Insider: February 2, 2018

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Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Minnesotans to Caucus February 6

On Tuesday, February 6, Minnesota’s political parties will hold statewide precinct caucuses – the first step in the parties’ process for endorsing candidates and adopting official positions in their platforms. This is an opportunity for voters to make their voices heard on critical topics and candidates. With Minnesota electing a Governor, two U.S. Senators, and every seat in the State and Federal Houses of Representatives in November, it’s crucial that Minnesotans get all the information they need on the issues.

To help inform voters, MEP and more than twenty of our partner organizations hosted last week’s Our New Environment Governor  Candidates Forum, which got candidates on the record on environmental issues. Twelve leading candidates from the Republican and DFL parties were invited to share their views, but only the six DFL candidates attended the forum. Questions included a wide variety of topics on water, land, air and energy, legacy funding, and cross-cutting issues, and each candidate shared their views and plans for Minnesota’s environment. Thousands of Minnesotans watched the forum in person and online, and the entire event is available to watch online!

We know that the resources Minnesotans care about – like clean water, breathable air, vital pollinators, and healthy, open lands – transcend political divides. Minnesotans can work across the aisle on boosting energy efficiency and renewable sources, keeping water safe and drinkable around the state, and protecting the lands we use to fish, hunt, and explore. We urge Minnesotans of all parties to attend the caucuses and tell local and state leaders to support a clean Minnesota. You can introduce resolutions to swing the parties in support of our natural resources, and talk to your neighbors about the environmental and conservation issues that matter to them.

Find your precinct caucus location on the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website, and show up to speak up on February 6!

Update: Rochester advances net-zero energy goals with benchmarking

(From Midwest Energy News) — After years of planning, Rochester, Minnesota’s ambitious Destination Medical Center is taking shape in a city internationally known as the home of Mayo Clinic. The $5.6 billion public-private partnership aspires to be a “model of sustainability” and help push the city toward its goal of being energy net zero by 2031. Enter Kevin Bright, the city’s new sustainability director. Hired last March, Bright came to Rochester after serving in sustainability positions at Colby College in Waterville, Maine and Harvard University. Part of his charge is advancing sustainability while also preparing the city to absorb as many as 50,000 residents to the city of 114,000 people by 2030. >>Read More.

Tariff on foreign-made solar products could cost Minnesota jobs

(From Star Tribune) — President Donald Trump promised last week that a new 30 percent tariff on foreign-built solar cells and panels will “create jobs in America for Americans.” Curt Shellum, who runs a solar panel installation business in Rochester, doesn’t see it. The tariff comes too late to save Minnesota’s biggest manufacturer of solar panels, which shut its doors in May, and only one solar-panel plant continues to operate in the state. The effect on installers like Shellum, who rely on the foreign producers that make 90 percent of all solar panels, is likely to be higher costs. Some in the industry fear that the tariff could slow the growth of renewable energy by raising prices, a possibility that could cost hundreds of solar jobs in the state. >>Read More.


Iowa environmentalists heading to Super Bowl to protest Dakota Access pipeline

(From Des Moines Register) — Iowa environmentalists will flock to the site of Super Bowl LII this weekend to protest the Dakota Access pipeline. Bold Iowa director Ed Fallon said his group would join Indigenous Iowa and others from across the Midwest to protest the four-state pipeline ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl LII game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The activists are accusing U.S. Bank of financing the $3.8 billion pipeline project, which Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners completed in 2017. During construction, environmental groups, farmers and Native Americans vigorously fought against the 1,172-mile oil pipeline, arguing it threatened water supplies, encroached on property rights and ignored the objections of indigenous peoples. >>Read More.


Photo credit: CA Bureau of Land Management

Trump administration tears down regulations to speed drilling on public land

(From Washington Post) — The Trump administration is aggressively sweeping aside regulations protecting public land to clear a path for expanded oil and gas drilling. A memorandum from the Interior Department, made public Thursday, directs its field offices “to simplify and streamline the leasing process” so that federal leases to the oil and gas industry can be expedited “to ensure quarterly oil and gas lease sales are consistently held.” According to the memo, which was dated Wednesday, doing so will ease such “impediments and burdens” as months-long environmental reviews that assess the impacts of drilling and potential spills on land and wildlife. The new approach requires the Bureau of Land Management to process a proposed lease within 60 days. Once-mandatory public participation in safety reviews is now left to the discretion of the agency’s field representatives. Public protests of finalized leases will be shortened to 10 days, and a sale can move forward even if disputes are unresolved, according to the memo. >>Read More.


Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio join battle to strengthen Asian Carp barrier near Joliet

(From Chicago Tribune) — An interstate partnership has been established to help cover costs of operating a system proposed for a Chicago-area waterway that would help keep invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said Wednesday. The initiative would support upgrades to the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, a key choke point between the carp-infested Mississippi River watershed and Lake Michigan. A $275 million draft plan released last year by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would attempt to block the carps’ path toward the lake with a gauntlet of devices, including an electric barrier, noisemakers and water jets. >>Read More.

Think road salt won’t reach your drinking water? Ask Madison

(From MPR News) — When we toss down the road salt that’s ubiquitous with icy, snowy winters in the North, the salt doesn’t just disappear after it clears up the roads and sidewalks. In fact, it’s starting to get into drinking water in places across the Midwest and New England — posing an emerging threat to water supplies and a health risk for people on sodium-restricted diets or with high blood pressure. “The salt doesn’t just evaporate, it doesn’t break down. Once it’s applied in the environment, it’s got nowhere to go. It goes into the soil, or it goes into the lakes. It doesn’t just disappear,” said Joe Grande, the water-quality manager in Madison, Wis. Madison is one of the more notable cases of drinking water contamination by sodium chloride. >>Read More.

Outdoor events for families celebrate 10th anniversary of Legacy Amendment

(From Fergus Falls Daily Journal) — A series of events celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the pass of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment will take place throughout Minnesota in 2018. The first of these events will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27, at Silverwood Regional Park, 2500 County Road E, St. Anthony.  Adults and kids who attend the Parks and Trails Legacy Celebration at Silverwood Regional Park can try kick-sledding, ice fishing, a snowmobile simulator and other indoor and outdoor activities. Visitors can also hike among art sculptures throughout the park. Between activities, there will be s’mores and other light refreshments around a crackling bonfire. “The pass of the Legacy Amendment was a game-changer for organizations working to support Minnesota’s outstanding system of parks and trails,” said Erika Rivers, director of the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. >>Read More.


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. What insect species is Minnesota’s official state butterfly?

2. “Lester” is the name of what official state symbol of Minnesota?

3. Name any of the city of St. Paul’s three largest lakes.

Upcoming Environmental Events

Public Meeting on PolyMet Draft Permits – Aurora, February 7
Mesabi East High School, Aurora
Hosted by Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness

Margaret Street Public Hearing, February 7
St. Paul City Hall
Hosted by Transit for Livable Communities-Smart Trips

Public Meeting on PolyMet Draft Permits – Duluth, February 8
Duluth Entertainment Convention Center
Hosted by Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness

2018 Watershed Summit, February 24
Normandale Community College, Bloomington
Hosted by Izaak Walton League – Minnesota Division

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Administrative Assistant | Friends of the Mississippi River
Project & Land Management Technician | Minnehaha Creek Watershed District
Information Technology Coordinator | Honor the Earth
Executive Director | Cannon River Watershed Partnership
Communications & Development Intern | Freshwater Society
Membership & Individual Giving Program Assistant | Land Stewardship Project
Executive Director | West Wisconsin Land Trust and Bayfield Regional Conservancy
Communications Director | Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness
Development and Membership Director | Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness

See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Monarch. 2) State soil. 3) Phalen, Pig’s Eye, and Como

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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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