Tuesday’s primary presents pivotal moment for Minnesota’s environment

Posted by

By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

On Tuesday, August 14, Minnesotans in every county and district will cast ballots in what may one of the most significant primary elections in our state’s recent history. Many have already voted early, in person or by mail, and this year’s turnout is expected to be significant even for a high-voting-rate state like Minnesota. This primary will select the major party nominees for a large swath of offices:

  • Governor and Lieutenant Governor
  • Attorney General
  • Both United States Senators
  • U.S. Representatives in several Congressional districts
  • Minnesota House Representatives in more than a dozen districts

Minnesota’s next class of leaders will have to decide how to lead on critical environmental issues facing Minnesotans. The drinking water in many parts of our state is increasingly contaminated by nitrate. The health and economic sustainability in Northern Minnesota is put in jeopardy by sulfide mining and the Line 3 oil pipeline. Historic flooding and soot from wildfires – both exacerbated by climate change – damage and threaten communities across the region.

But our elected officials will also have tremendous opportunities to grow our economy and provide for a healthy future for all. Minnesota’s vast potential for clean energy has created thousands of jobs, and can create tens of thousands more with the right policies and investments, providing tax revenue for communities and cleaning our air of illness-causing pollutants. Research into perennial and cover crops that filter water and absorb atmospheric carbon can provide farmers with new revenue while keeping our groundwater safe to drink. And continued efforts to protect and restore Lake Superior can provide economic investments while keeping the Lake Superior watershed clean, healthy, and secure.

Voters tend to rank health, the economy, and safety among their top issues at the ballot box. But these issues are deeply connected, and they certainly aren’t separated from the environment in which we live – and which needs stewardship and protection from our political leaders. To make progress on these issues, candidates need to understand that they’re a priority for Minnesotans. Here’s what how you can make sure that happens:

1. Vote in the primary and in the general election on November 8th. There are no unimportant statewide elections, but with so many open contests, no eligible Minnesotan can afford not to participate. However, you don’t need to vote in person on election day – you can also vote early in person or by absentee ballot (though all absentee ballots must be received by election day.) If you’re not registered, it’s easy to do so at your polling place or online.

2. Tell the candidates that keeping Minnesota clean is a priority for you. Most political campaigns can be reached by email, phone, mail, or social media and welcome feedback from voters. Election season is the best time to make sure that our present and future elected officials are listening.

Minnesota’s people, environment, and democracy need to be kept healthy. It all starts with your vote!

Seeing Minnesota’s clean energy future

Posted by

By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

This week was an important one for the future of clean energy and climate change in Minnesota, the U.S., and the world. The McKnight Foundation released a report projecting how Minnesota can meet our goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. The green economy reached a milestone of one trillion watts of wind and solar power capacity installed around the world as development of renewables continues at a tremendous pace. And while the Trump Administration announced plans to scrap critical vehicle emissions rules that save lives and money and cut carbon pollution, this move was almost immediately challenged by Attorney Generals from twenty states and the District of Columbia. These developments represent the key questions faced by Minnesota: can we fully commit to decarbonization of our economy, and how fast can progress be made?

McKnight report concludes that clean energy transition is ambitious, but doable

The McKnight Foundation’s findings show that, with the right investments in electrification and infrastructure, the transition to an economy in which the vast majority of power comes from clean, renewable sources is entirely feasible for Minnesota. Notably, it finds that Minnesota can retire its coal plants and both the Monticello and Prairie Island nuclear power plants as their licenses expire and still meet consumer needs, while reducing the role of petroleum in transportation. The already-high job creation rate in the clean energy sector would triple. And this is an affordable proposition for consumers: Minnesota households would enjoy average savings of $600-$1200 on energy every year by 2050.

Reaching this clean energy scenario will require shifting over oil and gas-powered technology, like vehicles and heating, to electric power. And Minnesota will need to upgrade infrastructure to ensure that the power grid is flexible and able to meet demand. But the McKnight analysis shows that Minnesota doesn’t have to trade stability and cost savings for clean power – we can have both, rather than gambling on the fluctuating costs of oil and gas. With wind already supplying a quarter of our electricity, we can build on a strong renewable base and harness untapped potential.

The global renewable boom shows no signs of slowing

Bloomberg NEF determined this week that the world’s energy developers reached a trillion watts (one terawatt) of wind and solar capacity early this year after forty years and more than two trillion dollars of investment. But it won’t take another 40 years to lap this milestone – Bloomberg estimates that the next terawatt will be installed around the world by 2023, and cost half as much. And as new technologies and momentum from companies and communities increases, these costs – and implementation times – will continue to drop. That doesn’t minimize the critical role that good public policy plays in speeding up this transition to protect human health and mitigate climate change, but it shows that clean energy is holding its own, and that we should avoid investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure.

The Trump Administration seeks to allow dirtier-running vehicles, but states vow to fight back

The Trump Administration’s push to roll back Obama-era tailpipe admissions standards would allow cars nationwide to be made less efficient, and remove the ability of states like California to set their own tougher standards. The move might be celebrated by the fossil fuel industry, but the rollback – which nominally aims to protect Americans from unsafe vehicles and high costs – would be a blow to health, safety, fuel cost savings, climate change mitigation and the competitiveness of our auto manufacturing. These emission standards help reduce harmful vehicle-emitted pollutants, which are especially harmful to the more than 400,000 Minnesotans who suffer from asthma. They also spur innovation and efficiency that save on fuel costs.

Fortunately, the federal plan to roll them back is of questionable legality, and on Thursday, a group of twenty Attorneys General from around the country – including Minnesota – announced they would go to court to challenge the decision.

This week’s developments underscore the importance of clean energy to Minnesota

It has become increasingly clear that regardless of federal action, Minnesotans can and should make a rapid and economy-boosting transition to renewable energy in our homes, cars, and businesses. We have the power and tools we need to make affordable, clean energy available to every person in our state. All we need is for our political, business, and community leaders to seize the moment and ensure that Minnesota leads the way to the clean power economy of tomorrow.

Nitrate contamination’s real human cost

Posted by

By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

In last week’s post, (MDA seeking Minnesotans’ feedback on nitrogen rule) we explained the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s process for developing its Groundwater Protection Rule, which aims to protect Minnesotans’ drinking water from nitrate contamination. MEP Executive Director Steve Morse testified on the need for these protections at a public comment hearing in St. Cloud July 25th, and we’ve encouraged Minnesotans to submit their own written comments on the rule.

In response to this rule, and advocacy by MEP and its member organizations, Minnesotans have asked: “Why is nitrate a concern – is this really a threat to human health in Minnesota?” That’s an important question, and while research into the full health impacts of nitrate in drinking water is ongoing, the answer is certainly, “yes.” Nitrate poses significant health dangers to both infants and adults. The rising nitrate levels in drinking water across the state necessitate stronger protection and prevention efforts.

The threat to infants

When a person drinks water containing nitrate, their cells convert much of that nitrate into nitrite. Nitrite creates a protein called methemoglobin, which harms the blood’s ability to carry oxygen.

A high enough level of methemoglobin causes the methemoglobinemia disorder, commonly known in infants as “blue baby syndrome.” This disorder causes respiratory and heart problems and is potentially fatal. While Minnesota has seen few reported cases of methemoglobinemia since the late 1940s, it is largely because public health officials have been working to prevent people from drinking water with elevated nitrate levels. But beyond Blue Baby Syndrome, a 2016 report by the Iowa Environmental Council found that increased nitrate consumption is associated with other birth defects in the development of nerves, brain and skeletal structure.

The only way to prevent these risks is for pregnant women and infants to avoid drinking water contaminated with nitrate. And with Minnesota communities and households that rely on groundwater finding increasing nitrate levels in their water supplies, the risk of new cases grows greater.

The risk to adults

The Iowa Environmental Council’s report also compiled research that shows that nitrates pose risks to anyone consuming contaminated water. Bladder cancer accounts for 1 in 20 new cancer cases in the United States, and studies in multiple countries have shown that increased consumption of nitrate-contaminated water is associated with increased risk of this disease. And this increase in bladder cancer occurred even at nitrate levels of 5 milligrams per liter of water, which is only half of the current drinking water standard. Likewise, studies in the United States in 2010 have shown an increased risk of thyroid cancer among adults.

Action to protect Minnesotans is needed

The data shows that the buildup of nitrate in Minnesotans’ drinking water is primarily due to runoff from nitrogen fertilizer leeching into groundwater. The MDA’s proposed rule sets up a framework to reduce nitrogen infiltration in some of Minnesota’s most vulnerable water resources. It still leaves many areas – and most private well-owners – unprotected, but it takes an important step toward securing drinking water for Minnesotans. It’s important that we make it clear that our state needs to provide relief for residents facing the high costs to their finances and their health, of nitrate pollution. If you wish share your thoughts on tackling this problem with the MDA, we encourage you to submit your comments online until the comment period ends on August 15.

Further reading: Nitrate and Methemoglobinemia, Minnesota Department of Health, April 2018

MDA seeking Minnesotans’ feedback on nitrogen rule

Posted by

By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

This week, the Office of Administrative Hearings held comment sessions in Farmington, Stewartville, and Worthington on the MN Department of Agriculture’s proposed Groundwater Protection Rule. They will also host two hearings next week in St. Cloud (July 25) and Park Rapids (July 26), and will accept written comments through August 15.

The MDA has been revising the rule since its initial draft in June 2017, but protection of Minnesota’s groundwater has been much longer in the making: this rule represents a first step in finally implementing important parts of Minnesota’s 1989 Groundwater Protection Act. It has been developed and revised using scientific analysis, many hours of testimony, and thousands of public comments already. The rule is now entering a critical stage of further public input, and what emerges could be a step forward in protecting the drinking water and health and well-being of thousands of Minnesotans.

Why the rule is important:

Though political disputes have arisen over the rulemaking, there’s no question that Minnesota is facing a growing health crisis from nitrates in groundwater. More than 50 community water systems serving more than 200,000 Minnesotans are dealing with the costly and complicated challenge of keeping nitrates out of residents’ drinking water. And many the 1 in 4 Minnesotans who rely on private wells often have no choice but to shell out tens of thousands of dollars on drilling new wells when existing sources become contaminated.

Nitrate consumption by infants and pregnant women can cause blue baby syndrome, and it has been linked to certain cancers in adults. One way or another, Minnesotans end up paying the cost of nitrates in the water.

Though nitrates leech into groundwater from multiple sources, use of nitrogen fertilizer is the primary cause of Minnesota’s problem. In last week’s article, we discussed how innovative new perennial and cover crop systems have the potential to help eliminate nitrate contamination of underground and surface waters. But with contamination costs already mounting, Minnesota needs a workable, science-based framework for controlling how much nitrogen runs off of cropland in the first place.

Why public input is also important:

This rule sets up a framework to modestly reduce nitrate runoff in areas that are especially vulnerable to groundwater contamination. It restricts fertilizer application in the fall and winter on the 12.6% of Minnesota cropland that lies within these areas. It also promotes voluntary best management practices that target nitrates in at-risk community wellhead protection areas. Stronger and more effective measures could also be required at a future date under the rule.

Setting up a framework to tackle the roots of this problem is much needed and should not be delayed – but this rule leaves significant loopholes. It works slowly, takes limited action, and does little to protect most of the thousands of Minnesotans who depend on private wells. It’s an important first step, but needs improvement – and the MDA needs to hear it from Minnesotans.

How to take action:

If you want to make your voice heard on groundwater protection in Minnesota, we encourage you to submit your comments online, or attend a hearing in St. Cloud or Park Rapids next week. Minnesota can’t afford the high cost of nitrate pollution. Almost three decades have passed since the passage of the Groundwater Protection Act, and Minnesotans don’t deserve any more delays in action to ensure safe drinking water for all of us.

Insider: July 14, 2018

Posted by

Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Professor Don Wyse demonstrates the environmental challenge of uncovered cropland in the Midwest.

University of MN, MEP, and others share story of crops that help keep water clean

Over 40 people from around the country went on a field tour of the University of Minnesota’s   innovative cover and perennial crops as part of the US Water Alliance’s annual One Water Summit held in Minneapolis last week. Researchers, regulators, policymakers, and other water experts saw firsthand the fruits of the UMN Forever Green Initiative, which develops valuable new crops that are both profitable for farmers and highly beneficial for the health of soil and water.

MEP Executive Director Steve Morse explained that nutrient runoff – especially nitrogen – was worsening water quality around the state and region. Efforts to increase the efficiency of nitrogen fertilizer use will only address one small slice of the problem. “We have focused heavily on managing the use of nitrogen,” Morse said, “but if we want to get to our water quality goals, we have to include continuous living cover on our agricultural lands as part of the solution.” Perennials and cover crops establish ongoing and extensive root structures that foster important microbes, absorb and supply nutrients to the plants and soil, and increase the soil’s water holding capacity.

UMN Professor Don Wyse, co-leader of the Forever Green Initiative, explained how their work is focused on developing crops to meet both economic and environmental sustainability. One major problem, Wyse said, was that “We only have green cover, capturing water and carbon pollution, in the Midwest for two and a half months out of the year.” (Shown in above photo.) Forever Green, he added, is developing cover crops like pennycress and perennials like intermediate wheatgrass that will provide year-round cover for the soil and be a new source of economic growth for farmers and businesses.

The tour took attendees from the Cargill Building to the campus crop fields, where they were able to view these developing crops in person. Professor Jake Jungers showed fields where intermediate wheatgrass – trade named Kernza™ – was growing successfully. Jungers detailed the agronomics and genome research from various partners that was continually developing Kernza into a successful perennial crop that would provide ecosystem services – like filtering water, fertilizing soil, and capturing water – all year round. At a second site, researcher Katherine Frels introduced the attendees to the University’s pennycress program. The program has made enormous progress on breeding a cover crop that would augment existing row crops and be highly usable for food and fuel.

The final stop on the tour brought the visitors to Bang Brewing, a local St. Paul business that makes use of Kernza in multiple brews. After sampling Kernza-based beer as well as dessert bars from Birchwood Café, the attendees heard Bang Brewing co-owner Sandy Boss Febbo share the brewery’s story of success implementing sustainable, water-friendly ingredients and inspiring other businesses to do the same.

Underscoring the financial potential of these crops, Shannon Shlecht, head of the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, shared how his organization worked with researchers and businesses to develop pathways for these new crops to find success at every economic level, from farm to consumer. And Laura Hansen, a senior research scientist at General Mills, explained how companies like hers are preparing to release consumer products using Kernza, and working with partners to increase the overall Kernza supply. “It’s easy with Kernza,” she said, “because fortunately, it tastes really good!”

Minnesota has work ahead to reach our water quality goals, but if we help cutting edge crops like Kernza and pennycress enter the mainstream and integrate with our farming system, we can make rapid, lasting progress toward keeping our water clean for every Minnesota.



photo credit: Chesapeake Bay Project

Field day shows off use of cover crops

(From Austin Daily Herald) — For more than 19 years Tom Cotter and his family have made extensive use of the practice of planting cover crops to ensure a healthier soil for his crops. On Tuesday afternoon, farmers from both Minnesota and Iowa, along with other people in the ag industry, converged on the Cotter farm to see and hear first hand from Cotter the positive effects cover crops have had on his farming operation as well as insight into the practice itself. Over 90 people took part in the event. Visitors listened to presentations and took a trip to Cotter’s fields as well as those of another nearby farmer, Jon Jovaag. For Cotter, it was important for farmers considering the move to organic farming and the planting of cover crops to see it first hand. “That’s where they realize they can take it to their field,” Cotter said. >>Read More.


40 Under 40

Nominations open for Midwest Energy News’ 40 Under 40 Awards

Each year, Midwest Energy News recognizes Midwest-based leaders and innovators from all sectors— industry, government, regulatory, business, academia, nonprofit, and advocacy. Those selected are invited to the Honorees Reception in Chicago to celebrate and network with the prestigious advisory committee and past award recipients.

Midwest Energy News is now seeking nominations! Honorees are both self-nominated and nominated by peers. Visit the 40 under 40 web page to nominate a leader you believe is worthy of recognition.

Blue Earth County OKs solar array north of Eagle Lake

(From Mankato Free Press) — In the end, no one got quite what they wanted with a community solar array set to go north of Eagle Lake. The Blue Earth County Board of Commissioners signed off on a proposed relocation and conditional use permit for FastSun 14 LLC, which plans to put a 1-megawatt solar farm on the corner of County Road 27 and 223rd Street. Commissioners aren’t letting FastSun 14 move the array closer to the street, which is what the company had hoped for. The array will move slightly south and back about 460 feet from the roadway to address concerns from nearby neighbors. In addition, the company is required to screen the array off by planting trees no more than 8 feet apart on the array’s north, west and south side. >>Read More.


Statewide View: Minnesota can take lead in stomping out plastic pollution

(From Duluth News Tribune) — Starbucks has moved to phase out plastic straws. The company announced July 9 it would eliminate plastic-straw use in all its stores by 2020. The transition will feature new lids that do not require straws and eco-friendly straws for certain drinks. Minnesota must keep up the momentum created by this milestone decision. Plastic pollution is a growing hazard for marine ecosystems and public health. It affects all bodies of water. Minnesota needs to implement a statewide ban to eliminate single-use plastics such as polystyrene. Our culture of consumption encourages people to use and discard, often leaving our waterways to face the consequences. >>Read More.


                

Line 3 still has regulatory ground to plow before bringing in bulldozers

(From MPR News) — Before Enbridge Energy can bring in the bulldozers and backhoes to build its Line 3 pipeline across northern Minnesota, it still has to go through more months of regulatory scrutiny. The project took a big step forward late last month when it won approval from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission after nearly four years of review — but it was by no means the last hurdle the controversial project faces. Gov. Mark Dayton’s office has tallied 29 more approvals needed before construction can start. >>Read More.


Help sustain MEP’s work. Donate today!

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 matthew@mepartnership.org if interested.


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. What is the world’s most-produced crop by weight?

2. What is the second most-produced crop in the United States by weight?

3. How many national monuments can be found in Minnesota?


Upcoming Environmental Events

“Three Minnesota Futures: A Future to Fear, A Future to Plan For, & A Future to Fight For,” July 19
Climate Change Info presentation by Sam Potter, at Maple Grove Library
Hosted by NW Metro Climate Action

LSP Western Minn. Local Foods Dinner Fundraiser, July 21
Swift Falls County Park, Swift Falls
Hosted by Land Stewardship Project

See the film “Happening: A Clean Energy Revolution,” July 22
Davanni’s in Woodbury
Hosted by Southeast Metro Climate Action

LSP Prairie Pothole W. Minn. Bike Ride Fundraiser, July 22
Morrison Lake State Park, Sunburg
Hosted by Land Stewardship Project

6th Annual Love Water Not Oil Tour and the “Water is Life Festival”, July 22
Bayfront Festival, Duluth
Hosted by Honor the Earth

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


Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Stop Factory Farms Organizer | Land Stewardship Project
Finance Manager | The Nature Conservancy in MN, ND and SD
Deputy Director of Habitat Protection | The Nature Conservancy in MN, ND and SD
Political Program Intern | Sierra Club North Star Chapter
Executive Director | Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation
Energy Efficiency Specialist | MN Chamber of Commerce – Waste Wise and Energy Smart Program
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
Data Manager | Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Sugar cane. 2) Soybeans. 3) Two – Pipestone and Grand Portage.

 


Did you receive the Environmental Insider from a friend? Subscribe here!

Follow Us:

   

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

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.

University of MN, MEP, and others share story of crops that help keep water clean

Posted by

Professor Don Wyse demonstrates the environmental challenge of uncovered cropland in the Midwest

By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Over 40 people from around the country went on a field tour of the University of Minnesota’s  innovative cover and perennial crops as part of the US Water Alliance’s annual One Water Summit held in Minneapolis last week. Researchers, regulators, policymakers, and other water experts saw firsthand the fruits of the UMN Forever Green Initiative, which develops valuable new crops that are both profitable for farmers and highly beneficial for the health of soil and water.

MEP Executive Director Steve Morse explained that nutrient runoff – especially nitrogen – was worsening water quality around the state and region. Efforts to increase the efficiency of nitrogen fertilizer use will only address one small slice of the problem. “We have focused heavily on managing the use of nitrogen,” Morse said, “but if we want to get to our water quality goals, we have to include continuous living cover on our agricultural lands as part of the solution.” Perennials and cover crops establish ongoing and extensive root structures that foster important microbes, absorb and supply nutrients to the plants and soil, and increase the soil’s water holding capacity.

UMN Professor Don Wyse, co-leader of the Forever Green Initiative, explained how their work is focused on developing crops to meet both economic and environmental sustainability. One major problem, Wyse said, was that “We only have green cover, capturing water and carbon pollution, in the Midwest for two and a half months out of the year.” (Shown in above photo.) Forever Green, he added, is developing cover crops like pennycress and perennials like intermediate wheatgrass that will provide year-round cover for the soil and be a new source of economic growth for farmers and businesses.

The tour took attendees from the Cargill Building to the campus crop fields, where they were able to view these developing crops in person. Professor Jake Jungers showed fields where intermediate wheatgrass – trade named Kernza™ – was growing successfully. Jungers detailed the agronomics and genome research from various partners that was continually developing Kernza into a successful perennial crop that would provide ecosystem services – like filtering water, fertilizing soil, and capturing water – all year round. At a second site, researcher Katherine Frels introduced the attendees to the University’s pennycress program. The program has made enormous progress on breeding a cover crop that would augment existing row crops and be highly usable for food and fuel.

The final stop on the tour brought the visitors to Bang Brewing, a local St. Paul business that makes use of Kernza in multiple brews. After sampling Kernza-based beer as well as dessert bars from Birchwood Café, the attendees heard Bang Brewing co-owner Sandy Boss Febbo share the brewery’s story of success implementing sustainable, water-friendly ingredients and inspiring other businesses to do the same.

Underscoring the financial potential of these crops, Shannon Shlecht, head of the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, shared how his organization worked with researchers and businesses to develop pathways for these new crops to find success at every economic level, from farm to consumer. And Laura Hansen, a senior research scientist at General Mills, explained how companies like hers are preparing to release consumer products using Kernza, and working with partners to increase the overall Kernza supply. “It’s easy with Kernza,” she said, “because fortunately, it tastes really good!”

Minnesota has work ahead to reach our water quality goals, but if we help cutting edge crops like Kernza and pennycress enter the mainstream and integrate with our farming system, we can make rapid, lasting progress toward keeping our water clean for every Minnesota.

Insider: July 7, 2018

Posted by

Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

EPA seeks public guidance on next phase of Great Lakes restoration

While the biggest recent news from the Environmental Protection Agency concerns a major change in its controversial leadership in Washington, the EPA’s activities closer to Minnesota will also bear critical effects on our state. The EPA is developing an action plan for its work on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) from 2020 to 2024, a plan which will set priorities for funding projects to clean up and protect the Great Lakes region.

This program is especially important to northeast Minnesota cities like Duluth, which is why the EPA will hold a public engagement session there on Thursday, July 12.

Funded by Congress since 2010, the GLRI has been a critical boost for the Great Lakes region’s ecosystems and economy. It has funded more than 2000 projects, from Duluth to Buffalo, contributing to work on rebuilding habitat, mitigating nutrient runoff, and cleaning aquatic Areas of Concern around the watershed. At a time when the Great Lakes are increasingly threatened by invasive species brought by oceangoing ships, the GLRI is especially critical in combating the spread of these organisms including sea lampreys and invasive carp.

The GLRI has enjoyed strong bipartisan support for its strong benefits to communities. The first five years of its funding provided Minnesota with $45 million in grants to various projects, including cleaning the St. Louis River estuary, restoring trout streams, and engaging with tribal communities. In 2017 the EPA granted the city of Duluth $220,000 for habitat protection on the coast of Lake Superior, providing a boost to the North Shore’s economy and environmental health.

The GLRI has brought many success stories to Minnesota, but much remains to be done to clean our lands and waters. That’s why it’s critical that Minnesotans help to steer the EPA’s GLRI program work to ensure that it makes Minnesota habitats and communities a top priority. We invite all interested Minnesotans to attend the public session in Duluth next Thursday to learn more and help plan how the GLRI will continue to strengthen Minnesota’s economy and protect our natural resources.


Northfield extends advisory after 1 million gallons of wastewater entered Cannon River

(From MPR News) — Northfield is extending its water advisory after a malfunction at the local water treatment plant on Tuesday. A broken pipe at the Northfield wastewater treatment plant sent one million gallons of sewage into the Cannon River on Tuesday. The city is warning the public to avoid direct contact with the river waters downstream from Northfield. Recent water quality testing shows decreased bacteria levels and city officials said that if this trend continues, the advisory will be lifted Friday afternoon. >>Read More.


40 Under 40

Nominations open for Midwest Energy News’ 40 Under 40 Awards

Each year, Midwest Energy News recognizes Midwest-based leaders and innovators from all sectors— industry, government, regulatory, business, academia, nonprofit, and advocacy. Those selected are invited to the Honorees Reception in Chicago to celebrate and network with the prestigious advisory committee and past award recipients.

Midwest Energy News is now seeking nominations! Honorees are both self-nominated and nominated by peers. Visit the 40 under 40 web page to nominate a leader you believe is worthy of recognition.


photo credit: Dept. of Energy

Judge: Superior natural gas plant not needed

(From Duluth News Tribune) — An administrative law judge on Monday recommended that plans for a proposed natural gas power plant in Superior come to an end. Judge Jeanne M. Cochran said Minnesota Power’s proposed Nemadji Trail Energy Center is not needed or in the public interest, and should be rejected by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. To move the project forward, the PUC would first need to approve two assignment of rights agreements — a construction agent and an operating agent — and a capacity dedication agreement, but Cochran urged the PUC to deny those in her non-binding recommendation. “Minnesota Power has failed to establish that approval of these affiliated interest agreements is consistent with the public interest because it has failed to demonstrate that the underlying 250 (megawatt) NTEC purchase is needed and reasonable,” Cochran wrote. >>Read More.



photo credit: EPA

Opponents demand more review for proposed Fillmore County swine operation

(From Star Tribune) — A proposal to build a large swine feedlot in Fillmore County is facing stiff opposition from some of its neighbors, who say the state’s environmental agency needs to do a more thorough assessment before issuing a permit. Nearly 50 opponents descended on Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) offices Tuesday, the last day for public comment on an environmental assessment for the proposed project. They issued a demand for a full-fledged Environment Impact Statement (EIS), something that is rarely done for such farm facilities. >>Read More.


                

Why it’s time to curb widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides

(From MinnPost) —  Planting season for corn and soybeans across the U.S. corn belt is drawing to a close. As they plant, farmers are participating in what is likely to be one of the largest deployments of insecticides in U.S. history. Almost every field-corn seed planted this year in the United States – approximately 90 million acres’ worth – will be coated with neonicotinoid insecticides, the most widely used class of insecticides in the world. The same is true for seeds in about half of U.S. soybeans – roughly 45 million acres and nearly all cotton – about 14 million acres. In total, by my estimate, these insecticides will be used across at least 150 million acres of cropland, an area about the size the Texas. >>Read More.


Help sustain MEP’s work. Donate today!

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 matthew@mepartnership.org if interested.


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. Approximately what percentage of the world’s freshwater is within the Great Lakes?

2. What is the largest island in the Great Lakes?

3. Jeffrey Val Klump become the first person to reach what geographical point on July 30, 1985?


Upcoming Environmental Events

Cover Crops in Western MN workshop, July 10
Howard Stegemen Farm, Benson
Hosted by Land Stewardship Project

Slow Roll St. Paul – Frogtown, July 11
Pilgrim Garden and Frogtown, St. Paul
Hosted by Move MN and Cycles for Change

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Plan III Public Engagement Session in Duluth, July 12
EPA Mid-Continent Ecology Division, Duluth
Hosted by Environmental Protection Agency

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


Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Political Program Intern | Sierra Club North Star Chapter
Executive Director | Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation
Energy Efficiency Specialist | MN Chamber of Commerce – Waste Wise and Energy Smart Program
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
Data Manager | Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) 21%. 2) Manitoulin Island. 3) The deepest point in Lake Superior.

 


Did you receive the Environmental Insider from a friend? Subscribe here!

Follow Us:

   

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

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.

EPA seeks public guidance on next phase of Great Lakes restoration

Posted by

By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

While the biggest recent news from the Environmental Protection Agency concerns a major change in its controversial leadership in Washington, the EPA’s activities closer to Minnesota will also bear critical effects on our state. The EPA is developing an action plan for its work on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) from 2020 to 2024, a plan which will set priorities for funding projects to clean up and protect the Great Lakes region.

This program is especially important to northeast Minnesota cities like Duluth, which is why the EPA will hold a public engagement session there on Thursday, July 12.

Funded by Congress since 2010, the GLRI has been a critical boost for the Great Lakes region’s ecosystems and economy. It has funded more than 2000 projects, from Duluth to Buffalo, contributing to work on rebuilding habitat, mitigating nutrient runoff, and cleaning aquatic Areas of Concern around the watershed. At a time when the Great Lakes are increasingly threatened by invasive species brought by oceangoing ships, the GLRI is especially critical in combating the spread of these organisms including sea lampreys and invasive carp.

The GLRI has enjoyed strong bipartisan support for its strong benefits to communities. The first five years of its funding provided Minnesota with $45 million in grants to various projects, including cleaning the St. Louis River estuary, restoring trout streams, and engaging with tribal communities. In 2017 the EPA granted the city of Duluth $220,000 for habitat protection on the coast of Lake Superior, providing a boost to the North Shore’s economy and environmental health.

The GLRI has brought many success stories to Minnesota, but much remains to be done to clean our lands and waters. That’s why it’s critical that Minnesotans help to steer the EPA’s GLRI program work to ensure that it makes Minnesota habitats and communities a top priority. We invite all interested Minnesotans to attend the public session in Duluth next Thursday to learn more and help plan how the GLRI will continue to strengthen Minnesota’s economy and protect our natural resources.

Insider: June 30, 2018

Posted by

Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

PUC approves Line 3 certificate of need and Enbridge’s preferred route through pristine waters

On Thursday, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously to grant a certificate of need to the proposed Enbridge Line 3 replacement oil pipeline, which would deliver Canadian tar sands oil across Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin. The Commission also chose, on a 3-2 vote, to grant Enbridge its preferred pipeline route, which would bypass tribal reservations but travel through Ojibwe treaty land and some of Minnesota’s most pristine and vulnerable waters.

Despite the objections of tribal representatives and environmental attorneys, the commissioners argued that approving the new pipeline would be the environmentally responsible option. They cited Enbridge’s statements that it would continue to operate the existing Line 3 if the replacement were not constructed and argued that the Commission cannot compel the company to cease its operation. However, opponents have pointed out that other state agencies like the Department of Natural Resources and the Pollution Control Agency have the authority and justification to act regarding the existing pipeline.

MEP has previously detailed why Minnesota has no need, economically or otherwise, for this pipeline.The Commission decided that the benefits of Line 3 outweighed the hazards, despite the pipeline’s massive projected carbon emissions, its danger to hundreds of waters along the new route, and its violation of the cultural rights of the Minnesota Ojibwe tribes, four out of five of which oppose the pipeline entirely.

However, as Governor Mark Dayton pointed out in a statement, this pipeline is not yet a done deal. Enbridge must secure various permits in order to begin construction, and organizations like Honor the Earth and the Sierra Club are already beginning to appeal the PUC’s decision. Organizations and citizens around the state have vowed to continue to oppose this pipeline every step of the way.

We thank all the organizations, advocates, and climate intervenors from around the state who have spoken out and continue to raise their voices on the dangers of Line 3. Now is the time to double down on Minnesota’s commitment to moving to a clean, safe, renewable energy economy. Further reading:

Honor the Earth and Sierra Club North Star Chapter Joint Statement
MN350 Statement
Environmental Law and Policy Center Statement


Great Lakes Restoration Initiative needs your input!

The U.S. EPA is in the process of crafting a plan for how it will prioritize federal Great Lakes restoration and protection investments. Restoration projects in Minnesota and other Great Lakes states are helping to restore fish and wildlife habitat, clean up toxic pollution, reduce polluted runoff, and fight invasive species.

On July 12, the EPA will be taking public input in Duluth on how to shape its Great Lakes restoration efforts from 2020-2024. We invite anyone who cares about the health of our Great Lakes to participate! Visit the event page or contact Andrew Slade at andrewhslade@gmail.com for details.


40 Under 40

Nominations open for Midwest Energy News’ 40 Under 40 Awards

Each year, Midwest Energy News recognizes Midwest-based leaders and innovators from all sectors— industry, government, regulatory, business, academia, nonprofit, and advocacy. Those selected are invited to the Honorees Reception in Chicago to celebrate and network with the prestigious advisory committee and past award recipients.

Midwest Energy News is now seeking nominations! Honorees are both self-nominated and nominated by peers. Visit the 40 under 40 web page to nominate a leader you believe is worthy of recognition.


Lawsuits on mining leases near BWCA resist governance by memo and whim

(From MinnPost) — Two more lawsuits were filed this week against the Trump administration’s about-face on Twin Metals Minnesota’s mineral leases at the edge of the Boundary Waters, bringing the total to three.The documents bring some clarity and concision to the tangled procedural history of the leases’ renewals, cancellation and re-granting. And on mining’s threat to area businesses centered on paddling and quiet recreation, they present some compelling illustrations of potential job losses. But perhaps their main value will be the focus they bring to this question: Has ours become a government of whim, or do the law, the rules and settled procedures still matter? >>Read More.


                

Local View: Minnesota’s outdoors need Land and Water Conservation Fund

(From Duluth News Tribune) —  As those of us who call Minnesota home know, we have all benefited greatly from our state’s breathtaking and wild public lands. Whether you enjoy recreating on our public lands or run a business guiding visitors on trips of lifetimes, we’ve all enjoyed access to pristine lands — access that in many areas is possible because of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Land and Water Conservation Fund, or LWCF, has funded conservation and recreation projects over the past 50-plus years. The concept is simple: Invest a portion of offshore drilling royalties toward protecting land, water, and recreation assets around the country. >>Read More.


Help sustain MEP’s work. Donate today!

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 matthew@mepartnership.org if interested.


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. Which lake (which is not among the Great Lakes) is the fourth-largest in North America?

2. How many states have waters that drain into the Mississippi River watershed?

3. Which is the only Midwestern state that does not have waters that drain to the Mississippi?


Upcoming Environmental Events

LSP Potluck Cookout, July 6
Land Stewardship Project Office, Minneapolis

Cover Crops in Western MN workshop, July 10
Howard Stegemen Farm, Benson
Hosted by Land Stewardship Project

Slow Roll St. Paul – Frogtown, July 11
Pilgrim Garden and Frogtown, St. Paul
Hosted by Move MN and Cycles for Change

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


Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Energy Efficiency Specialist | MN Chamber of Commerce – Waste Wise and Energy Smart Program
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 Bear Lake. 2) 31, plus two Canadian provinces. 3) Michigan.

 


Did you receive the Environmental Insider from a friend? Subscribe here!

Follow Us:

   

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

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.

PUC approves Line 3 certificate of need and Enbridge’s preferred route through pristine waters

Posted by

By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

On Thursday, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously to grant a certificate of need to the proposed Enbridge Line 3 replacement oil pipeline, which would deliver Canadian tar sands oil across Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin. The Commission also chose, on a 3-2 vote, to grant Enbridge its preferred pipeline route, which would bypass tribal reservations but travel through Ojibwe treaty land and some of Minnesota’s most pristine and vulnerable waters.

Despite the objections of tribal representatives and environmental attorneys, the commissioners argued that approving the new pipeline would be the environmentally responsible option. They cited Enbridge’s statements that it would continue to operate the existing Line 3 if the replacement were not constructed and argued that the Commission cannot compel the company to cease its operation. However, opponents have pointed out that other state agencies like the Department of Natural Resources and the Pollution Control Agency have the authority and justification to act regarding the existing pipeline.

MEP has previously detailed why Minnesota has no need, economically or otherwise, for this pipeline.The Commission decided that the benefits of Line 3 outweighed the hazards, despite the pipeline’s massive projected carbon emissions, its danger to hundreds of waters along the new route, and its violation of the cultural rights of the Minnesota Ojibwe tribes, four out of five of which oppose the pipeline entirely.

However, as Governor Mark Dayton pointed out in a statement, this pipeline is not yet a done deal. Enbridge must secure various permits in order to begin construction, and organizations like Honor the Earth and the Sierra Club are already beginning to appeal the PUC’s decision. Organizations and citizens around the state have vowed to continue to oppose this pipeline every step of the way.

We thank all the organizations, advocates, and climate intervenors from around the state who have spoken out and continue to raise their voices on the dangers of Line 3. Now is the time to double down on Minnesota’s commitment to moving to a clean, safe, renewable energy economy. Further reading:

Honor the Earth and Sierra Club North Star Chapter Joint Statement
MN350 Statement
Environmental Law and Policy Center Statement