Insider: October 20, 2017

Posted by .

Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership


Sulfate Standard Change Would Weaken Wild Rice Protection

This month, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is holding hearings on its proposed  changes to the state’s Wild Rice Sulfate Standard, which regulates the level of sulfate pollution allowed to be discharged into wild rice waters. If enacted, the amendments would shift the regulation from enforcing a uniform level of sulfate across these waters to a more complicated formula, creating a different amount of sulfate allowed for each body of water. While the changes have been promoted as a flexible way to balance wild rice protection with the individual needs of the area, the practical effect of the change is likely to do more harm than good to Minnesota’s state grain.

Sulfate pollution is most commonly discharged by mines, industrial plants, and municipal wastewater systems. When sulfate sinks to a river or lake bed, it combines with sediments to form sulfide compounds, which have harmful effects on wild rice and other organisms. Enough sulfide in a water body can make it hard or even impossible for wild rice to grow.

Getting a sulfate standard wrong could result in catastrophe for Minnesota’s already-diminished wild rice resources. This would be especially harmful to Minnesota’s tribal communities, who rely on wild rice for health, economic activity, and cultural survival.

The supposed strength of the new sulfate rule is its key weakness: making an individual standard for each body of water. The MPCA identifies approximately 1,300 waters as wild rice areas, (a conservative figure that does not cover all wild rice waters), and proposes to study and regulate each one individually.

Budget and time constraints and political considerations mean that many waters will likely not get the enforcement they need to keep sustaining wild rice. And that means they will continue to diminish from toxic pollution. Our waters would be much better served if the current standard were adequately enforced and expanded across all wild rice waters.

Fortunately, there’s still time to speak up for strong protection of this precious resource! Over the next two weeks, the MPCA will hold public meetings on the new standard in St. Paul, Virginia, Bemidji, Cloquet, and Brainerd, and will have a videoconference available on November 2. The Minnesota Environmental Partnership has set up an Action page to RSVP to one of these hearings – let us know if you show up and speak up! The MPCA will also accept written comments until November 22. Let the agency know that for the sake of the long-term health of our waters and our  wild rice, Minnesota can’t afford to get this one wrong.

photo credit: EPA

Regulators delay action on environmental study requirements for southeast Minnesota frac mine

(From La Crosse Tribune) — Minnesota regulators agreed Wednesday to delay action on a request to lift environmental review requirements for a would-be mining company with claims to thousands of acres in southern Minnesota. Minnesota Sands asked the Environmental Quality Board to terminate the board’s 2013 order requiring the company to complete a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement before moving ahead on proposed mines on about 615 acres in Fillmore, Houston and Winona counties. The company, which has sued to overturn Winona County’s frac mining ban, now says its plans are limited to one 50-acre mine in Fillmore County because of legal and market conditions that have made the other locations unfeasible. >>Read More.



Groups respond to Line 3 hearing shutdown

(From Duluth News Tribune) — Pipeline protesters caused an early end to the Enbridge Line 3 public hearing at the DECC on Wednesday night. “The crowd got lively after the judge repeatedly refused to let indigenous women speak if she recognized them as a speaker at any other time,” photographer Rob Wilson wrote on Facebook. “People called into question if she knows every speaker from memory and why the white Enbridge workers could talk twice.” Videos taken toward the end of the second round of the day’s hearings, scheduled from 6-9 p.m., show a group chanting “shut it down” as Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Reilly tried to quiet the room before ultimately ending the hearing. Line 3 opponents Honor the Earth said in a statement Thursday, “We would like peace, and urge the state not to issue the permit.” >>Read More.


Study finds pollution is deadlier than war, disaster, hunger

(From MPR News) — Environmental pollution — from filthy air to contaminated water — is killing more people every year than all war and violence in the world. More than smoking, hunger or natural disasters. More than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. One out of every six premature deaths in the world in 2015 — about 9 million — could be attributed to disease from toxic exposure, according to a major study released Thursday in the Lancet medical journal. The financial cost from pollution-related death, sickness and welfare is equally massive, the report says, costing some $4.6 trillion in annual losses — or about 6.2 percent of the global economy. >>Read More.



Growing future conservationists: Pollinator plot nears completion in Minnesota

(From Agweek) — Approximately 15 acres of Nobles County-owned land was seeded Tuesday with the hope of growing future conservationists.  Around 260 Worthington Middle School fifth-grade students helped sprinkle 80 April through October blooming wildflower varieties on a preconditioned plot of land south of the Prairie Justice Center as part of a youth pollinator habitat tour. “They’ll be able to come back next year and the year after and see what they helped build,” said Scott Rall, president of Nobles County Pheasants Forever, a fundamental group of the pollinator project. The fifth-graders also received an introduction to pollinators, such as honey bees and butterflies, and learned about the vital role they play in putting food on their plates. >>Read More.


For clean energy jobs, sky’s the limit

(From Star Tribune) — Golden cornfields stretched out 24 stories below Will Osborn, the autumn landscape dotted with silos and farmhouses. Of course, he didn’t have much time to gaze. Planted atop a wind turbine — one of a few dozen here — Osborn was diagnosing a weather sensor. Osborn’s job, wind technician, is the fastest growing occupation in the nation. As utilities rapidly increase the amount of power they get from wind farms, workers willing and able to climb hundreds of feet to keep turbines running smoothly are in high demand. Students in wind power training programs in Minnesota are getting jobs as soon as they graduate or even before.  “I do what pays the bills, and I looked at what was happening and will be happening for the next 30 years, and wind maintenance seemed win-win,” said Osborn, who works for Vestas, a global wind energy giant. >>Read More.

Events and Advocacy News                                                                                              

Women’s Congress for Future Generations to meet in Brooklyn Park, Nov 3-5

The Women’s Congress works to live out what Martin Luther King, Jr. described as the “Beloved Community.” It supports people stepping into collective power to use laws, policies and norms to transition to a just and sustainable world. The 2017 conference focuses on climate, health, and justice. It bears witness to communities of color who are hit hardest by climate change and pollution as people of color are statistically more likely to suffer from autism, lead poisoning and breast cancer, and seeks to create more just systems in response. 

Speakers include nationally recognized experts on climate change and women working in communities impacted by groundwater contamination, pipelines, and toxins in our homes.

Learn more and register with the Women’s Congress for Future Generations! 

Calling all advocacy groups: Apply to be a Capitol Pathways Internship Host

Applications are now open for organizations to host a Capitol Pathways intern in the 2018 Legislative Session. With the long-term goal of making our government truly representative of our communities, the program seeks to open access to the Minnesota capitol to the next generation of leaders of color. Through this program, interns will build relationships with established capitol leaders, gain exposure to various kinds of careers in policy, get real-world experience in career fields they would like to learn more about and build a strong professional resume in the process. This is a spring internship and will run from January-May 2018.

Click for more information on Capitol Pathways and how to apply!


Weekly Outdoor Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!            

1. What two Minnesota counties are tied for the greatest number of State Parks in the state?

2. The Minnesota Environmental Quality board features representatives from 9 government  agencies. How many of these agencies can you name?

Upcoming Environmental Events

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Regional Policy Director, West | Wind on the Wires

Managing Director, Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition | Environmental Initiative

Events Coordinator | Environmental Initiative

Communications Director | Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness

Associate Director | Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center

Organizing Representative – Twin Cities | Sierra Club

Partnership Coordinator | Fresh Energy

Managing Editor, Energy News Network | Fresh Energy

Public Engagement Fellow | Sierra Club North Star Chapter

Conservation Director | Friends of the Mississippi River

Director of Public Affairs | Northeast Minnesotans for Wilderness

State Policy Community Organizer | Land Stewardship Project

See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Cook and Lake. 2) Metropolitan Council, Board of Water and Soil Resources, Pollution Control Agency, and the Departments of: Agriculture, Employment and Economic Development, Commerce, Transportation,  Natural Resources, Administration, and Health

Follow Us


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.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)