Insider: June 23

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Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Minnesota businesses take feds to court to protect Boundary Waters from sulfide mining

On Thursday, a group of Minnesota businesses and MEP member group Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of the Interior over its reinstatement of expired mineral leases for Twin Metals. Twin Metals is proposing to use these mineral rights to open and operate a copper-nickel sulfide mine on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The plaintiffs contend that the reinstatement of the leases is both unlawful under U.S. water protection policy and an imminent threat to their businesses, which rely on the health of the Boundary Waters as a foundation of Minnesota’s recreation economy.

Indeed, Twin Metals would bring numerous hazards to northern Minnesota’s economy and livability. Any mining operation brings disruptions to local communities and ecosystems in the form of new private roads and railways, water and power consumption, and habitat destruction. But sulfide mining – never before done in Minnesota — presents much more serious risks. Sulfide mines produce sulfuric acid drainage, a particularly dangerous pollutant that can render water undrinkable and toxic to the surrounding humans and wildlife.



Acid mine drainage – photo credit: NASA

There has never been a sulfide mine that has not polluted surrounding waters, and Twin Metals (similarly to PolyMet in the Lake Superior watershed) has offered no adequate assurances that the Boundary Waters watershed would be protected. That’s largely due to the fact that an inevitable acid spill would be almost certain to spread and prohibitively difficult to clean up. This wilderness has a uniquely interconnected system of waters, leaving it vulnerable in the face of such an unprecedented disaster.

That vulnerability – and the importance of the Boundary Waters to Minnesota’s people and economy – is at the heart of this lawsuit. A wilderness contaminated by acid would no longer be a wilderness, and would no longer remain the beating heart of Minnesota’s recreation economy.

Said Steve Piragis, a business owner in Ely: “It would not take long for the recreational economy we have worked so hard to develop for many decades in Ely to be severely affected. My business will suffer.”

The framing of the sulfide mining debate in Minnesota as a jobs versus environment argument belies the real values at stake – and the fact that existing Minnesota businesses rely on clean water and pristine wilderness. Our recreation economy directly generates billions of dollars in consumer spending and over 100,000 jobs. In order to maintain these economic resources, we must firmly protect our natural resources – the lands and waters that provide for our communities, keep our ecosystems in balance, and draw thousands of people to experience our northern wilderness.

We urge state and federal regulators to recognize the value of Minnesota’s waters and keep this temporary sulfide mine from permanently harming our communities.

photo credit: Kurt Haubrich

Would denial of Line 3 project mean more oil trains?

(From MPR News) — Enbridge Energy says its customers want more oil, and if a new pipeline doesn’t bring it to them, it will get there on trains instead. “You’re not stopping any oil from coming out of the ground. They’re putting it on the rails and driving it right next to your elementary schools, right next to your nursing homes, right through small towns all across the state,” Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said during a speech last month. To many, that’s a scary thought. But project opponents, including environmentalists, are skeptical. “There’s no evidence to suggest that we would see more trains,” said Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, who opposes the Line 3 project. >>Read More.

PUC’s final public meetings on Line 3 have been an affront to the concept

(From Star Tribune) — Coverage of the final public meetings concerning a proposed replacement of Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 pipeline in northern Minnesota has missed the opportunity to examine a case of a horribly mismanaged public process. While the Public Utilities Commission is accustomed to sparse turnout for its meetings, concern over climate change, jobs and Native rights has been bringing waves of people to the commission’s St. Paul office for final oral arguments and commission deliberations this week and next. >>Read More.

photo credit: EPA

Fillmore County residents request ‘Yes to EIS’

(From Rochester Post Bulletin) — An estimated 400 people attended a rally and public informational meeting at the Mabel Community Center Tuesday night in response to a proposed hog facility in Fillmore County. Catalpa LLC has proposed a 4,980-swine facility 10 miles east of Harmony. An estimated 7.3 million gallons of liquid manure will be produced annually, stored and spread on approved farms in the area. Due to residents’ concerns over the environmental impact of that scale of production, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency hosted the public meeting. >>Read More.

Xcel Energy land in Burnsville flowers into pollinator habitat

(From Pioneer Press) — Monarch butterflies gained 3 more acres of habitat in Burnsville, thanks to a community partnership seeking to stem steep declines in their population. In a partnership between the city of Burnsville and Xcel Energy, community members and volunteers planted pollinator-friendly plants near Tennisioux Park underneath Xcel Energy transmission lines this week. The effort coincided with National Pollinator Week. The initiative was part of a larger campaign Xcel Energy launched more than a decade ago “to build up the habitat butterflies and bees need to thrive,” Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy-Minnesota said in a statement earlier this week. >>Read More.


Minnesota adjusts solar incentives to cover more commercial projects

(From Energy News Network) — State lawmakers doubled the size limit for Xcel Energy’s Solar Rewards program to include projects up to 40 kilowatts. Meanwhile, the utility created a capacity credit that pays business customers a bonus for generating during peak hours. David Shaffer, policy and development director for the Minnesota Solar Electric Industries Association, predicts the changes together could spur up to 200 megawatts of projects and maybe attract new solar companies to the state. “Folks in other states don’t even know it’s happening,” Shaffer said. “No one has yet marketed it.” >>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.

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.

Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. Which national park is the most-visited in the United States?

2. Which state has the greatest number of national parks?

3. Which national park contains the deepest lake in North America?

Upcoming Environmental Events

Film “The Anthropologist” (about climate change impacts), June 24
Davanni’s in Woodbury
Sponsored by Southeast Metro Climate Action

Mankato Electric Vehicle Charging Strategy Workshop, June 25
AmericInn Hotel and Conference Center, Mankato
Hosted by Fresh Energy

Nicollet Island restoration kickoff information session, June 25
DeLaSalle High School, Minneapolis
Hosted by Friends of the Mississippi River

“Make and Take” Rain Barrel Workshop, June 26
Wellstone Center, St. Paul
Hosted by Friends of the Mississippi River

Film and Speaker on Climate Refugees, June 27
Plymouth Library
Sponsored by Northwest Metro Climate Action

MDA Informational Meeting on Groundwater Protection Rule, June 28
Orville Freeman Building, St. Paul
Hosted by Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Tend the rare prairie at Sand Coulee SNA, June 28
Sand Coulee Scientific and Natural Area, Hastings
Hosted by Friends of the Mississippi River

Pollinator Festival, July 28
Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, St. Paul
Hosted by Lower Phalen Creek Project

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

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

Trivia Answers: 1) Great Smoky Mountains. 2) California. 3) Crater Lake National Park.


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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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