Insider: February 3, 2017

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Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Photo Credit: Michael Hicks, FlickrCC

Amid National News, Minnesota Legislature Takes Aim at Clean Energy Policy

The news has been dominated by of a flurry of presidential executive orders, nominations, and appointments, including a travel ban affecting many Minnesota Muslim immigrants and refugees, and the nominations of Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, as Secretary of State, and Scott Pruitt, who has a history of suing the Environmental Protection Agency, to head the very same agency. At the same time, lawmakers here in Minnesota have been hearing several potentially dangerous proposals to roll back our state’s clean energy laws by removing certain consumer protections. Proposals so far have included bills that would wipe out protections for consumers and allow electric co-ops to impose heavy fees on homeowners with solar, and allow Xcel Energy to bypass the Public Utilities Commission, setting a dangerous precedent to remove protections for ratepayers. 

Read more in the Loon Commons Blog 

TAKE ACTION: Tell your legislators you don’t support this attack on local energy


Register for the 2017 Minnesota Water Action Day 

Join us on Wednesday, April 19th for the 2017 Minnesota Water Action Day! This is a day of public action and advocacy to let lawmakers know we care about our water. This all-day event will include a rally, issue trainings and meetings with your legislators. Come for all or part of the day. There will be trainings in the morning, both on how to actively engage legislators and on the water issues that we face in Minnesota. Throughout the day there will be events and other ways to keep people engaged, and the rally will be held in the Capitol Rotunda at 1pm. Register today

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Dark Sevier,
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Police Raid Standing Rock Last Child Camp, Arrest 76

(From Telesur) —  Police in North Dakota arrested 76 people at Standing Rock Wednesday afternoon, as the Army Corp of Engineers cleared the way for the Dakota Access Pipeline to continue construction through Native American land. Water protectors had set up a new camp, the Last Child Camp, and lit a sacred fire near where construction is expected to begin any day, vowing to stop the controversial pipeline which violates the sovereign treaty rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and threatens to contaminate the water supply for millions of North Dakota residents. Armed police used bulldozers and sound cannons to destroy the camp, put out the sacred fire, and carry out the arrests. Morton County sheriff’s office spokesman Rob Keller said it was too soon to say what the protesters would be charged with, according to The Guardian. >>Read More

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Susan Melkisethian,
Flickr CC

Final Easement for DAPL Appears Imminent

(From Sacred Stone Camp) —  On January 31, two members of  U.S. Congress from North Dakota released statements saying that the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army directed the Army Corps to notify Congress that it is granting the final easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Department of Justice has confirmed that at this time, there has not yet been a formal issuance of the easement. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe responded with a statement affirming they will pursue legal action to ensure due process for the pending EIS. Granting the easement now would illegally circumvent the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process and allow the company to begin drilling immediately. >>Read More 

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en Lane,
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House Moves to Encourage Drilling in National Parks

(From National Parks Conservation Association) —  Congressman Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) last night introduced H.J. Res. 46, which seeks to repeal updates to the National Park Service’s “9B” rules. The rules require detailed planning and set safety standards for oil and gas drilling inside the more than 40 national parks that have “split estate” ownership, where the federal government owns the surface but not the subsurface mineral rights. The resolution is just the latest in a series of moves by federal lawmakers to weaken environmental protections for national parks under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). If these repeals are signed into law under the CRA, it will not only stop these protections, it will also prohibit agencies from issuing similar rules and protections in the future, unless directed by Congress. >>Read More


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alfre32, Flickr CC

New Report: Minnesota Home to Well-Over 100 Wind, Solar Supply Chain Companies

(From Environmental Law & Policy Center) — More than 100 Minnesota companies serve wind power and solar energy markets, providing jobs to people across the state who are manufacturing, financing, designing, engineering, installing and maintaining renewable energy projects here and across the region, a study released today by the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) found. “When a new solar installation or wind farm is built in Minnesota, the economic impact of that project goes well beyond the community that will be delivered the construction jobs and new tax revenue from the project, there can be a web of economic activity that extends across the state,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. >>Read More

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eribel Tourisme,
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Solar-powered LEDs illuminate Duluth ski trails

(From Clean Energy Resource Teams) — The lights provide a huge benefit to the early morning or after work skier but also presented a challenge for the city to maintain. “We had to have two electricians replace the light bulbs, rent a 4-wheel drive boom lift which ripped up the trails and required park maintenance to go back in to smooth out the trails and re-groom them,” said Erik Birkeland, property and facilities manager for the city. It wasn’t unheard of for the city to spend upwards of $10,000 annually to keep the lights on and trails in good shape. The city replaced the outdated lighting with long-lasting, energy-efficient LEDs that provide bright white light perfect for navigating the trails. The project reduced energy consumption by 80%. The city followed up this project by putting up 4 kW of solar PV, further reducing energy consumption by 10%. >>Read More

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Wendell, Flickr CC

Minnesota legislation would end state oversight of small utilities’ fixed fees

(From Midwest Energy News) — Bills in the Minnesota legislature gaining bipartisan support would prohibit state regulators from overseeing fixed charges paid by distributed generation customers of cooperatives and municipally owned power companies. House Bill 234 would stop the Public Utilities Commission from hearing cases brought by disgruntled solar and small-wind customers of member-owned utilities. It would also immediately stop an investigation PUC has underway dealing with fixed charges applied to solar and small-wind producers. The House measure and companion Senate bill in the Senate are both quickly moving through the committee process. >>Read More

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Bill Dickinson,
Flickr CC

Replace Sherco coal plant with natural gas? Xcel brings debate to the Capitol

(From MPR) — Xcel Energy is asking state lawmakers to clear a path for a new natural gas plant in central Minnesota. It’s part of the utility’s plans to retire part of Sherco, its giant coal-fired power plant in Becker. Two Sherco plant units will retire by 2026, and building a natural gas plant could make up for some of the lost electric generation. Both clean energy advocates and utility customers are showing skepticism of the plan. Regulators signed off on the shutdown last fall, but they stopped short of endorsing Xcel’s plan to build a natural gas power plant nearby to compensate for some of the lost capacity. Xcel will ask the Senate energy committee Thursday to support a bill that would allow the natural gas plant without going through the normal regulatory process. >>Read More



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evin Saff,
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Environmental groups launch second legal challenge over PolyMet land exchange

(From MPR) — The Minnesota-based environmental group WaterLegacy sued the U.S. Forest Service in federal district court Monday, arguing the agency gave a “sweetheart deal” to PolyMet in the land exchange it approved earlier this month for the proposed copper-nickel mine. That land swap is a critical step for PolyMet in its bid to open the state’s first copper-nickel mine. The company controls the mineral rights under the land where it hopes to mine. But the Forest Service had said the company needed to also own the land in order to dig an open-pit mine. >>Read More

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