Insider: March 23, 2018

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Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Legislature pushes rollbacks with one month left in session

This past weekend marked both Earth Day and the one-month-to-go date until the Minnesota legislative session ends. Unfortunately, the Legislature isn’t embracing the Earth Day spirit. Bills passed last week that would roll back crucial protections for Minnesota’s water and the health and livelihoods of the people who depend on it. Other harmful legislation will now be making its way into large omnibus bills, which nominally pay for state programs but are increasingly also used as vehicles for bad policies.

The House Agriculture Omnibus Bill contains rollbacks that would prevent our state from taking action to protect our groundwater sourced drinking water from nitrate pollution, which is becoming a costly crisis for communities and private well owners around the state.

After voting down a bill the previous week that would allow construction of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline without review, the Senate Energy Committee seemingly changed its mind and moved the bill forward on a 6-4 vote last week. Fortunately, Governor Mark Dayton has promised to veto this, and the bill does not even have public support from Enbridge. However, the legislation may be slipped into an omnibus bill as is typical with controversial policies.

The Legislature is considering multiple bills to roll back current policies – and prevent new ones – that protect wild rice waters from sulfate pollution, which is increasingly poisoning this precious resource and Minnesota’s waters. These rollbacks are in multiple bills and the House Environment Finance omnibus bill, which will all be heard soon. (See our action alert below to tell your legislators to protect Minnesota’s water and wild rice!)

Sadly, bills like these that pit profits against Minnesota’s waters, and the people who depend on them, are ubiquitous in this Legislative session. But we’re working to turn this boat around. We need to make our lawmakers understand that we reject pollution and bills that strip away our protections. We ask that you reach out to your Legislators and Governor Dayton’s office and urge them to stand firm for our right to safe and healthy water. You can do that by signing joining us for Water Action Day on May 2, when we’ll take a simple but critical message to the Legislature: Protect our water!

Some great news for our Great Lakes

Last Wednesday, the United States Senate voted down a cloture motion on the Coast Guard authorization bill that contained a poison pill – the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, or VIDA, which would have stripped away vital Clean Water Act protections against invasive species brought into the Great Lakes from overseas. This prevented the passage of this detrimental legislation, which would have given large shipping companies a much freer hand to discharge ballast water containing aquatic invasives into our Great Lakes, which are already struggling from harmful species like the zebra mussel. The legislation may surface again, but this vote is a victory for our Great Lakes and the millions of people who live around them.

We’d like to especially thank Minnesota Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith for helping to successfully stop this harmful legislation – and we thank all those who stood up to make their voices heard on VIDA.

Registration is open for Water Action Day 2018!

Whether you joined us for our Water Action Day event last year or you’re a first timer, we hope to see you at the Capitol on May 2! This is your chance to show up and stand up to protect our waters!

This all-day event will include free breakfast and briefings in the morning, both on how to actively engage legislators and on the water issues that we face in Minnesota. Throughout the day, attendees will meet with legislators to ask them to protect our water, and the Clean Water Rally will be held in the Capitol Rotunda at 2:00 pm. Sign up today and find out how you can join us!

Water Action Day – Share Your Water Challenge!

On Water Action Day, Minnesotans will be gathering from around the state to stand up to protect our waters, and we’d like those joining us to show it in a literal way! Our challenge to you:

1. Fill a clear container with water from your favorite body of water, whether it be a lake, river, stream, or pond.
2. Take a selfie with the water and share it on the Facebook event page or on Twitter with the hashtag #WaterActionDay or #ProtectOurWater!
3. Bring it to the Capitol on Water Action Day and we’ll collect the waters in a single container, “bringing the waters of Minnesota to the Capitol” as a visible symbol of what we need to protect!

Legislature proposes to “nulllify” the pollution standard that protects wild rice

Wild rice is a defining Minnesota icon. It is at the heart of the Minnesota Ojibwe culture, providing food as well as cultural, economic, and spiritual sustenance. Unfortunately, a bill in the Minnesota House and Senate would hamstring our state agencies from making or enforcing a wild rice rule that would actually protect wild rice. This bill would disregard peer-reviewed science in order to benefit industrial facilities that would otherwise need to treat their wastewater.

We ask you to contact your legislators and let them know you support strong, science-based protections for Minnesota’s precious – and threatened – wild rice resources!

2018 Legislature: Possible harm to wild rice is simply un-Minnesotan

(From Star Tribune) — Minnesota: land of 10,000 lakes, wild rice soup and wild rice hot dish. We want our children and grandchildren to know these gifts from nature that make us all Minnesotans. But at the State Capitol, legislators are considering whether to sell our very identity to the highest bidder. Legislation (HF 3280/SF 2983) likely will be voted on that would gut protections for wild rice, our official state grain. This legislation would end a 40-year-old water pollution standard that protects wild rice and would prevent the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency from using new, peer-reviewed science to set any new protective standard. If this bill passes, Minnesotans lose. >>Read More.


Student Voices Column – Stop Farming Food Deserts: Why Minnesotans Need a Change in the 2018 Farm Bill

(From MEP Loon Commons Blog, by Sarah Wescott) — One point six million people, or almost one third of Minnesota’s population, do not have easy access to a grocery store. In urban spaces, food deserts are usually found in low income areas, where community members don’t have access to a vehicle and fast food industries target poor populations. However, in rural areas of the state where communities are based around agriculture, food deserts are also in abundance. In the Red River Valley, one of the most fertile areas of the United States, there are more than ten Minnesota counties with food deserts. >>Read More.


photo credit: Department of Energy

A sign of the future in Morris: Cows + solar panels + fast electric car charger

(From MPR News) — Picture this: It’s a hot summer day. Cows in a field are seeking shade under solar panels. And those panels? They’re feeding two electric vehicle chargers — and powering an office building nearby. That will be the scene in a few months at the University of Minnesota’s West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris. Today, the university community is celebrating the arrival of the only fast electric vehicle charger for more than 100 miles around. And later this spring, a 30-kilowatt solar array will be installed in an adjacent cow pasture, sending clean power to the charger. >>Read More.

Climate change: The importance of making it personal

(From MinnPost and Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy) — As it turns out, conversations about climate change aren’t about how well you can talk, but rather how well you can listen. In order to have a rich dialogue about this issue, we need to be willing to learn from each other. This is especially important when trying to connect with someone who may have a different viewpoint than yours; aligning our values helps us break down barriers and find common ground. For a long time, society has talked about and reported on climate change from mostly a scientific perspective. Yet personal stories are the best way to connect such a broad issue to people’s lives. >>Read More.

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Do you appreciate our coverage of environmental and conservation issues? You can help sustain MEP’s work with a donation. Your support will help MEP continue educating decision-makers and Minnesotans throughout the state about important issues that impact clean water, clean air, and land conservation. Contributions also provide the financial backing we need to help organize the advocacy efforts of our 70 member organizations and take action through public organizing, media campaigns, lobbying, and research.


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. What 60-mile-long land formation in southwest Minnesota features more than 200 wind turbines?

2. Dorothy Louise Molter, who lived in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in 1986, was in part known for selling what beverage to passing canoeists?

3. The deepest lake wholly within Minnesota was artificially created via what type of hole?

Upcoming Environmental Events

See the film “Disruption: Climate. Change.” April 24
Davanni’s in Coon Rapids
Hosted by Anoka Area Climate Action

Trends in Energy Policy and Renewable Energy, April 25
Presentation by Ben Bratrud of Citizens Utility Board at Maple Grove Library
Hosted by Northwest Metro Climate Action

Youth Climate Justice Summit, April 25
Minnesota State Capitol
Hosted by Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy

Rally for Minnesota Public Lands, April 25
Minnesota State Capitol
Hosted by Backcountry Hunters and Anglers

Pledge to pull garlic mustard at Crosby Farm Park, April 26
Crosby Farm Park, St. Paul
Hosted by Friends of the Mississippi River

Climate Convening Moorhead, April 28
Minnesota State University Moorhead
Hosted by Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy

Water Action Day 2018, May 2
Christ Lutheran Church and State Capitol
Hosted by MN’s clean water community

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Outreach and Engagement Coordinator | Fresh Energy
Business Manager | St. Croix River Association
Chief Financial Officer | Environmental Initiative
Communications Director | Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
Stewardship Associate | Minnesota Land Trust
See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Buffalo Ridge. 2) Root beer. 3) An iron mine.


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The Minnesota Environmental Partnership (MEP) is a coalition of more than 70 environmental and conservation organizations working together for clean water, clean energy, and protection of our Great Outdoors.

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