Insider: June 16, 2018

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Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Line 3 and PolyMet: Two pivotal moments for Minnesota waters

This month is shaping up to be a big one for the health of Minnesota’s water, land, and communities. Last week, the staff of the Public Utilities Commission released nonbinding recommendation that the proposed Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline be approved, and that its new route should be favored as the least harmful to the environment. While this report is disappointing and contrary to the Department of Commerce’s conclusion that Line 3 is not needed by Minnesotans, it is also not the end of the story: the PUC’s five Commissioners are scheduled to make their final decision by the end of June.

Meanwhile, Minnesota’s U.S. Senators have attached an amendment to the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act that would force through the land exchange for the PolyMet sulfide mine in northern Minnesota. The land exchange – which would trade public land with PolyMet’s parent company at bargain prices – is already scheduled to conclude on June 28. But it is contingent on four pending lawsuits filed to stop it, and could be suspended depending on the legal outcome. The amendment to the National Defense Act in Congress would eliminate the lawsuits and push PolyMet toward becoming a reality.

These two projects, though focused on different activities, represent two sides of the same coin: the devaluing and misuse of northern our state’s critical land and water resources, despite strong opposition from majorities of Minnesotans.

Both have created unprecedented debates

Line 3 is a replacement of an old line that would increase its capacity by doubling the number of barrels per day, delivering toxic Alberta tar sands oil across Minnesota. State and federal laws were written largely to favor pipeline construction, and the PUC has historically rubber-stamped these proposals. But in the wake of controversies like Dakota Access and Keystone XL and with the broader understanding of the increasing effects of climate change, the PUC has heard testimony from thousands of Minnesotans. It’s clear that such dangerous pipelines are no longer considered a no-brainer.

PolyMet is unprecedented in its own way – sulfide ore mining has never been conducted in Minnesota, and it has never been conducted in any location with freshwater resources without leaving acid pollution in its wake. Minnesota has a long-held tradition of iron ore mining, but sulfides are a breed apart. A mine waste spill at the PolyMet site would result in pollution that would harm the area for decades even if it occurred long after the mine ceased operations.

Both would trample over indigenous rights

The PolyMet mine would lie in the St. Louis River watershed upstream from Lake Superior. Downstream the St. Louis River flows through the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation. The Ojibwe of this reservation depend on the St. Louis River’s water and fishing resources for their health, well-being and guaranteed cultural rights. The fish in the watershed have already been contaminated by sulfates and mercury that threaten human health – the addition of acid drainage pollution in the likely event of a mine spill at some point would be an even greater blow.

Throughout the Line 3 debate, the Leech Lake Band and Ojibwe tribal members throughout Minnesota have condemned this pipeline proposal as a violation of their treaty rights, their culture, and the viability of their communities. A tar sands oil spill from this pipeline into the vulnerable waters it would cross would be catastrophic for the water and wild rice resources on which the Ojibwe rely.

Both have been falsely framed as the economy versus the environment

Minnesota’s most basic and vital resource is our supply of clean water. The health of our communities and the livelihoods of thousands of Minnesota residents and businesses depend on the safety of our lakes and rivers. An accident on Line 3 or at PolyMet would create tremendous financial burdens on Minnesotans. We can’t afford to continue piling up risks to our water and moving backwards on climate action by approving such projects. If these projects are approved, Minnesotans will end up paying the costs for generations after the few temporary jobs on Line 3 and PolyMet have disappeared.

We urge state officials and our United States Senators to consider the future of Minnesota and reject these ill-conceived and dangerous proposals.

Office space available in MEP’s building!

Is your organization in the market for a convenient, comfortable office space in St. Paul? The office suite above MEP’s office at 546 Rice Street is available for lease! The approximately 2200 square ft. space is ideal for a small to midsize nonprofit organization, featuring a kitchen and break area and offstreet parking.

Located in the Capitol-Rice Street neighborhood, it is also within three blocks of the Capitol complex and across the street from the Women’s Building. It is also positioned along bus routes 3, 62, and 67, and a two-minute walk from the Green Line. And perhaps best of all, the new tenant would have good neighbors in MEP’s staff!

The landlord may be open to letting portions or the entirety of the office space to individual organizations. Contact us for details!

Please contact Matt Doll at if interested.

A rule protecting Minnesota’s groundwater is 30 years in the making. Republicans are fighting it.

(From City Pages) — Minnesota—especially southern Minnesota—has a nitrate problem. Nitrates are commonly found in fertilizers, and when too much of them get into drinking water, it can cause a number of health problems in babies and pregnant women—including “blue baby syndrome,” which lowers the blood’s ability carry oxygen and can be fatal. Almost 10 percent of the wells in vulnerable areas test above the healthy limit, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and the Minnesota Environmental Partnership (MEP) says more than 50 Minnesota communities have “high” nitrate levels in their drinking water. In Winona County, where MEP director Steve Morse lives, 19 percent of the wells tested exceeded safe nitrate levels. >>Read More.

Minnesota launches new online tool to compare state parks and trails

(From Pioneer Press) — Minnesota has a new online tool to help outdoor enthusiasts plan trips to state and regional parks and trails. The Minnesota Great Outdoors website, launched Tuesday, allows park-goers to search a state map of parks and trails and compare amenities. “Previously, you would have to know which office or region managed the park or trail you were looking for. Now, you have a clear, easy-to-navigate launchpad to find all of the information you need to plan your trip,” said Commissioner Tom Landwehr, of the state Department of Natural Resources, in a statement. State officials hope the new website will make it easier for residents to find attractions statewide. >>Read More.

photo credit: Pioneer Press

Congress shouldn’t short-circuit environmentalists’ legal challenge to PolyMet land exchange

(From MinnPost) — America’s federal courts are supposed to be the great equalizer. While the costs of litigation can certainly limit the ability of some to have their day in court, the federal judiciary is, for many, the one guarantor of equal protection under the law — the one place where average Americans can stand equal with powerful corporations or an arbitrary or abusive government agency. But what if only one side of a dispute had access to the courts? It’s not an academic question. It’s a reality that is playing out right now in the U.S. Senate, where Sen. Tina Smith has introduced a rider to an unrelated, must-pass defense bill that is intended to deny environmental groups the right to challenge the proposed PolyMet land exchange in federal court. >>Read More.


Red Wing asked to share clean energy success

(From Red Wing Republican Eagle) — Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Jessica Looman was in Red Wing on Monday, June 4, to learn from local leaders about Red Wing’s successful advancement of a clean energy agenda in a rural community. Red Wing received a Minnesota Clean Energy Community Award in 2018 for its Green Wing Energy Action Plan. Red Wing also will soon receive recognition as a Step Five City by the Minnesota GreenStep Cities Program, making it one of only 10 in the state to demonstrate leadership and improvement along certain green energy metrics. >>Read More.

Judge’s ruling against Minnesota wind farm causes alarm for advocates

(From Star Tribune) — A judge’s recommendation that a proposed Minnesota wind farm be nixed over turbine noise has drawn a flurry of opposition from the wind-power industry, which fears a chilling effect on development. In a rare move, Administrative Law Judge LauraSue Schlatter last month recommended that the Freeborn Wind farm be denied an operating permit, saying the southern Minnesota project failed to show it can meet state noise standards. Freeborn Wind’s developer, Invenergy, has objected, saying Schlatter’s interpretation of state noise rules would be “impossible” to meet. >>Read More.

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Do you appreciate our coverage of environmental and conservation issues? You can help sustain MEP’s work with a donation. Your support will help MEP continue educating decision-makers and Minnesotans throughout the state about important issues that impact clean water, clean air, and land conservation. Contributions also provide the financial backing we need to help organize the advocacy efforts of our 70 member organizations and take action through public organizing, media campaigns, lobbying, and research.

Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. What four locks collectively allow shipping traffic to pass between Lake Huron and Lake Superior?

2. What sport was invented on the waters of Lake Pepin?

3. What MN wildlife refuge is considered “the largest tallgrass prairie and wetland restoration project in U.S. history?”

Upcoming Environmental Events

Informational Meeting on Groundwater Protection Rule, June 18
Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Pipestone
Hosted by MN Department of Agriculture

Film “Happening: A Clean Energy Revolution”, June 18
Maple Grove Library
Hosted by NW Metro Climate Action

Informational Meeting on Groundwater Protection Rule, June 19
Ridgewater College, Hutchinson
Hosted by MN Department of Agriculture

Tend the native bluff prairie at Indian Mounds Park, June 19
Indian Mounds Park, St. Paul
Hosted by Friends of the Mississippi River

Film: “Chasing Ice”, June 19
Park Grove Library, Cottage Grove
Sponsored by Southeast Metro Climate Action

Film and Speaker on Climate Refugees, June 20
Faith Lutheran Church, Coon Rapids
Co-sponsored by Faith Lutheran and by Anoka Area Climate Action

The Federal Farm Bill: Supporting Vibrant & Sustainable Minnesota Communities, June 21
Plymouth Creek Center, Plymouth
Hosted by Environmental Initiative

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Conservation Program Manager | Minnesota Land Trust
Education Program Supervisor | Minnesota Trout Unlimited
Senior Policy Associate, Electrification | Fresh Energy
Clean Energy Organizing Paid Intern | Sierra Club North Star Chapter
Organizing Representative – Duluth | Sierra Club North Star Chapter
Minnesota GreenCorps AmeriCorps Member | Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Data Manager | Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Warner Nature Center Director | Science Museum of Minnesota
Program Intern – Summer 2018 | Clean Water Action
Chief Financial Officer | Environmental Initiative
See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) The Soo Locks. 2) Water skiing. 3) Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge


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Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Copyright © 2017
546 Rice Street, Suite 100, Saint Paul, MN 55103

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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