Insider: June 23, 2017

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Summer hearings have high stakes for Minnesota waters

The Legislature won’t reconvene until early next year, but the government hearings being held throughout this summer will have a tremendous impact on Minnesota’s lakes and rivers.

Yesterday, June 22, the final public hearings on the draft EIS for Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 project were held in Gully and Bemidji, with the Bemidji hearing drawing a crowd of over 200 (see article below.) This contentious project would pump Alberta tar sands oil across seventeen Northern Minnesota counties, running dangerously close to some of Minnesota’s most vulnerable wild rice waters and Lake Superior. It’s heartening to see that a diverse group of Minnesotans, including members of MEP partners MN350 and Honor the Earth, have stood up for Minnesota waters and shared their concerns with the Department of Commerce.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture has started accepting public comments on its draft Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule, which aims to reduce the amount of nitrate pollution in Minnesota’s groundwater. Nitrate contamination is a serious issue that requires a robust response, and unfortunately, the proposed rule is severely watered-down. It would fail to protect currently uncontaminated groundwater, would have a needlessly long phase-in period, and would fall short of requiring effective steps like cover crops and reduction of nitrogen fertilizer use.

The Department of Agriculture has held one listening session in Marshall, and will hold four more in Chatfield, Farmington, St. Cloud, and Wadena in the next few weeks. We encourage citizens to attend and speak out for a nitrogen rule that will protect drinking water in our rural and urban communities alike.

On the horizon, the U.S. Forest Service is accepting comments and will hold two hearings on the withdrawal of federally-owned minerals near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in late July. The first will be at the St. Paul RiverCenter on July 18, and the second at the Virginia High School in St. Louis County on July 25. These comments will help inform an environmental impact statement that will shape the health of the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior. If allowed to proceed, ore extraction in that area is expected to result in ongoing treatment and cleanup of water for centuries. It is vital that Minnesotans make our voices heard now to protect our great outdoors for future generations.


Volunteer: It’s a good year to become a water monitor

(From Brainerd Dispatch, by CSMP volunteer David Tacke) — When I was 12, Rachel Carson’s published her long-researched documentation of environmental abuse in America, Silent Spring. I was a South Dakota farm kid, getting sunburned every spring as I went out to disk fields ahead of dad’s planting. I took too little note of this monumental publishing event, as I took too little note of many other monumental events then.Three years ago I decided that I had to begin to do more personally, and I discovered a volunteer opportunity in the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Stream Monitoring Program. >>Read More.

 


       
Monarch Highway Logo
Photo credit: MnDOT

National Pollinator Week 

Monday, June 19 marked the start of National Pollinator Week, and Minnesotans have been getting involved to celebrate and protect our pollinators!

-MnDOT unveiled their new logo (at left) for the Monarch Highway, which runs along all of I-35, to celebrate this treasured species.
-The City of Minneapolis will hold several events this weekend to help promote bee habitat and pollinator-friendly plants.
-The University of Minnesota is encouraging citizens to help provide information for the Minnesota Bee Atlas project, which will aid in tracking bees and making land use decisions that protect them.
Read BWSR’s brochure on how you can help pollinators yourself!

No easy answers: Bee health threatened by ‘Four P’s’

(From AgriPulse) — No single factor is behind the decline in honey bee health, a leading researcher said at presentations in Washington, D.C., Monday, the start of the officially designated National Pollinator Week.“I don’t think we’re going to find one driver,” said University of Minnesota entomologist Marla Spivak, who spoke as lead author of a commentary released the same day by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. She gave three presentations, including two on Capitol Hill. Instead, she said the “four P’s” – parasites, pathogens, pesticides and poor nutrition – combine to compromise bee health or, in some cases, kill bees. >>Read More.


           

Local view: Minnesotans could be left holding the bag after mining

(From Duluth News Tribune, by Jane Reyer, Advocacy Director for Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness) — Most Minnesotans have heard about the troubling risks that come with copper-nickel mining projects like the proposed PolyMet mine. In addition to environmental effects, the long-term monetary costs to taxpayers are likely to be staggering — and something to which we all should be paying close attention. Although PolyMet is required to provide bankruptcy-proof financing to cover the cost of closing its mine, its estimate of that cost at $332 million is far from the $932 million an independent mining consultant suggested actually would be needed. >>Read More.


          

Fresh Energy celebrates 25th anniversary

Congratulations to MEP partner organization Fresh Energy for marking 25 years of tremendous, tireless work for clean energy in Minnesota! Fresh Energy’s work has helped to bring about a transformation in our state’s economy and make renewable sources like wind and solar the backbone of our energy future. Click here to see photos from their 25th anniversary celebration!

City of Northfield considers solar subscription

(From Northfield News) — The city of Northfield may take a step in the direction of renewable energy, as staff and the City Council consider the merits of subscribing to community solar gardens.According to a staff report presented at Tuesday’s council meeting, there may be financial, in addition to environmental, benefits from investing in the renewable source. Minnesota Community Solar estimates show that, under a fixed rate option, the city might save $1.5 million-plus over 25 years through a 1,960 kilowatt subscription. >>Read More.


        

For and against: 200 attend public meeting on Line 3 oil pipeline project

(From Bemidji Pioneer) — Two weeks of public meetings on Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 oil pipeline replacement project wrapped up Thursday with a well-attended and sometimes emotional gathering at Bemidji’s Sanford Center. About 200 people packed the center’s designated room to respond to the recently released draft environmental review of the project. A mix of pipeline opponents and supporters shared their thoughts on the pipeline with Minnesota Department of Commerce representatives, who will compile the responses and present them to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.  >>Read More.

 


MPCA plans to boost cleanup efforts in historically underserved neighborhoods with grant program

(From MinnPost) — When Project for Pride in Living (PPL) considered building an affordable housing complex on a site in north Minneapolis that once housed a dry cleaner, they figured they might run into some problems with the property. “We discovered there was some arsenic in the soil and … a soil gas, which is hazardous if you breathe it in,” said Abbie Loosen, a project manager for PPL. The process of evaluating the site, which included background checks on the property and sampling the soil, ran PPL roughly $20,000, and that didn’t involve the actual cleanup process. Luckily, PPL was able to tap into a Hennepin County grant pool that enables developers to investigate old properties for potential environmental hazards without having to spend their own money. >>Read More.

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