Year in Preview and Minnesota’s Gubernatorial Election
2017 was a critical year for our natural resources and human health – with mounting threats to clean water, a drastic decline in pollinator populations, and one of the three hottest years on record around the world among other threats. And 2018 brings with it the continuation of these and other challenges for Minnesota.
- The permitting process for the hazardous PolyMet sulfide mine proposal continues to move forward, with the comment period on the DNR-issued draft permit to mine open until March 6.
- The debate over the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline will reach a critical juncture as the Public Utilities Commission considers whether to grant the project the certificate of need it would require to construct the new pipeline across Minnesota’s lands and waters.
- Legislators will consider whether to raise Minnesota’s renewable energy standard to 50% by 2030, which would spur investments and job growth in clean energy while mitigating carbon emissions.
- Leaders and lawmakers must determine how to tackle the growing threat of nitrate pollution in Minnesota’s drinking water, and how to address the agricultural impacts that contribute to it.
- Many more issues concerning public lands, conservation funding, pollinator protection, and other projects will be on the table at the Legislature this year.
With 2018 also seeing the election of Minnesota’s next governor, it’s vital that our state’s voters learn where the gubernatorial hopefuls stand on these issues. That’s why Minnesota Environmental Partnership and our friends and partners in the community are proud to be co-hosting the Our New Environment Forum, where our state’s gubernatorial candidates will have the chance to share their views and plans on these critical issues. We call on all interested citizens to watch and participate!
The forum will take place at 6:30 PM on Wednesday, January 24. The main stage has already run out of tickets, but anyone can sign up to watch the forum live on the web for free, and there are seats with free tickets available at seven satellite locations around the state, with more potentially coming soon – check back with the event page for details!
The Our New Environment Forum is for, by, and of the community, so we encourage Minnesotans to participate and interact. We encourage participants to engage with the forum and the candidates on social media using the hashtag #ONEGovForum. Registered participants will be able to pose and vote on questions using the pigeonhole.at website. The site is currently live and can be accessed with the password LEGACY.
If you’re looking for a way to be engaged on environmental issues and state politics in 2018, this forum is an excellent way to start off the year. Sign up to let us know you’re watching!
Minnesota Sands to appeal case against Winona County frac sand ban
(From La Crosse Tribune) — A prospective frac sand company with claims to thousands of acres in southeastern Minnesota intends to pursue its challenge of Winona County’s ban on frac sand mining in a higher court. Minnesota Sands notified the state Court of Appeals Tuesday that it is appealing a District Court judge’s dismissal of its lawsuit. Minnesota Sands and a group of landowners argued that the 2016 mining ordinance violates their constitutional rights by singling out sand used for industrial purposes while allowing mining for construction uses. >>Read More.
photo credit: Pioneer Press
Editorial Counterpoint: No, PolyMet process would set a low bar
(From Star Tribune, contributed by the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy) — Minnesota stands at a crossroads as we consider a permit for PolyMet’s proposed copper-nickel mine. We are being asked to permit an entirely new industry with a long history of ecological and financial disaster. Other countries, states and provinces are learning from recent disasters and changing their policies to improve how mining companies store their waste. Experts hired by the state of Minnesota have warned the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for years to learn from those disasters as well. Unfortunately, the draft PolyMet permit to mine continues to allow the company to store mine waste in a dangerous, outdated way that puts people and water downstream at risk. >>Read More.
PCA agrees on PolyMet draft water quality permit
(From Duluth News Tribune) — The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is apparently satisfied with a draft water-quality permit for the proposed PolyMet copper mine project, a major permit needed for water pollution discharge at the site. PolyMet on Thursday heralded the draft permit, posted on the PCA website this week, as another step toward the project’s reality. The PCA “has determined there is reasonable assurance that the proposed activities will be conducted in a manner that will not violate applicable water standards,” PCA Commissioner John Linc Stine noted in a letter to the company. Hearings on the PCA water permit will be held jointly with the Department of Natural Resources which earlier this month released PolyMet’s draft permit to mine. Those hearings are set for Feb. 7 in Aurora and Feb. 8 in Duluth. >>Read More.
By NOAA numbers, last year was worst for U.S. weather disasters since 1980
(From MinnPost) — If 2017 seemed to you like an unusually awful year for weather and climate catastrophe, your perspective is right on — it was a record-setter, and not just because of hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma. Or the wildfires in California. One of the contributors, in fact, occurred in Minnesota — the hail and high winds of early June that were especially intense in the Twin Cities metro, and are credited with causing losses in the range of $2.4 billion. These findings are freshly issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which since 1980 has been keeping tabs on the tier of weather and climate disasters that cause losses exceeding a billion bucks. >>Read More.
photo credit: Minneapolis Parks & Recreation Board
Minnesota lake named for pro-slavery Calhoun gets new name
(From MPR News) —A popular Minneapolis lake named in honor of slavery supporter and former Vice President John Calhoun will get its original American Indian name back, Minnesota officials announced Thursday. Lake Calhoun will be renamed Bde Maka Ska, the Department of Natural Resources announced. The name, which is pronounced beh-DAY’ mah-KAH’ skah and means White Earth Lake, was used by the Dakota people before federal surveyors renamed it in the early 1800s for Calhoun, who was then secretary of war. Official signs around the lake use both names. >>Read More.
UMN study sheds light on plastic sustainability
(From Minnesota Daily) — A study published this month by University of Minnesota researchers identified methods to recycle certain molecules found in plastics. The researchers spent about a year searching for ways to convert plastic materials back to their original molecules for reuse. While these findings could allow for more sustainable plastic use, researchers say consumers shouldn’t expect to see products like recyclable plastic forks in stores in the near future. Plastics are made of polymers — chains of molecules — which determine physical properties like rigidness, said Marc Hillmyer, director of the University’s Center for Sustainable Polymers. The polymers are typically made from nonrenewable sources, like oil, and don’t break down, he said. >>Read More.
Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!
1. Of Minnesota’s thirty most populous cities, how many are outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area? Which cities are they?
2. Garden Island State Recreation Area, Minnesota’s northernmost state parks unit, is located in what lake?
3. Approximately what percentage of Minnesota’s energy comes from renewable sources as of 2017?
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Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities
Membership & Individual Giving Program Assistant | Land Stewardship Project
Executive Director | West Wisconsin Land Trust and Bayfield Regional Conservancy
Advocacy Director | Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
Director, Legislative Water Commission | MN Legislative Coordinating Commission
Minnesota Campaign Organizer | Clean Water Action
Communications Director | Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness
Green Lands Blue Waters Director | MN Institute for Sustainable Agriculture
Water Resources Technician | Prior Lake – Spring Lake Watershed District
Development and Membership Director | Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
Field Director, MN, ND, SD | The Nature Conservancy
Director of Strategy & Policy, MN, ND, SD | The Nature Conservancy
Managing Director, MN Sustainable Growth Coalition | Environmental Initiative
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Trivia Answers: 1) Five – Rochester, Duluth, St. Cloud, Mankato, Moorhead. 2) Lake of the Woods. 3) 21-22%