Insider: December 1, 2017

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Two Bad Mining Bills Pass in House, but Fight Isn’t Over

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of two hazardous bills – H.R. 3115 and H.R. 3905 – that would provide major boosts to copper sulfide mining proposals in Minnesota. These bills support the PolyMet mine near Hoyt Lakes and the Twin Metals mine near Ely, respectively. The two mine proposals are in different watersheds, but both could have catastrophic effects on the water, land, and people in those areas.

PolyMet seeks to mine for copper and nickel at a site in the St. Louis River watershed. the PolyMet project would require water treatment long after the mine closes, for 500 years or more. The processing plant is built on an abandoned taconite site, raising the walls of a 40 year old dam by hundreds of feet and layering sulfide mining waste on top of an unstable foundation of taconite mining waste. A failure of this dam would have catastrophic consequences on communities living downstream. The St. Louis River flows into Lake Superior, meaning our greatest freshwater resource would be endangered as well. This land is also in the heart of 1854 Treaty Territory and will impact treaty rights and downstream communities, including the Fond du Lac Reservation.

H.R. 3115 would push forward a land exchange between the federal government and PolyMet that is currently under litigation. The bill bypasses due process on this critical decision. And PolyMet hasn’t completed the required permitting process, so forcing the exchange is a problematic step at this time. Unfortunately, the bill passed the House on Wednesday. We hope the Senate will not follow up with similar legislation. The PolyMet permitting and approval process will be a long one, and this would be a dangerous step in the wrong direction.

H.R. 3905, also known as the MINER Act, would override the authority of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management and grant mineral leases to the Twin Metals copper-nickel mine project. Federal agencies rejected mineral leases for Twin Metals because they concluded it was too risky in this water rich environment without further study. The Twin Metals mine would extract sulfide ores in the Boundary Waters watershed, and threaten our vulnerable waters and the livelihoods and jobs of Minnesotans who live and work there. H.R. 3905 would subvert science and due process not only by approving these leases, but by requiring Congressional approval for agencies to withdraw  mineral leases anywhere in the country. And it would single out Minnesota for unfair treatment by eliminating the presidential power to create national monuments in our state.

H.R. 3905 passed the House on Thursday, but it did so by a thin margin of only twelve votes, and the high level of opposition is a strong boost to the effort to make sure a similar bill does not succeed in the U.S. Senate. This legislation would set a bad policy for this and future copper sulfide mining proposals.

Thanks in large part to the tireless work of advocates, including MEP’s staff, friends and partners, there was significant pushback against both bills.

We thank all of those who took action against these bad bills, and we have no intention of stepping aside in the face of this continuing challenge. We urge all Minnesotans who value clean water, healthy communities, and sustainable jobs to continue to speak up! You can call the United States Senate at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Senators’ offices to tell them to oppose giveaways to PolyMet and Twin Metals. Or visit our website, mepartnership.org, where we’ll be posting action forms you can use to email your Senator on these destructive bills. It’s time for all of us to speak up to defend our waters, our economy, and our communities.


International Joint Commission wants faster Great Lakes cleanup

(From Duluth News Tribune) — The governments of Canada and the U.S. are making “considerable progress” in cleaning up the Great Lakes but should set time-specific targets for fixing wastewater and drinking water systems, reducing agricultural and urban runoff and eliminating toxic pollutant releases into the lakes. That was the assessment Tuesday by the International Joint Commission, the quasi-government, cross-border group charged with overseeing U.S.-Canada border water disputes and with monitoring the health of the Great Lakes. The IJC report found notable gaps in how the two countries are achieving the goals of making the lakes safe for both swimming and drinking… >>Read More.

 


               

Photo credit: National Park Service

Ideas abound for Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary in St. Paul

(From Star Tribune, featuring MEP member group Lower Phalen Creek Project) — Indigenous gardens, an array of indoor and outdoor exhibits and a community meeting space are what hundreds of current and future visitors to the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary in St. Paul want to see at a proposed interpretive center, according to a recent survey. More than 600 people, including sanctuary neighbors, area business owners and more than 20 members of the Dakota community, not only said the Wakan Tipi Center is needed, but shared what programming and services they want in the wildlife area on the edge of downtown. Melanie Kleiss, executive director of the Lower Phalen Creek Project, said she hopes the survey results continue building momentum for the proposed $6.7 million center. >>Read More.

 


           

LaDuke: Are pipeline spills the new normal?

(From Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, by Honor the Earth Executive Director Winona LaDuke) — This isn’t about “I told you so.” It is moreso the question of “Have we normalized pipeline spills?” This past week, Nebraska state regulators voted to approve the Keystone XL pipeline extension, five days after that pipeline leaked 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota. The Nebraska Public Service Commission voted 3-2 to give the project the go ahead, but rejected TransCanada’s preferred route. TransCanada must now submit an application for an alternative route or appeal the decision, a process that could take up to two years. One thing is for sure: the new route will face fresh opposition from Nebraska landowners whose property wasn’t previously in the pipeline’s path >>Read More.


                

Many Minnesota homes would benefit from an energy audit

(From MPR News, featuring MEP member group Center for Energy and Environment) — Many Minnesota homes still have lots of room for energy savings. “Any home built before 1970, there’s no guarantee that there’s any insulation in the walls,” said Stacy Boots Camp, outreach coordinator for the Minnesota Center for Energy and the Environment.The group helps homeowners cut their energy use. She says a quarter of Minnesota homes still lack sufficient insulation. And many that have enough insulation may still leak a lot of air. “There’s still hundreds of thousands of houses that could be better insulated. Probably, the main issue we see is the potential for air sealing,” she said. >>Read More.

Murray County hears proposal on energy storage

(From Marshall Independent) — Invenergy Solar Farm’s Project Development Senior Manager Dan Litchfield,Thermal Development Manager Robert Howard and Westwood’s Environmental Services Director Eric Hansen, presented a proposal to develop an energy storage in Murray County to the county board Tuesday. Using a PowerPoint presentation, Litchfield explained the concept of storing the electrical energy at the Big Lake Wilson solar farm site. It may also include the smaller site, he said. Showing a slide with a bell curve, Litchfield described the choppy service that solar energy could produce if not modified with stored electricity. A cloudy day could make reception of electricity static-y, just like some satellite television service, but with stored energy, it is much smoother. >>Read More.

 


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. What Great Lake do the waters of Lake Superior flow into?

2. What river connects the aforementioned Great Lakes?

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


Upcoming Environmental Events

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Part-time Fellow, Energy Policy Research (Summer 2018) | Fresh Energy

Part-time Fellow, Energy Policy Research (Winter 2018) | Fresh Energy

Development Director | International Wolf Center

Youth and Policy Manager | Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy

Regional Policy Director, West | Wind on the Wires

Managing Director, Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition | Environmental Initiative

Events Coordinator | Environmental Initiative

Organizing Representative – Twin Cities | Sierra Club

State Policy Community Organizer | Land Stewardship Project

See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Huron. 2) St. Mary’s River. 3) Root beer.


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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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