Insider: July 28, 2017

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PUC Decision a Boost for Health, Clean Energy

On Thursday, July 27, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) took a much-needed step forward on cleaner, safer energy by updating the state’s calculations of the social cost of carbon in evaluating power use and generation. The updated amount takes more accurate accounting of the health costs of fossil fuel use, such as respiratory and heart conditions, and moves Minnesota closer to the current federal standard. The new cost will be recognized as $9.05 to $43.06 per ton by 2020, whereas the previous cost was the much lower 44 cents to $4.53, respectively – an update was a long time coming.

The Minnesota Environmental Partnership applauds the PUC for taking this important step in the right direction. Accounting for a more accurate cost estimate for carbon pollution will affect many PUC decisions, such as evaluating new natural gas use. With the health effects of climate change becoming more evident, this move is not a moment too soon. This decision will help Minnesota better focus on renewable power sources like wind and solar. 

Meanwhile, in Washington, the House Committee on Natural Resources is currently considering a bill that would prevent major federal agencies from even considering the social cost of major greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide. In times of uncertain federal leadership on climate change, it is increasingly important that Minnesota shows leadership on investing in clean, health-conscious energy.

The PolyMet bill: Rep. Nolan’s war of choice in Minnesota’s waters

(From MinnPost) — In early July, 8th District Rep. Rick Nolan introduced HR 3115, a bill to force the completion of a highly controversial land exchange between the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and PolyMet Mining Corp. Nolan’s bill would fast-track the land exchange, requiring that it be completed within 90 days of the bill becoming law, even though no permits have yet been issued for the company’s proposed NorthMet mine. The bill would give PolyMet 6,650 acres of protected Superior National Forest (SNF) and pave the way for construction of PolyMet’s open-pit copper-nickel sulfide mine. PolyMet’s sulfide mine would be the first ever to be permitted in the state. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has said that “this type of mining creates highly toxic sulfide waste.”  >>Read More.

Rep. Emmer fast tracks bill to remove environmental protections in Minnesota

This week Representative Emmer introduced a proposal to exempt Minnesota from federal environmental protections. This proposal reinstates the Twin Metals mineral leases on the edge of the Boundary Waters, prohibits federal agencies from withdrawing mineral leases unless approved by Congress, and exempts Minnesota from presidential authority to establish national monuments, a designation that gives special places protected status. We need you to call or email below your U.S. Senators and Representatives and tell them to actively oppose Representative Tom Emmer’s proposal!


photo credit: MPCA

Our View: Increased nitrates put more demand on aquifers

(From Mankato Free Press) — In a state rich in water resources, there haven’t been a lot of worries about water supplies. But in recent years the Department of Natural Resources, cities and others have raised alarms about the overuse of deep aquifers and about pollution dangers to surface water. Hundreds of feet below southern Minnesota, the Mount Simon aquifer provides drinking water for more than 1 million area residents, including Mankato. As a recent MPR story noted, that aquifer has dropped by as much as 200 feet in some areas since pioneer settlement times. While there’s no danger of the aquifer drying up, officials worry about the growing use of the aquifer to provide drinking water and water for watering lawns and crops. >>Read More.

photo credit: MPCA

Proposed Nitrogen Rule wouldn’t do enough for MN waters

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is currently accepting public comments on its draft Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule, which aims to reduce the amount of nitrate pollution in the state’s groundwater. Nitrate contamination is a serious issue that requires a robust response, and unfortunately, the proposed rule is severely watered-down. It would fail to protect currently uncontaminated groundwater, focusing only on already-impaired waters. It would have a needlessly long 3-year phase-in period after an already 26-year wait on nitrogen standards. And the mandatory best practices it enforces fall short of any meaningful reduction of nitrogen fertilizer use. For more information, take a look at this fact sheetproduced by our friends at MCEA.

Written comments will now be accepted until August 25, 2017 –  tell the MDA to adopt a rule that will actually benefit state waters!

Act Now

Governor seeks your ideas for improving water quality 

Governor Mark Dayton wants Minnesota to accelerate the pace of progress towards clean water. He announced a new “25 by 25” Water Quality Goal, aiming to spur collaboration and action to improve Minnesota’s water quality —  25% by the year 2025. Without additional action, the quality of Minnesota’s waters is expected to improve only 6-8% by 2034.

Governor Dayton is seeking your ideas on how to improve water quality and is hosting a series of Town Halls over the summer and fall. For info on how to get involved, click the Act Now button.


Met Council votes to increase transit fares by 25 cents

(From Star Tribune) — Come Oct. 1, passengers using public transit in the Twin Cities will pay a little more. The Metropolitan Council on Wednesday unanimously passed a 25-cent fare increase for local and express buses, light rail and commuter rail, as well as a 50-cent hike for Metro Mobility, a service for disabled people. The council said the fare hike — the first since 2008 — was needed to battle a $110 million budget deficit expected by fiscal 2020-2021. This is due to an anticipated decline in motor vehicle sales tax revenue, “inflationary pressures” and growing demand for Metro Mobility, which is mandated by the federal government. >>Read More.


St. Paul city council to keep talking with trash haulers, aim for September citywide contract

(From Pioneer Press) — St. Paul will continue talking trash with 15 private, residential haulers, with the goal of signing a citywide contract by September. By a vote of 6-0, the St. Paul City Council voted Wednesday to support the seventh and latest proposal from the haulers, which would divide the city into service areas based on each company’s existing market share. Council member Dai Thao — who recently announced he would spend Tuesday evenings collecting trash in his ward to highlight the importance of coordinated collection — was absent. >>Read More.


Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement underway in Wisconsin

(From WPR) — Construction of a 12-mile segment of Enbridge Energy’s aging Line 3 pipeline is already underway in Wisconsin. The project is expected to cost more than $100 million for the Wisconsin portion of the pipeline. Enbridge’s Line 3 was originally installed in 1967 and runs 1,097 miles from Edmonton, Alberta to Enbridge’s Superior Terminal. The entire replacement project on the United States side is expected to cost around $2.6 billion. Corrosion on the outside of the pipeline due to a coating used at the time of installation has led to the replacement of the Canadian firm’s pipeline, said Enbridge spokeswoman Jennifer Smith. >>Read More.



As foodies seek local, Midwest farmers go global

(From MPR News) — A Minneapolis cafe serves up oat milk lattes, locally grown greens and a chocolate-caramel dessert bar made with perennial wheat grass flour. Its owners, chefs and customers bet on a future in which dramatic shifts toward a local, diverse and resilient food system are necessary to sustain life itself. But just miles from the bustling farmers markets, craft breweries and farm-to-table restaurants of the Twin Cities, a more traditional Midwest is thriving too: fields of corn and soybeans as far as the eye can see, hog barns, grain elevators, ethanol and meatpacking plants. These coexisting, contradictory worlds tug at Scott Haase and a growing number of Midwestern corn and soybean farmers. >>Read More.

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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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