gov. Mark Dayton’s much-discussed buffer initiative was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise troublesome 2015 legislative session. The law established new perennial vegetation plantings or buffer strips along rivers, streams and ditches to help filter out phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment.

The landmark initiative required two types of buffers: 
• Public waters buffers:  A 50-foot average buffer (with a minimum width of 30 feet) of continuous perennial vegetation along all “public waters” by November 1, 2017.
• Ditch buffers: A 16.5-foot minimum buffer of continuous perennial vegetation along ditches within the “benefited area” of public drainage systems by November 1, 2018.

The law directed the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to develop maps identifying which streams and ditches fall into the above categories, and share those maps with landowners and local governments to assist in implementation. 

Suddenly off the map in 2016: Private ditches 

One key to the initiative’s potential success was its application to both private and public ditches. Since private ditches often discharge polluted runoff to public ditch systems that local landowners help pay to maintain*, it seemed only fair that private ditch owners install buffer protections as well. However, since the governor’s recent announcement, we now know the exact number of private ditches protected by the buffer bill: zero.

According to Gov. Mark Dayton’s statement, he instructed the DNR to stop mapping private ditches after House Republicans threatened to kill pressing public works water-quality projects: “Threats have been reported to me that DNR and [Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources] bonding requests — which are urgently needed to address the state’s serious water quality and infrastructure challenges — would not be considered by House leadership if private ditches were not retroactively exempted from the new buffer requirement.”

As Dayton expressed his reluctance to order this action, the Minnesota Farmers Union, Minnesota Farm Bureau, Minnesota Corn Growers Association and the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association were all quick to publicly thank him for allowing their members to farm right up to the water line. In a recent Pioneer Press article on the governor’s announcement,FMR Executive Director Whitney Clark asked who really insists on farming up to the water’s edge: “The first thing I thought [after the announcement] was who are all these people who want to farm right up to the edge of their ditch? Who are all the people who are asking for that, and is that in the public interest? … It’s stunning that that’s the position that opponents of buffers are taking.”

Also off the map? Many streams and wetlands

Beyond the exemption for private ditches, the DNR’s maps could result in far fewer public waters protected by buffers. The maps currently being developed by the DNR fail to include and thus protect all public waters and wetlands and selectively apply the wrong buffer width for many miles of streams.

  1. Failure to protect all public waters: As defined by state statute, all waters that drain a land area greater than 2 square miles are considered public waters in Minnesota. However, as a recent Star Tribune article explained, the DNR has expressed its intention to ignore the letter of the law by mapping only those public waters included on 1970s-era paper maps. Made long before modern technology, the state estimates that these paper maps exclude about 57% of streams in agricultural portions of the state, including many miles of streams that meet the statutory definition of public waters but won’t get buffers under the DNR’s proposed approach.
  2. Applying the wrong buffer width: Many additional miles of streams may be given buffers that are too small. According to the state, about half of Minnesota’s streams have been ditched or altered in some way. However, many of these altered or ditched watercourses are nonetheless still public waters in need of a 50-foot buffer. The DNR has instead expressed its intention to apply the 16.5-foot buffer requirement where public water streams have also been classified as a ditch. Initial estimates suggest this could result in about 38,400 acres of missing buffer protection, including streams with existing 50-foot buffers that could see buffers shrink to 16.5 feet.
  3. Excluding public water wetlands: Finally, the agency has decided to exclude public water wetlands that are not included on county shoreline zoning maps. Excluding these clearly defined public water wetlands from the buffer maps could result in the loss of existing buffer protections for as many as 55,000 acres of land; a serious retreat from the objective of the buffer law. 

The DNR’s refusal to accurately map our state’s most vital natural resources is a deliberate attempt to avoid extending buffer protections to our headwaters, streams and wetlands where they’re needed most. It could also remove existing statutory protections from waters where buffers already exist. By enshrining this approach in state law, the DNR is effectively undermining existing buffer protections while violating the intent of one of Governor Dayton’s signature policies.

The net result: Fewer buffer protections?

It appears possible that the above shortcomings may mean that the DNR’s buffer mapping process results in a net reduction in the total number of buffer acres required by the law in Minnesota. As a result, this bill (which was passed in exchange for passage of perhaps the worst environmental policy bill in a generation) may itself represent the a serious rollback of stream buffer protections that were in place prior to its passage.

The state expects to share its preliminary maps for public review and input in late February 2016. FMR and our partners will continue to monitor the DNR’s progress and push hard to make sure that the state honors the sprit and intent of the governor’s buffer initiative in mapping public waters, public water wetlands and ditches that qualify for protections under the law.

* The law calls for 16.5-foot buffers on all ditches within the “benefited area” of a public ditch system. The benefited area of a ditch system is in essence an administrative boundary that identifies land parcels draining to the ditch system, landowners responsible for paying to maintain the ditch systems, and which ditch segments require a 16.5-foot buffer under the this law

News Watch: Feb. 22

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Climate Change; Energy; Mining; Parks & Trails; Transportation;  Water; Wildlife & Fish
 

Agriculture & Food
Echo Press: Down-and-dirty lessons about soil science featuring MEP member group Sustainable Farming Association
MPR: Minnesota farmers find going organic no easy task

Climate Change
New York Times: In Zika Epidemic, a Warning on Climate Change

LTE, Echo Press: Paul Douglas pushes energy freedom
LTE, Echo Press: LETTER: Don’t let fossil fuel industry’s tactics delay work on climate change
LTE, MinnPost: Minnesota still has a plan for clean air, power

Energy
Bemidji Pioneer: ENVIRONMENT: Ready to soar with solar. Red Lake Nation takes renewable energy step with solar plan
Mankato Free Press: Soybeans to solar: Boom is boon for landowners
MPR: Red Lake Nation goes solar
Pioneer Press: Business briefing: Red Lake Nation installs 15MW solar project
Republican Eagle: Solar project has city, rural divide
Star Tribune: State briefs: Red Lake Band of Chippewa goes solar
Utility Drive: Xcel Energy pushes for study of early closure for Prairie Island nuclear plant featuring MEP member group Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

Editorial, Mankato Free Press: OUR VIEW: Solar boom: Renewable energy becomes good business
Editorial, Post Bulletin: Our View: Solar growth in state heats up job market
LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s view: Minnesota Power should cut profits, not raise rates

Mining
Duluth News Tribune: Possible breakthrough for titanium mining on Range
MPR: UMD seeks funding for titanium mining research
Politics in MN: Mining PolyMet comments: How agencies decide the facts featuring MEP member groups Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, WaterLegacy, Sierra Club, and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

Editorial, Ely Echo: Governor Dayton is just plain wrong to link Twin Metals request to PolyMet

Parks & Trails
Star Tribune: Minneapolis fee brings in more than $1.7 million for parks, but some areas lose out

Transportation
Bemidji Pioneer: Time to talk transportation: Statewide group, local leaders call on action from lawmakers on transportation funding
Duluth News Tribune: Statewide alliance wants more spent on roads, transit featuring MEP member group Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota
KDAL: Transportation Forward Kicks Off Statewide Campaign In Duluth Thursday featuring MEP member group Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota
Mankato Free Press: Poll: Most support new transit options
Politics in MN: High-speed rail plan worries Hwy. 52 residents
Star Tribune: Plans for two Burnsville Orange Line stations ease concerns

Commentary, SC Times: ‘More gas tax’ won’t fix state’s roads
Commentary, SC Times: Rail push needs details on costs, benefits
Editorial, Mankato Free Press: OUR VIEW: LEGISLATURE: Keep road funding front and center

Water
Pioneer Press: Can we save Minnesota’s water? These 800 are going to try featuring MEP member group Friends of the Mississippi River
Spokesman-Recorder: MDH review prompts changes to water sampling procedures
Timberjay: Corps of Engineers commits $4.5 million to sewer project
West Central Tribune: Buffer maps to come out by July 1, but questions remain
WUWM: Public Sharply Divided Over Waukesha Proposal to Divert Lake Michigan Water featuring MEP member group Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

Commentary, Echo Press: Buffer strip questions linger
Commentary, Mankato Free Press: Farmers should contribute to water quality discussion
Commentary, New Ulm Journal: More living cover on land will clean our water
Commentary, Star Tribune: Don’t live in Flint? Lead is still your problem
LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s View: Don’t let Minnesota become the next Flint
Editorial, Post Bulletin: Our View: Look to your yard to protect our waters
Editorial, Star Tribune: An unwise retreat on Minnesota’s water quality push

Wildlife & Fish
MPR: Feds probe northern Minn. wolf killings, offer reward for information
Pioneer Press: Minnesota’s lead ammo ban plan ignites fiery debates among hunters
Star Tribune: Minnesota coyote-hunting tournament is latest to draw opposition
Star Tribune: Humane Society offers $5,000 reward in Minnesota wolf-poaching case

Editorial, Mankato Free Press: Our View: Decline of native animal a concern

News Watch: Feb. 18

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Today’s Topics: Climate Change; Conservation; Energy; Oil & Pipelines; Parks & Trails; Pollinators; Transportation;  Water; Wildlife & Fish

Climate Change
Duluth News Tribune: Dayton among 17 governors backing clean power featuring MEP member group Environment Minnesota
Midwest Energy News: Minnesota agency unveils new Clean Power Plan website
MinnPost: Nation’s first book clubs about ‘Cli-Fi,’ or climate fiction, start in Stillwater

Editorial, MN Daily: Don’t discard the Paris Agreement

Conservation
MPR: Land transfer cultivates tax worries in NW Minnesota featuring MEP member group The Nature Conservancy

Energy
Duluth News Tribune: Electric bill credit coming soon for Minnesota Power customers
Public News Service: Clean-Power Advocates Expect More from Target’s Solar Plans featuring MEP member group Environment Minnesota
Winona Daily News: 17 governors announce clean energy, transportation agreement

Commentary, Duluth News Tribune: Local view: Renewable energy helps mining

Oil & Pipelines
AP: Enbridge says Sandpiper pipeline won’t start up until 2019 (In Politics in MN)
Duluth News Tribune: Enbridge pushes back timeline for pipeline projects featuring MEP member group MN350
MPR: State order means delays for oil pipelines
Star Tribune: Rail expansion plans anger and surprise in northeast Mpls.

Parks & Trails
MinnPost: Meet the architect of the Twin Cities’ park systems: Horace W. S. Cleveland

Pollinators
Editorial, SC Times: Pollinator summit hit pesticides concern

Transportation
AP: Minnesota lawmakers aim to wrap up transportation funding deal early Minnesota lawmakers aim to wrap up transportation funding deal early (In MPR)
Pioneer Press: To swap parking for Cleveland Avenue bike lanes: $266,000
Pioneer Press: St. Paul’s University Avenue to regain night parking in spots
Politics in MN: Transportation panels get warmed up
Politics in MN: East metro I-94 project gearing up
Star Tribune: Learn about plans for new Dale Street bridge over I-94 at Wednesday meeting

Water
Duluth News Tribune: Flint water crisis: Could it happen here?
MinnPost: Water scarcity is already a big problem for billions worldwide, study finds
Pioneer Press: Editorial: Getting the lead out in St. Paul

Wildlife & Fish
AP: Minnesota moose numbers remain low despite slower decline
Duluth News Tribune: Reward offered in killing of three wolves near Floodwood
Duluth News Tribune: Minnesota moose numbers hold steady
MPR: DNR: Moose count finds herd not recovering in NE Minnesota
Star Tribune: 3 dead wolves found together in northern Minnesota; poaching suspected
Star Tribune: Minnesota’s latest moose count provides little good news for decline
Star Tribune: Anglers get first look at potential new Mille Lacs walleye rules
Timberjay: Moose numbers stable for now

LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s view: States should control wolves without hunting

News Watch: Feb. 15

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

Agriculture & Food
Star Tribune: Minneapolis OKs eased rules for keeping chickens in city, among other changes
Star Tribune: Experimental sunken greenhouse in Minneapolis is weathering its first winter – and growing food

Climate Change
Midwest Energy News: Q&A: Minnesota climate activists push banks on fossil fuels featuring MEP member group MN350
Star Tribune: Minnesota vows to move ahead with clean power

LTE, Echo Press: LETTER: Wrong focus in climate change issue
LTE, Star Tribune: Readers Write (Feb. 13): Clean Power Plan

Conservation
AP: A ‘collision of visions’ over Sand Prairie logging (In MPR)

Energy
Mankato Free Press: Sunburst: The solar boom has hit south-central Minnesota
Midwest Energy News: Solar job growth expected to continue in Minnesota
Republican Eagle: Xcel open to studying options for nuclear plant’s future
Star Tribune: Regulators reject lower electric rates for northern Minnesota mines, mills
Twin Cities Business: Solar Jobs Surge: Minnesota Workforce More Than Doubles In Two Years

LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s View: Now is the time to upgrade Duluth Steam Plant

Mining
Timberjay: National Forest/PolyMet land swap proposal questioned featuring MEP member group WaterLegacy

Oil & Pipelines
LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s View: Don’t let Enbridge rush pipeline decision

Parks & Trails
Pioneer Press: Apostle Islands area could join 14 national marine sanctuaries

Pollinators
Commentary, Star Tribune: It’s time for action on Minnesota’s pollinators

Transportation
MPR: Metro Transit hopes riders hop on speedy new bus line
Politics in MN: Met Council chair to push transit, equity
SC Time: Hope builds for Northstar to St. Cloud
Star Tribune: Route 494 suburb-to-suburb bus line struggles out of the gate
Star Tribune: MAP: Car2Go proposes smaller Minneapolis service area

Commentary, SC Time: It’s time to lobby Legislature for Northstar

Waste & Recycling
Star Tribune: Mpls. opts for nonprofit recycler over nation’s largest waste firm featuring MEP member group Eureka Recycling
Star Tribune: Fight over trash collection moves to the Legislature

Water
AP: Minnesota revises water testing after error that spanned decades (In Pioneer Press)
InForum: Minnesota DNR rejects environmental review for irrigation wells
Mankato Free Press: Minnesota, Mankato minimize lead levels in water
Star Tribune: Minnesota’s buffer law triggers a new debate: Which waters are covered? featuring MEP members group Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Environmental Working Group, and Friends of the Mississippi River
Star Tribune: State briefs: Red River diversion at Fargo-Moorhead gets $5 million from feds
Star Tribune: Metro briefs: White Bear Lake weighs details of pricey plan to fill lake
Star Tribune: Drinking-water tests were flawed, state Health Department admits

Commentary, Star Tribune: Counterpoint: Minnesota must deny diversion for Great Lakes water

Wildlife & Fish
Editorial, Timberjay: Research suggests high deer numbers behind moose decline
LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s view: Courts did the right thing for wolf management

News Watch: Feb. 11

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

Agriculture & Food
Winona Daily News: Keeping the land covered: LSP hosts cover-crop workshop as part of soil-health initiative featuring MEP member group Land Stewardship Project

LTE, MinnPost: Most Minnesota cropland uses commercial fertilizer, not manure

Climate Change
AP: Delay of clean power plan stokes worries about Paris treaty (In Star Tribune)
AP: Supreme Court puts Obama’s Clean Power Plan on hold (In MPR)
MPR: Faith and climate change: A meteorologist’s view
New York Times: U.S. Supreme Court imperils Paris climate agreement (In Star Tribune)

LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s view: Carbon tax won’t prevent climate change

Conservation
Pine Journal: Finifrock family conserves land under Big Louie’s gaze featuring MEP member group Minnesota Land Trust

Energy
Midwest Energy News: Program aims to grow on-bill financing in Iowa and Minnesota
Midwest Energy News: Calculator finds efficiency can meet much of Midwest states’ Clean Power Plan targets
New York Times: As prices continue to decline, oil companies slide into debt (In Star Tribune)
NPR: Will California gas leak mark a turning point in energy debate? (In MPR)
Politics in MN: St. Paul’s ‘1st’ sign to be more energy-efficient
Star Tribune: Low-cost energy storage for power grid can be found in your basement, study says
WCCO: Minnesota’s Solar Workforce Expected To Grow By 20 Percent
West Central Tribune: Montevideo declines to sell 20 acres to Geronimo Energy

LTE, Brainerd Dispatch: Reader Opinion: Need for nuclear
LTE, Duluth News  Tribune: Reader’s view: Eliminate energy tax
LTE, SC Times: Clean energy industry thrives in area
LTE, West Central Tribune: Unlock the potential of clean energy

Parks & Trails
Duluth News Tribune: Marine sanctuary proposed for Apostle Islands area
Duluth News Tribune: Voyageurs sewage project gets Army Corps cash
Pioneer Press: St. Paul’s Midway to get new park
Star Tribune: St. Paul, Trust for Public Land buy property for new park in Midway neighborhood

Editorial, Pioneer Press: Parks for all seasons

Pollinators
MPR: Sperm bank for bees generates a buzz in Fargo

Transportation
MinnPost: Seeking rail snobs: With BRT, Metro Transit aims to get more people onto buses
MinnPost: With 2016 budget, feds remain committed to funding Southwest LRT — now it’s up to the Legislature
MN Daily: Car sharing may become licensed business in Minneapolis
Pilot Independent: Walker Council to review plans for $5.9 million street project Feb. 18 featuring MEP member group Bicycle Alliance of MN
Pioneer Press: St. Paul’s rapid Snelling Avenue bus out for a roll
Pioneer Press: Ramsey County revives St. Paul-to-Chicago rail study
Politics in MN: Two cities to pay for extras on Southwest LRT line
Star Tribune: Snelling bus rapid transit prepares for departure
Star Tribune: Obama recommends $125M for Southwest light-rail project 
Star Tribune: With reliability issues behind, Northstar sees positive momentum with slight rise in ridership
Star Tribune: Transit planners finalize SWLRT station names

LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s view: Include cycling, walking in transportation plans by Shawna MullenEardley, of MEP member group Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota

Waste & Recycling
Commentary, Star Tribune: Minneapolis could make big strides on recycling

Water
Duluth News Tribune: Obama budget has smaller Great Lakes cleanup funding
MinnPost: A ‘teachable moment’ from Flint crisis challenges adequacy of water oversight
MPR: Water crisis: What can be learned from California
MPR: Judge rules against 3M bid to disqualify state’s attorneys
MPR: Red River flood diversion project gets funding boost
Star Tribune: Stalled lawsuit over 3M chemical pollution will proceed, district judge decides
West Central Tribune: U.S. Corps of Engineers funds Marsh Lake restoration

Wildlife & Fish
MPR: Lone wolf kills off-leash dog in Duluth park
NPR: Gulf of Mexico open for fish-farming business (In MPR)
Public News Service: Using Tax Time to Help Minnesota Wildlife
Star Tribune: DNR tweaks strategy to boost elk population, retain hunting

U.S. Bank: Fund Solutions, Not Pollution

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MN350 blog image

Courtesy MN350

U.S. Bank likes to think of itself as an ethical bank that takes climate change seriously, yet they continue to provide billions of dollars in financing to the coal and oil industries, as outlined Financing Climate Chaos a report released in October, 2015. This includes extensive financing for Enbridge Energy, the company behind the Alberta Clipper “secret Keystone” tar sands oil pipeline here in MN.

While many big banks are responding to popular demands to divest from coal, U.S. Bank has failed to respond to demands to divest from coal or tar sands oil, despite growing evidence that these industries are on their way out.

MN350 is working to expose U.S. Banks relationship to dirty energy, in partnership with a local coalition of racial and economic justice organizations called Minnesotans for a Fair Economy (MFE), an innovative alliance of strategic partnerships across labor, faith, and community-based organizations, that has garnered national attention.

Together, we are calling on U.S. Bank to put their money where their mouth is and stop enabling the fossil fuel industry. Instead, we have asked them to finance an accessible and equitable transition to renewable energy through projects such as community solar gardens.  We are standing with MFE in calling on U.S. Bank to support policies that benefit working families, cease investment in predatory lending and minimize foreclosures, and protect the health of our communities, water and climate.

On February 16th, we will deliver pledges of community members and faith organizations that have committed to move their money out of U.S. Bank, if they refuse to take responsibility for their harmful lending practices.

Banks are in a unique position to help stop fossil fuel extraction and speed the transition to a sustainable economy. Now that fossil fuel companies are losing money, filing for bankruptcy, and laying off workers, we have the opportunity to help banks break their fossil fuel addiction. Join us on February 16th as we call on U.S. Bank to follow through on its climate commitment and safeguard the health of our communities.

For more information visit www.mn350.org or contact Ulla@MN350.org.

News Watch: Feb. 8

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

Agriculture & Food
Pioneer Press: Urban farmers bolster Minneapolis-St. Paul local-food push
Pioneer Press: Minnesota can grow anything year-round – but here’s why we don’t

Climate Change
Echo Press: Climate change speaker draws big crowd in Alexandria
SC Times: Meeting set on Clean Power Plan

Commentary, Duluth News Tribune: Local View: Humans responsible for increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide

Energy
MN Daily: U professor digs into fossil fuel problems
NPR: Massive solar plant opens in Morocco (In MPR)
Star Tribune: One large solar project in Minnesota going ahead while another is delayed
West Central Tribune: Paynesville business boasts one of largest solar panel displays in the state

Commentary, Midwest Energy News: Commentary: What’s next for the future of utility regulation?
Editorial, SC Time: Cost to cut coal at Sherco looks good
LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s view: Electric rate cuts won’t jump-start taconite plants
LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s View: ‘Cheap’ coal doesn’t include its hidden costs

Mining
Duluth News Tribune: S&P downgrades PolyMet backer Glencore to near junk status
Duluth News Tribune: Range lawmakers want Twin Metals access approved
Pioneer Press: Weighing copper: Mark Dayton pressured on Iron Range mine

Commentary, Duluth News Tribune: Views from the mining industry
Commentary, Duluth News Tribune: National view: Slow permitting devastating US mining, manufacturing

Oil & Pipelines
MPR: Flint Hills to spend $750M to reduce emissions
Pioneer Press: Rosemount refinery slated for $750 million in upgrades
Star Tribune: South metro residents seek to reroute planned pipeline away from parkfeaturing MEP member group Clean Water Action
Star Tribune: Flint Hills Resources plans $750 million in capital investment at its Minnesota refinery

Parks & Trails
LTE, Brainerd Dispatch: Reader Opinion: Supporting wildlife refuges

Transportation
Duluth News Tribune: Arrowhead Transit offers guaranteed bus to Duluth from North Shore
Politics in MN: Rapid bus lines as economic drivers
Star Tribune: On-street parking proposed along University Avenue in St. Paul
Star Tribune: Washington County busway gets OK with some dissent
Star Tribune: My Outdoor Life: Devoted to bikes and the women who ride them

Editorial, Duluth News Tribune: Our View: Duluth hub a model to emulate
Editorial, Pioneer Press: The outlook for roads, bridges, transit in Minnesota

Waste & Recycling
Brainerd Dispatch: GreenForest Recycling to move into former paper mill: Worldwide recycling firm moves into Brainerd Industrial Center to start processing operation
Reuters: Want to save some money? Stop wasting food (In Star Tribune)
Star Tribune: Eureka Recycling has challenges ahead featuring MEP member group Eureka Recycling

Editorial, Star Tribune: Cities should seek common good in garbage-collection debates

Water
Duluth News Tribune: Lawmakers back Voyageurs sewer project
Echo Press: Dayton vows to stop state from being ‘another Flint’
MinnPost: Minnesota lawmakers hear a critique of Waukesha’s bid for Great Lakes water
New York Times: Cover Crops, a Farming Revolution With Deep Roots in the Past
West Central Tribune: Farmers take aim at buffer law: Legislators listening session held on eve of governor’s water summit

Commentary, Star Tribune: We want Minnesota to have clean water, if the other guy pays for it featuring MEP member group Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s view: Agribusiness needs to join effort to protect water by Peter Suechting of MEP member group Environment Minnesota

Wildlife & Fish
Star Tribune: Can our moose be saved?
Star Tribune: Proposed field station in Mille Lacs to focus on walleye management in lake

Minnesota’s Own Water Crisis

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Children Drinking Cr Katherine Johnson, Flickr

Credit: Katherine Johnson, Flickr Creative Commons

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan has many across the state worried that a similar situation could impact Minnesota. Like many states across the country, Minnesota has an aging water infrastructure system, one that Governor Dayton has targeted for repairs and upgrades as part of his 2016 Bonding Request. While high lead levels are unlikely to pop up in local drinking water, Minnesota has its own set of pollutants that pose serious threats to the health and well-being communities across the state.

Northern Minnesota suffers from high levels of mercury, where 1 in 10 babies are born with unhealthy amounts of the toxin in their bodies. Mercury affects neurological development in infants. One of the primary sources of mercury pollution in our lakes and rivers is coal fired power plants. Mercury becomes concentrated in the fatty-tissues of fish, with pollution levels so high that pregnant women are told to avoid eating fish from Minnesota lakes. Luckily, the transition away from coal fired power plants to more renewable energy throughout Minnesota should help decrease one source of mercury, but new sources, like the proposed PolyMet mine, could resulted in even higher levels in the future.

Across southern Minnesota, high nitrate levels are cause for concern for many communities, where a 2015 Minnesota Department of Health report warned that nitrate contamination was a growing threat to public health.  High concentrations can cause blue baby syndrome, where nitrates interfere with oxygen in the blood, which can potentially be fatal. Fixing nitrate problems after the fact isn’t cheap either – cities who install nitrate removal systems can end up costing residents thousands of dollars. We need to stop nitrate pollution at the source, by limiting runoff into waterways and using year-round cover crops to stop off-season erosion.

These threats to our drinking water are already present, and we must take steps to reduce their impact through common sense solutions, like managing agricultural runoff and upgrading our water infrastructure. Protecting our drinking water isn’t just the right step for Minnesota, it’s a necessity.

News Watch: Feb. 4

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Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food; Climate Change; Energy; Frac Sand; Mining; Oil & Pipelines; Parks & Trails; Pollution; Transportation; Waste & Recycling; Water
 

Agricultre & Food
Star Tribune: Monsanto weed killer Roundup is huge seller

Climate Change
Spokesman Recorder: Activist say MN banks should divest from climate chaos featuring MEP member group MN350

LTE, Brainerd Dispatch: Reader Opinion: Driving climate change

Energy
Brainerd Dispatch: State accepting applications for solar incentive program
CERTS: Interview: Commissioner Rothman discusses clean energy tax credit extensions
Midwest Energy News: Amid pushback, Minnesota solar developers expand stray voltage testing
MPR: SW Minnesota solar farm plan feels opponents’ heat
Politics in MN: A change of leadership at energy center featuring MEP member group Center for Energy and Environment

LTE, Brainerd Dispatch: Reader Opinion: A clean future
LTE, Pioneer Press: The Costs of Pollution

Frac Sand
Rochester Post Bulletin: Report downplays frac sand link to health troubles

Mining
Duluth News Tribune: Kennecott adds more exploration near Tamarack

Editorial, Duluth News Tribune: Our view: We will survive this mining downturn, too
Editorial, Timberjay: Signs point to uncertain future for PolyMet’s plans

Oil & Pipelines
Bemidji Pioneer: Enbridge calls regulatory action on Sandpiper “unlawful and unreasonable”
Star Tribune: Enbridge says Minnesota regulators applied “unlawful” process to its Sandpiper pipeline review
WCCO: Enbridge: Supporters Accuse Regulators Of Delaying Pipeline Project

LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s view: Pipelines serve economy and protect environment

Parks & Trails
Duluth News Tribune: As National Park Service turns 100, popularity soars

Pollution
Star Tribune: Mpls. moves forward with ‘Green Zone’ plan for polluted neighborhoods

Transportation
Duluth News Tribune: Duluth Transportation Center revealed  
The Line: Winter Cycling Congress kicks local bike culture into high gear featuring MEP member group Bicycle Alliance of MN
MinnPost: Embracing LRT: How one Minneapolis neighborhood plans to have a major impact on the Blue Line extension
MinnPost: St. Paul looks to up its parkway game
Politics in MN: Agencies gear up for $50M transportation challenge
Star Tribune: What is winter biking in Minnesota?
Star Tribune: Can bicyclists provide better disaster relief?
Star Tribune: Olson Hwy. design for Bottineau light rail project irks Mpls. leaders
Star Tribune: Winter cycling enthusiasts from world gather in Minneapolis

LTE, SC Times: Using Northstar will help expand it

Waste & Recycling
Southwest Journal: Council committee gives nod to Eureka for recycling contract featuring MEP member group Eureka Recycling
Waste Drive: Eureka Recycling, Waste Management competition raising issues beyond financial benefits featuring MEP member group Eureka Recycling

LTE, SC Times: Recycling lacking for ag plastics

Water
Duluth News Tribune: Lake Superior winter drop still less than usual
MN Daily: Researchers release new water conservation tool featuring MEP member group The Nature Conservancy 
MPR: State, cities try to apply a little science to their road-salt use
MPR: Unpaid water bills in Flint could hinder repairs
MinnPost: Flint crisis draws focus to lead levels, and adequacy of testing, across U.S.
Star Tribune: Met Council makes sure sewer project doesn’t sink East Bethel
Star Tribune: Private ditches seen as ‘small portion’ of farm drainage

Commentary, MinnPost: It’s time to take a huge step forward on water quality in Minnesota(Also in Brainerd Dispatch ) cowritten by Paul Austin of MEP member group Conservation Minnesota
Commentary, Star Tribune: From buffer strips to federal bills, farmers need a stronger voice
Editorial, Echo Press: GUEST EDITORIAL: Clean water is worth the price
LTE, Mankato Free Press: Buffers won’t be effective for water quality
LTE, Star Tribune: Readers Write (Feb. 2): Buffer strips

Wildlife & Fish
Northfield News: Northfield residents ponder becoming the next ‘Bird City’ featuring MEP member group Audobon Minnesota

Commentary, Duluth News Tribune: Wisconsinites’ view from D.C.: Wolf policy should recognize people

News Watch: Feb. 1

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

Agricutlure & Food
AP: Upper Midwest farmers transitioning to organic can get aid (In Politics in MN)
MPR: Chobani must stop pesticide ads about Yoplait, judge rules
MPR: U study: Farming may have aided Minnesota bird flu outbreak
Star Tribune: Judge bars Chobani ads critical of ingredients in Yoplait, Dannon yogurts
Star Tribune: University of Minnesota study says farmers may have aided bird flu’s spread

Biofuels
AP: Proposed ethanol plant gets $4.2 million state tax break (In Politics in MN)

Climate Change
Bemidji Pioneer: Clean power plan meeting set
MPR: Minnesota companies moving forward on climate change

LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s View: Poor need help with climate change

Energy
Brainard Dispatch: Minnesota Power receives green light for Camp Ripley 10 megawatt solar array
Duluth News Tribune: Camp Ripley solar array gets PUC approval
SC Times: Xcel: Plan to replace Sherco units won’t cost much more
Star Tribune: Xcel Energy says it’s ‘nearly certain’ it can comply with federal Clean Power Plan in Minnesota
Star Tribune: Regulators approve Minnesota Power solar project at Camp Ripley

Blog, Bluestem Prairie: ND state/lignite industry partnership continues funding for Coalition for Secure Energy Future

Mining
Duluth News Tribune: Coalition concerned about copper mining waits for next move

Oil & Pipelines
LTE, Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s View: Oil shipped by rail drops with pipelines

Parks & Trails
Duluth News Tribune: Access to Apostle Islands ice caves isn’t looking promising this winter
Star Tribune: Mayor Hodges vetoes Park Board referendum seeking park dollars

Pollinators
Mankato Free Press: Bees at risk: Protecting native pollinators is priority

Pollution
Star Tribune: State to clean up Burnsville landfill that had been headed for Superfund program

Transportation
MN Daily: State invests $32M in highway projects
MPR: Winter bicycling conference happening in Twin Cities featuring MEP member group Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota
Star Tribune: Cities need to plan more for autonomous vehicles
Star Tribune: All winter cycling roads lead to Twin Cities — for now

Editorial, International Falls Journal: OUR VIEW: Spend surplus on transportation

Waste & Recycling
MPR: Best Buy tacks $25 charge onto TV, computer monitor recycling
Star Tribune: Free recycling of your old TVs and monitors is on the decline
Star Tribune: Residents, cities scrap over who picks up garbage
Star Tribune: Competition for Twin Cities’ recycling contracts sparks discussion of workers’ rights, environmental goals featuring MEP member group Eureka Recycling
Star Tribune: Four things to know before you get your new Minneapolis organics bin

Water
AP: After GOP objections, Dayton pares down buffer law (In Politics in MN)
AP: Railroad: 850 gallons of soybean oil leaked in derailment (In Winona Daily News)  
Austin Daily Herald: Farm Bureau hosting buffer strip education session
Bring Me the News: Dayton backs off buffers for private ditches after meeting GOP leadersfeaturing MEP member group Friends of the Mississippi River
Duluth News Tribune: EPA to help Duluth tackle alkaline concerns at western Duluth site
Pioneer Press: Mark Dayton backs off buffer strips for private ditches featuring MEP member group Friends of The Mississippi River
Pioneer Press: What you need to know about St. Paul’s water system
Public News Service: MN Water Pollution to Top Soil Health Talks featuring MEP member groupLand Stewardship Project
Star Tribune: Minnesota DNR tags cost of refilling White Bear Lake at $100 million plus
Star Tribune: Dayton retreats from element of water buffer law, rebukes House GOP featuringMEP
West Central Tribune: Dayton vows to continue fight for clean water

Commentary, Duluth News Tribune: Local View: Systemic approach is needed to avoid poisoning our water
Commentary, SC Times: State needs to walk its clean water talk co-written by Paul Austin of MEP member group Conservation Minnesota
Commentary, Star Tribune: Flint water crisis reminds us not to take water quality for granted
Commentary, Star Tribune: For Gov. Dayton, water quality agenda runs deep
LTE, Brainerd Dispatch: Reader Opinion: What kind of legacy?
LTE, MinnPost: To solve Minnesota’s water quality problems, agribusiness’ power must be confronted by Peter Suechting of MEP member group Environment Minnesota
LTE, MN Daily: Follow Flint to our local waterways