Insider: September 29, 2017

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A Greening, Electric Economy

In many discussions over the future of energy in Minnesota and around the United States, the debate is often framed as a basic argument between protecting the environment and keeping jobs. Proponents of coal, oil, or gas contend that shifting too quickly away from carbon-heavy fossil fuels will mean sacrificing potential job growth in sectors like construction and power plant maintenance. A recent Minnesota Public Radio News headline, “At Line 3 pipeline hearing, it’s environment vs. jobs,” captures this dichotomy. More and more, many fossil fuel advocates admit that moving toward renewable energy is the prevailing trend, but consistently argue that it will happen sometime in the future, and that more fossil fuel infrastructure is needed in the meantime.

But the future of our state’s economy is happening now. According to a report by Clean Energy Economy, Minnesota has more than 57,000 jobs in the clean energy sector – most in energy efficiency, but an increasing share are in harnessing our renewable energy resources like wind and the sun. Job growth in the sector is steaming forward at 5.3% a year, in comparison with overall growth in the state of around 1.3%. And our neighbors are seeing even faster results – in Wisconsin and Iowa, clean energy jobs are growing at almost 7% a year. Sources like wind and solar are becoming cheaper than ever to use for electric power, and much of Minnesota’s potential is still untapped, providing vast space for new production and new jobs.

Fossil fuel proponents point out that much of our transportation and economy still runs on gasoline, diesel, and other fuels, and this is certainly the case. But the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s testimony on the proposed Enbridge Line 3 pipeline demonstrated that Minnesota’s demand for oil products overall has been decreasing since 2015. The oil trains that once crossed the state with enormous frequency now travel through Minnesota at the rate of about one per day. Our Vehicles are becoming more efficient and more reliant on electricity. Manufacturers like Volvo and major economies like the United Kingdom, India, and France have announced plans to halt new petroleum vehicles in favor of electric transportation entirely within a few decades.

With the effects of climate change becoming increasingly disastrous, and the demand for oil and coal declining, Minnesota can’t afford to waste resources on hazardous, unneeded new fossil fuel infrastructure. And the skyrocketing expansion of clean energy means we don’t need to choose between job growth and protecting our land, air, and water. The real debate is about how to best to invest in our natural, clean sources of energy to fuel Minnesota’s electric future.

image credit: MN350

Minnesotans march to Hold the Line against Line 3

On Thursday, September 28, hundreds of Minnesotans from around the state gathered at the State Capitol to speak out against the proposed Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline. Pipeline opponents gathered in St. Paul as a judge held the only hearing to be held in the Twin Cities asking the public to weigh in on two key permits for the project: the Certificate of Need and Route Permit. The Minnesota Department of Commerce recently submitted testimony recommending that the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) not allow Enbridge to move forward with the project, and now the PUC will accept public comments over the next few months.

“We call on Governor Dayton and the PUC to act in Minnesota’s best interest and prevent more dirty tar sands from running through our state,” said Margaret Levin, State Director for the Sierra Club North Star Chapter. “If built, this pipeline would threaten Minnesota’s precious lands, water, climate, and Indigenous treaty-protected rights. That’s why thousands of Minnesotans have raised their voices and urged our state government to reject this pipeline once and for all.”

News coverage: MPRStar TribuneDuluth News Tribune


image credit: MN350

Greenspace: ‘There’s plenty of room for growth’

(From Rochester Post-Bulletin) — Minnesota’s clean energy industry continues to surge. A report released Sept. 7 by Clean Energy Economy Minnesota found clean energy jobs grew nearly four times faster than overall state job growth since last year — adding 2,893 jobs to the economy. Thirty percent of the state’s roughly 57,000 clean energy jobs are found in greater Minnesota, the report found. Roughly 5,800 of those jobs are located in Minnesota’s 1st congressional district, which covers Rochester and Southeast Minnesota. Curt Shellum, owner of Solar Connection, a Rochester solar installer, spoke with the Post Bulletin on Friday about Southeast Minnesota’s clean energy industry growth. >>Read More.

Plant closures could be turning point for Minnesota biomass industry

(From Midwest Energy News) — Minnesota utility regulators are studying a proposal by Xcel Energy to close two biomass plants that could mark a turning point for the industry here, particularly as prices for renewable energy drop. The proposal — which has approval by the state legislature and the communities affected — would close Benson Power, which burns turkey waste and wood, as well as a biomass plant in northern Minnesota owned by the Laurentian Energy Authority (LEA). Closing the two plants, which make up half of Minnesota’s biomass generation, could cost hundreds of jobs, and state forest management officials and the poultry industry say it will create turmoil among various suppliers to the plants. Their message is simple: slow down. >>Read More.


New tool helps farmers stay in compliance with Buffer Law

(From Fergus Falls Daily Journal) — The Nov. 1 deadline is quickly approaching for Minnesota farmers to commit to a plan to comply with the Minnesota Buffer Law. The law requires farmers to install a 16.5-foot buffer on public ditches and a 50-foot buffer on public waters that run along their farmland. “There was a lot of questions and discussions concerning the law from its conception,” Paul Meints, research director for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA), said. The law was put in place to prevent phosphorous and sediment runoff. While the law left room for alternative practices to be implemented, it wasn’t clear on what those acceptable alternatives would be. >>Read More.

Dayton hosting two more 25 by 25 town halls

Governor Dayton has so far hosted eight of his ten planned town hall meetings on his proposed “25 by 25” Water Quality Goal throughout Minnesota. The Governor is seeking input on how to improve the health of our state’s waters by 25% by the year 2025, and wants to hear Minnesotans’ ideas. The next several meetings will be coming next week to Burnsville and Stillwater. To find out how you can give your own input at a town hall, visit


photo credit: Tom Westbrook

Federal forests bill new irritant for Nolan critics

(From the Timberjay) — Federal forest management has become the latest flash point between environmental groups and supporters of industry, and this time it’s backers of industry, including Eighth District Rep. Rick Nolan, who are on the offensive. Nolan is one of only two Democratic co-sponsors of a measure that would, in effect, eliminate most environmental review related to timber management on federal forests, including the Superior and the Chippewa national forests in Minnesota. Minnesota Seventh District Rep. Collin Peterson, whose district includes no national forest land, is the other Democratic co-sponsor. The bill, HR 2936, is known as the Resilient Federal Forests Act, and it’s being pushed by a handful of mostly western lawmakers who say they are hoping to streamline federal regulations in order to increase timber production on national forests. >>Read More.


photo credit: NASA

Environmentalists seek more comment time on PolyMet permits

(From Star Tribune) — Environmental groups have asked the Department of Natural Resources to give the public more time to comment on the draft dam safety permits for the planned PolyMet copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota. The latest request came Wednesday from four groups: WaterLegacy, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest and the Izaak Walton League. It followed a request last week from the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. The comment period on the two draft permits closes Oct. 16. >>Read More.


Weekly Outdoor Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!            

1. Northern Minnesota is home to two continental divides, separating waters that flow in three different directions. What are the names of those divides?

2. From the continental divides, Minnesota waters flow into the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico, and what other body of water?

3. What border lake is the source of the Minnesota river?

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Trivia Answers: 1) Laurentian and St. Lawrence 2) Hudson Bay 3) Big Stone Lake

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