Insider: January 5, 2018

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photo credit: NASA

DNR Releases Draft Permit to Mine for PolyMet

This morning, January 5, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources marked a major development in the PolyMet debate by releasing a draft Permit to Mine for the sulfide mining project. The permit is one of several that PolyMet would require to move forward with its proposed mine near Hoyt Lakes in Northeastern Minnesota, but its approval would be a major step toward allowing the mining operation to begin. By releasing this draft permit, the DNR has given PolyMet a signal that Minnesota may soon allow it to begin this hazardous project.

The PolyMet mine would be built in the St. Louis River watershed, where its toxic waste would be an ongoing threat to downstream communities like the Fond du Lac Reservation, as well as the waters of Lake Superior. Unlike taconite iron mining in Minnesota, this mine would create acid runoff pollution, which PolyMet intends to store behind a massive forty-year-old dam. The mine would only operate for twenty years, while the dam would have to be maintained indefinitely to prevent a catastrophic spill.

This mine poses a troubling threat to the health and livelihood of Minnesota’s communities. Our state should not be put on the hook for many years of cleanup for the damage to our lands and waters for sulfide mining, which 52% of Minnesotans don’t want to see happen here. Said MEP Executive Director Steve Morse: 

“This would be Minnesota’s first ever sulfide mining project, and no mine of this type has operated and closed without polluting local waters with acid-mine drainage. The plan also relies on outdated technology and a flawed tailings basin. The long-term risks to the safety and health of downstream communities and Lake Superior far outweigh the short-term benefits; the mine will only be operational for 20 years, but will need active water treatment plants for hundreds of years after it closes.”

Fortunately, the fight isn’t over. The DNR has opened a comment period on the draft permit from January 5 to March 6, allowing members of the public to comment on and object to the permit. They will also hold hearings in Aurora on February 7 and in Duluth on February 8. This is a critical time for Minnesotans to speak up! We need to let the DNR know that Minnesotans will not stand for a dangerous sulfide mine that would harm our communities now and for generations to come.

MEP Events and Advocacy News

Join us in January for a Governor Candidate Forum on Minnesota’s Great Outdoors!

Join Minnesota’s conservation community for a gubernatorial candidate forum on environment and conservation issues in Minnesota! Candidates will respond to audience questions about air/climate, water, land/habitat and environmental funding.

Questions will be sourced live through the website and we encourage all event participants to add questions or vote for their favorite questions. The Pigeonhole event password will be released in advance of the forum.

Because of space limitations, advance registration is required, but admission is free. Register today! 

Sustainable: Planners charting Minnesota’s energy future

(From Finance & Commerce) —  Energy generation from wind and solar has grown significantly in Minnesota. Utilities have announced the retirement of thousands of megawatts of coal plants in the next decade. Popular technologies such as electric vehicles, sophisticated thermostats, battery storage and rooftop solar hold great potential to produce cleaner energy. And they pose challenges to the electric grid. Minnesota is entering a new era of energy production that promises to upend the traditional power grid in the same way the internet, the iPhone and deregulation transformed communications over the past 30 years. What the future might look like is being debated and studied by several leading environmentally oriented nonprofits and by Minnesota regulators. >>Read More.

Minnesota’s solar capacity on track to keep growing in 2018

(From MPR News) — Minnesota added enough solar panels in 2017 to power about 53,000 homes, and strong growth is expected to continue in the new year. The state’s overall capacity is now at more than 700 megawatts, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which tracks solar installations. “Our goal is to possibly reach a full gigawatt of solar in Minnesota by 2019,” Commerce Commissioner Jessica Looman said. A gigawatt is less than half the capacity of Minnesota’s largest coal-fired power plant, the Sherburne County Generating Station, or Sherco. Power plants like Sherco have an advantage over solar because they can run continuously. Solar panels only produce energy at their full capacity when the sun is out. Battery storage can help us use the sun’s energy more effectively by saving it for when we really need it. >>Read More.



Photo credit: MPCA

Test our water for nitrates? Minnesota county says no thanks

(From Star Tribune) — A free well-testing program for Minnesota homeowners has become the latest target in the state’s increasingly fractious political battle over water and agricultural pollution.At its December meeting, the Brown County Board of Commissioners in New Ulm declined to adopt a plan that would allow some residents to get their drinking water tested for nitrates and other farm contaminants by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The tests are part of a statewide project to assess water quality in private wells in areas that are especially vulnerable to leaching from fertilizers and pesticides — a rising concern in some of parts of Minnesota’s farm country. >>Read More.

Minneapolis’ lakes are a major asset — so how are they doing?

(From MinnPost) — The motto Minneapolis proclaims to the world is: City of Lakes. Not City of Six Fortune 500 Headquarters. City of World-Class Arts Institutions. City of Well-Plowed Streets. Or City of Super Bowl LII. Yet often it feels things like these (while certainly important) dominate our attention and local pride, while the lakes are taken for granted. For the record, more than 40 Fortune 500 companies are based in New York City, not to mention many of the world’s top museums and performing arts venues. Burlington, Vermont, beats us gloves down when it comes to snow removal (the city plows sidewalks as well as streets). Miami and New Orleans each have hosted 10 Super Bowls. >>Read More.



Environmentalist’s View: Minnesota can lead on cutting pollution, protecting environment

(From Duluth News Tribune, contributed by Environment Minnesota) — With the administration of President Donald Trump reversing actions of the prior administration on climate change, state governments are taking new measures to cut pollution and protect people from harm. We with Environment Minnesota urge our state to lead the way. One of the best examples of state leadership on climate change right now comes from nine northeastern and mid-Atlantic states, five led by Republican governors and four by Democrats. These states were to have finalized by the end of the year a new plan to cut pollution from regional power plants by at least two-thirds below 2005 levels by 2030. >>Read More.


Tribes ask PUC to reconsider review of new Enbridge pipeline route, saying cultural study wasn’t done

(From St. Cloud Times) — Minnesota’s Ojibwe Indian tribes say state regulators failed to do a complete Native American cultural study and thus botched their environmental review of Enbridge’s proposed new oil pipeline across northern Minnesota. In regulatory filing this week, five tribes asked the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to reconsider its recent decision on the environmental review and order that a “full historic properties review” be done. The tribes and environmental groups have harshly criticized the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) done by the Minnesota Department of Commerce on Enbridge’s proposed new Line 3, which would replace an aging and corroding pipeline In December, the PUC rejected the EIS, but on narrow environmental concerns. >>Read More.

Trump moves to open nearly all offshore waters to drilling

(From New York Times) — The Trump administration said Thursday it would allow new offshore oil and gas drilling in nearly all United States coastal waters, giving energy companies access to leases off California for the first time in decades and opening more than a billion acres in the Arctic and along the Eastern Seaboard. The proposal lifts a ban on such drilling imposed by President Barack Obama near the end of his term and would deal a serious blow to his environmental legacy. It would also signal that the Trump administration is not done unraveling environmental restrictions in an effort to promote energy production. >>Read More.


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. Which has greater volume, Lake Superior or the combined water of Lakes Erie, Huron, Ontario, and Michigan?

2. At less than 60°F, what northern community has the lowest average summer temperature of any Minnesota city?

3. What eastern county is known as the “solar capital of Minnesota” for its many solar farms?

Upcoming Environmental Events

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

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

See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Lake Superior. 2) Grand Marais. 3) Chisago County.

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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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