Student Voices Column – Stop Farming Food Deserts: Why Minnesotans Need a Change in the 2018 Farm Bill

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The Minnesota Environmental Partnership is proud to feature the following post as part of our Student Voices Series. This is part of a continuing collaboration with Macalester College’s Geography Department and its students. The following column was contributed by Sarah Wescott and represents her views.

One point six million people, or almost one third of Minnesota’s population, do not have easy access to a grocery store. In urban spaces, food deserts are usually found in low income areas, where community members don’t have access to a vehicle and fast food industries target poor populations. However, in rural areas of the state where communities are based around agriculture, food deserts are also in abundance. In the Red River Valley, one of the most fertile areas of the United States, there are more than ten Minnesota counties with food deserts.

Growing up on an apple orchard in Wabasha County, I was surrounded by farmland, and agriculture was the basis of my community. Despite this, the majority of food eaten in my area comes from out of state, and most people drive more than twenty miles to Rochester where there is a larger selection of fresh foods.

The Farm Bill, a comprehensive food and agriculture policy that will expire this coming September, is one of the most important pieces of agricultural legislation in the United States. As most people know, it supports commodity crop production, but it also attempts to address food security issues. We don’t eat most of the corn, wheat, and soy crops that are supported by the bill, yet these crops account for 19 million of the 25 million acres of agricultural land in Minnesota. Most of them end up feeding cows or being converted into biofuels. Therefore, widespread commodity crop production does not help feed more people, instead it contributes to the problem of food insecurity in places like Minnesota.

Every five years, the United States Congress reworks the bill. Ironically, nutrition currently absorbs 79.9% of the $489 billion dollar budget. This focuses on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a project that provides financial assistance to families who cannot afford healthy food, along with an emergency food assistance program. However, the bill does nothing to address the distance that many people must travel to reach a grocery store with healthy options.

            The remaining portions of the bill promote an agricultural system that does not produce healthy food for all. Crop insurances and conservation take about 14% of the budget. Meanwhile, commodities and disaster support, which is what many people associate with the bill, receives the remaining five percent. The resulting legislation spans a wide range of issues and affects everyone in the country. Regardless of geography, income, race, or gender every american has a stake in the Farm Bill.

However, the bill fails people on all fronts. While it does work to provide financial assistance to those who can’t afford food, it does not question why people can’t afford food, and where food is inaccessible. Therefore, local food systems are neglected and more time is spent on national output, rather than targeted and thought out food production. Farmers don’t grow other crops because they don’t guarantee profit, SNAP recipients don’t always have access to healthy foods, and most food travels far and wide before it is eaten. This leads to an agricultural system that favors heavily processed crops with little nutritional value and does not sufficiently serve Americans.

In addition, the bill does little to encourage organic production or alternative farming methods, meaning farmers receive minimal support if they want to transition to a cleaner form of agriculture. Moreover, there is no guarantee that farmers have access to healthy foods, leading to food deserts in areas of Minnesota where agriculture is the number one industry.  Therefore, the bill is fighting food insecurity on one end and fueling it from the other.

Big money feeds the problem, as large companies like Kraft, Monsanto, and Tyson who benefit from commodity crop production are able to influence agricultural policy in their favor. This year Congress is once again reworking the five year budget for the Farm Bill. We need to ensure that the people’s needs speak louder than the large influential corporations. People need to be aware of the role this bill plays in the life of millions of Americans.

What can you do to help? First, you can tell Tim Walz, Collin Peterson, and Rick Nolan, members of Minnesota’s Agricultural Committee, that you want changes made to the Farm Bill in 2018. Tell Minnesota’s representatives that you want to see investment in local food systems. The Farm Bill should encourage crops that support food security, not commodity crops. This could look like more money for organic research, more subsidies for non commodity crops, and investment in rural development.

Secure food access is a right, not a privilege. Every individual deserves equal access to food. The Farm Bill fails to make this right a reality. Call your representative today!

 

Letter to the House: Please oppose bill that blocks adoption of Groundwater Protection Rules not approved by the Legislature

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RE: Please oppose HF2887 that blocks adoption of Groundwater Protection Rules not approved by the Legislature

April 16, 2018                                                                                              

Dear Representative:

We, the undersigned organizations and the citizens we represent, respectfully ask you to oppose HF 2887 that would impede the Department of Agriculture’s Groundwater Protection Rule.  

Clean, safe drinking water should be accessible and affordable for everyone – regardless of geography, income or water source.

About 70% of Minnesotans get their drinking water from public or private wells.  That is why the legislature approved the bipartisan 1989 Groundwater Protection Act, which gives the state authority to prevent contamination of our groundwater.

Nitrate contamination in drinking water is a growing public health issue

An extensive body of research shows that nitrate from nitrogen fertilizer can leach below the root zone and migrate into our groundwater. Despite farmers’ widespread adoption of efficient nitrogen fertilizer application practices, the problem is getting worse:

  • 537 public water supply wells across the state have elevated nitrate levels.
  • More than 50 communities in MN are facing significantly elevated nitrate levels.
  • Nearly 10% of MDA tested private wells in vulnerable areas exceed the Health Risk Limit (HRL), including some townships with 30-40% or more of private wells unsafe to drink.

Because treating the well water or finding new drinking water sources can be prohibitively expensive for communities and individuals, preventing this contamination is vital to protecting public health.

The draft Groundwater Protection Rule was developed with public input

To address this growing nitrate problem, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) updated its Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan (NFMP) beginning in 2010, with assistance from stakeholders, advisors and more than 420 written comments from citizens over a five-year process. Based on the revised NFMP, the MDA released an informal draft Groundwater Protection Rule in 2017. The agency hosted 17 statewide listening session engaging over 1,500 individuals and reviewed over 820 written comments.

Following extensive revisions, the MDA released a revised draft rule in March 2018, to be followed by additional stakeholder input and public participation prior to adoption.

The rule helps protect public health while maintaining farm productivity

Part 1 of the rule restricts nitrogen fertilizer application in the fall and on frozen soils on only the most vulnerable soils and wellhead protection areas in Minnesota.

  • Part 1 applies to only 12.6% of Minnesota’s farmland; areas where relatively few farm operators practice fall/frozen soil application today.
  • Fall/winter application of nitrogen on vulnerable soils is not recommended under University of Minnesota Best Management Practices.
  • Fall/frozen soil application in the wellhead areas of communities with already-elevated nitrate levels poses a significant risk to public health.

Part 2 of the rule applies only in community wellhead protection areas (Drinking Water Supply Management Areas (DWSMAS)) – about 0.45% of Minnesota’s cropland. The rule promotes voluntary best management practice adoption, followed by common-sense regulatory requirements developed in consultation with a local advisory team – including area farmers to reduce nitrate levels in these water supplies.

Protect our drinking water

HF 2887 impedes the MDA’s ability to protect our groundwater by putting unnecessary delays and legislative hurdles into an already lengthy and comprehensive public process. This provision undercuts the authority and ability of our state agencies to protect our public health and well being.

Minnesotans have waited nearly 30 years for the state to act in the face of mounting evidence of nitrate pollution in our groundwater, one of our state’s most valuable long-term assets. We ask you to oppose these efforts to undercut the Groundwater Protection Act’s ability to protect public health and Minnesota’s drinking water and groundwater.

Please oppose language that blocks groundwater protection rules not approved by the legislature.

Steve Morse                                                                           

Minnesota Environmental Partnership                                                           

 

Alliance for Sustainability
Clean Water Action – Minnesota       
Environment Minnesota         
Freshwater Society                                                                                        
Friends of Minnesota Scientific & Natural Areas     
Friends of the Mississippi River
Izaak Walton League – Minnesota Division
Land Stewardship Project     
MN Center for Environmental Advocacy
Minnesota Native Plant Society        
Minnesota Trout Unlimited
Pollinator Friendly Alliance
Save Our Sky Blue Waters
St. Croix River Association
Wilderness in the City                                                                       

MPCA plan brings a silver lining to VW emissions cloud

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

This week, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) unveiled its spending plan for the $47 million Minnesota will receive from the Volkswagen emissions scandal settlement, and it promises to make major positive strides in Minnesota’s clean transportation infrastructure. The money will be distributed throughout the state to help reduce emissions well beyond those emitted during the scandal, creating economic growth in the clean transportation sector and protecting Minnesota’s health.

The Volkswagen scandal was first revealed when the EPA became aware that many of the company’s diesel vehicles were emitting a much greater volume of nitrogen oxide pollution than expected or allowed. Scientists discovered that Volkswagen had used engine programming to allow their vehicles to cheat its laboratory emissions test – the tested vehicles appeared to have legal emissions, but on the road, they emitted as much 40 times more than the legal limit of nitrogen oxides.

These emissions contribute to global warming, acid rain, and diseases like bronchitis, heart disease, and asthma, causing chronic health conditions and premature death. In Minnesota alone, the extra emissions caused by the cheating system amounted to around 600 tons of nitrogen oxide compounds. Because of the harm caused, Volkswagen settled its lawsuits with state and federal agencies. The settlement organizers, led by Robert Mueller (yes, that Robert Mueller) determined that the compensation funds should be allocated to state air quality agencies to help cut down on harmful air pollution, rather than allow political maneuvering to divert the funds to unrelated projects.

The MPCA plans to accomplish its clean air goals with major positive steps. 30% of the funds will be dispersed around the state for vehicle electrification – half for electrical charging stations, and half for electrifying vehicles like state and city-owned buses, utility trucks, and construction equipment. The other 70% will go to upgrading heavy-duty land and water vehicles – many with outdated engines – to run more cleanly and cause less toxic pollution.

The MPCA’s plan is estimated to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by more than six times the extra emissions caused by the company’s violation. The agency plans to equitably target this money in grants and investments over ten years based on the areas hardest-hit by the emissions throughout Minnesota. And it estimates that in addition to the local health benefits, the plan will reduce greenhouse gases by as much as 34,000 tons. Minnesota’s transportation sector is narrowly outranked by electrical generation for highest greenhouse gas emissions in our state, so this change will be an enormous boost to meeting our need to combat climate change.

We are glad to see state, local, and federal agencies working together in the aftermath of a tragedy to help make Minnesota a clean and healthy place to live! 

More good news – on the pipeline front

On Thursday evening, the Minnesota Senate Energy and Utilities Committee voted on a bill that would bypass the Public Utilities Commission’s review process and approve construction of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline, which would cross Minnesota’s most vulnerable lands and waters. We’re happy to report that the committee voted 5-4 against the bill after hearing substantial testimony against it from various speakers. The vote was a victory for the thorough and public pipeline review process conducted by the Public Utilities Commission and the thousands of Minnesotans who have spoken out on the pipeline.

However, this vote doesn’t mean the legislation is dead in the water. A companion bill passed in the House Jobs and Energy committee, and it seems likely that the legislation will be included in a later omnibus bill to be sent to Governor Dayton. It’s important that citizens continue to speak up against this harmful legislation when and wherever it next appears – and we thank the dedicated staff and volunteers who are leading this important effort.

Student Voices Column – Minnesota: A Leader in the Clean Energy Transition

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Source: Tony Webster/Creative Commons

The Minnesota Environmental Partnership is proud to feature the following post as part of our Student Voices Series. This is part of a continuing collaboration with Macalester College’s Geography Department and its students. The following column was contributed by Katie Lund and represents her views.

 

As countries around the world commit themselves to a clean energy future, the Trump Administration is clinging on to the fossil fuel industry. The time has come for states to lead the clean energy transition. If we have the political will, Minnesota can be a leader in this transition.

Throughout this past year, the Trump administration has used the slogan of “energy dominance” to describe its energy policy. Central to this policy is keeping the United States reliant on fossil fuel sources of energy such as coal, oil and gas. In just the past year, this policy has led to the support of the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, and the proposal to open up U.S. waters to offshore drilling – including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

In his first State of the Union Address on January 30th, President Trump even boasted about his administration’s efforts to promote fossil fuels.

“We have ended the war on American energy – and we have ended the war on beautiful, clean coal,” he said.

By continuing to promote the use and development of fossil fuel resources, the United States is losing the clean energy leadership it once had on the federal level.

Last November I attended the UN Climate Summit (COP23) in Bonn, Germany, an international gathering of countries to assess progress in dealing with climate change, as a student observer. While the United States took a leadership role at these conferences under the Obama administration, the American presence at this conference was a shadow of its former self. The Trump administration sent a very small delegation, remained largely silent during negotiations, and decided to use their only scheduled event to promote the continued use of coal – a decision that was ridiculed on the international stage and subjected to protest.

Just three days after the Trump administration put on the fossil fuel promoting event, a global alliance was formed between countries including the United Kingdom and Canada to declare a phase out of coal. It was a rebuke to Donald Trump’s policies. The message couldn’t have been clearer – the rest of the world was ready to move on, leaving the United States behind.

It appears unlikely that the Trump administration will embrace a clean energy transition. That’s why we now have to focus on efforts on local action. If the Trump administration won’t fight for the clean energy future we want, states, local governments, and communities must take up the fight.

Numerous states, cities, and local communities across the country have committed themselves to pursuing a clean energy agenda. Over 50 U.S. cities including Portland, St. Louis, and Salt Lake City have made commitments to transition to 100% renewable energy. Currently 15 states, including Minnesota, have joined the United States Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of states committed to upholding the Paris Agreement by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. All across the country, local leaders are stepping up.

Minnesota has emerged as a leader in this movement. The state passed historic clean energy laws in 2007 and 2013, which encouraged renewable energy development across the state. Clean energy jobs contribute greatly to the state’s economy. Xcel Energy, a major electric utility, has already cut carbon emissions 23 percent below 2005 levels and plans to add huge amounts of wind and solar developments. Renewable energy now makes up 25% of Minnesota’s electricity generation, putting it in second place as Minnesota’s largest source of electricity generation. This track record is impressive, but we must not become complacent.

I urge the Minnesota Legislature to use this legislative session to take clean energy policy in Minnesota to the next step. On February 22nd, a new bill was introduced in the Minnesota House (HF 3003), which allows for large hydroelectric and nuclear energy to count toward the Renewable Energy Standard and changes the name to the Carbon Free Standard, but it does not change the percentage of said energy that utilities are required to meet. This bill will not take the crucial next step that Minnesota needs in order to continue to be a leader in the clean energy transition. The Minnesota legislature must take advantage of the momentous growth of renewable energy and set an ambitious goal to increase the Renewable Energy Standard to 50% by 2030 as former Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith proposed last year.

If Minnesota is to remain a clean energy and climate leader, we must push our local leaders. Cities around Minnesota – join peers such as the city of Rochester and commit yourselves to the transition to 100% renewable energy. No matter who you are, let your voice be heard. A clean energy future is in sight and our peers around the world are committing themselves to it. If the Trump administration insists on holding the United States back on the world stage, we, as Minnesotans, can join the world in imagining and pursuing a future free of fossil fuels.

Student Voices Column: The Fight Against Fracking Isn’t Over

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photo credit: Kendahl Schlueter, Winona Daily News

The Minnesota Environmental Partnership is proud to feature the following post as part of our Student Voices Series. This is part of a continuing collaboration with Macalester College’s Geography Department and its students. The following column was contributed by Kaitlyn Lindaman and represents her views.

 

Fracking took hold of Winona in 2010.

On a warm summer day in 2010, I was on my usual four-mile running route in Winona. This route crossed a creek by bridge and then followed a back road along the marshes and other small ponds, under the shade of trees and on relatively flat elevation next to the bluffs. I often encountered turtles making their way across the road, who only had to watch out for the occasional bikers and runners.

Then I began to notice fracking. Suddenly there were large trucks, nearly pushing me off the side of the road and I was accumulating sand in my shoes. Soon the turtles disappeared too.

Frac sand mining extracts silica sand, mined from sandstone formations, for the future use in oil and natural gas hydraulic fracturing operations. With its pristine bluffs, deposits of the sand, and the Mississippi River wide and deep enough for barges to pass through it, Winona is an enticing location for fracking sand companies. Furthermore, the operations require the input of water, so marshes and other lakes fell victim, as they were up for grabs in some areas of Winona County. Large trucks began to erode the roads, leaving gapping holes, with dust covering the air and the booming noise of trucks.

The community took notice too. Operations ramped up as did destruction of the area until 2015 when oil prices began to decline and the popularity of fracking waned with it. At this point, the community was becoming increasingly unsettled with their newest neighbor.

Due to the destruction of scenic bluffs along the Mississippi River, health concerns from the blowing silica sand dust, contamination of groundwater, and damage to roads, it became apparent that some action needed to be taken. With high community pushback against fracking, the Winona County Board moved to ban the operations. Nearly 70% of the community supported this trajectory. In late 2016, Commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of the ban.

This was a great victory for the residents of the County, as we were one of the first to ban to such operations, further demonstrating the influence that public comments and resistance can have in shaping a community. However, Minnesota Sands, the main silica sand company, is relentless in their efforts to continue their operations. They claim to hold leases or interests to $3.6 billion in frac sand deposits within the county borders. In November 2017, Winona County District Court Judge Mary Leahy ruled in favor of the county, ruling that “the wide variety of evidence presented to the county amply supports the county’s actions” going on to add that “the county determined there were several unique characteristics to industrial mineral mining that could be hazardous to the county in a way entirely different from construction mineral mines”.  

While our victory has been upheld in Winona County, Minnesota Sands looks to nearby Fillmore County as a back up option. When the company first laid down routes in the area they proposed 11 mines in Winona, Fillmore, and Houston counties. So far, Winona is the only one that has put bans on fracking. The company initially promised to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to analyze the environmental effects of their proposed mines. They have yet to follow through on this, evidence of their negligence to the area and community.

While wrapped up in court cases late last year, the company simultaneously asked the state Environmental Quality Board (EQB) to release it from the EIS requirements so that it could move forward with mining at its Fillmore County site. The EQB has refused to act until the Winona County case was resolved. State regulators were expected to review the issue again this past March, but have yet to do so.

With the obvious lack of care and unacceptable absence of an EIS, members of Fillmore County would be wise to put pressure on their Commissioners to follow Winona County lead. Furthermore, the EQB should protect counties from large, corporate interests and back local decisions. At the very least, Minnesota Sands should not be allowed to proceed before the completion of an EIS. The community can get involved by putting pressure on the EQB and potentially go as far as to petition for an EIS to occur.

We thought our fracking trouble would soon be behind us in Southeast Minnesota. I urge you to continue to pay attention to what is going on in your backyard. Winona County needs to continue to maintain the ban, and should support our county neighbors. Then, after our fight is finally over, hopefully we can eventually return to runs along the bluff, with the occasional turtle spotting.

It’s our water, and our Capitol

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

In last week’s Environmental Insider, we reported on several bills moving through the Minnesota legislature that would have dangerous consequences for our ability to protect the vital waters of our state.

  • A bill to prevent the Minnesota Department of Agriculture from adopting policies that would protect community drinking water and well owners from nitrate pollution and the staggering financial costs of treating it.
  • A bill to prevent the Pollution Control Agency from protecting against toxic sulfate pollution in wild rice waters – a resource guaranteed to the Ojibwe people and critical to their health and culture.
  • A bill to bypass the Public Utilities Commission’s review process and approve construction of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline across Minnesota’s most vulnerable lands and waters.

Why the bad bills?

All this seems surprising, knowing that a large majority of Minnesotans don’t want protections for our water stripped away. MEP-sponsored public opinion polling last year found that 79% of Minnesotans were concerned about our state’s drinking water, and 70% said that they would look less favorably on their legislator if they tried to weaken our environmental laws. But citizens’ concerns – and critical state safeguards to protect them – too often take a backseat in the face of lobbying by interests who want the legislature to maintain the status quo, or, as in the case of Line 3, hand over extraordinary power to enrich a private company.

Governor Mark Dayton has promised to veto several of these bad bills. But this drive to preempt pollution protections can only be stopped by organized, vocal opposition at the Capitol. MEP and our partners are at the Capitol every week to urge lawmakers to reject these bills and make positive change for Minnesota’s Great Outdoors.

The strongest power to make positive change lies with citizens.

Lawmakers consistently say that the biggest impact a constituent can make is to come to a meeting in person, and make themselves heard – showing up is indeed half the battle. Meeting with your legislature to talk about legislation, calling them to express your concerns, and attending town halls and hearings are some of the strongest steps that you as a citizen can take to help steer the policy boat in the right direction.

Your legislators represent you, and you have the power to let them know you stand for Minnesota’s water, land, and air. Minnesota Environmental Partnership is here to help you accomplish that, and we invite you to contact us if you need information or help navigating the process.

And that’s why we invite you to join us at the State Capitol on May 2 for Water Action Day. We’ll handle the work of arranging meetings with your legislators to talk about clean water – all you have to do is sign up and prepare for a good conversation! And in the afternoon, we’ll hold a rally in the rotunda to send a strong, clear message to the Legislature – our state’s water, like our State Capitol, belongs to all Minnesotans, and we’re here to protect it.

Letter to House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Committee Regarding HF 3759 Hearing and Line 3 Testimony

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The Honorable Pat Garofalo
Chair of the House Job Growth & Energy Affordability Committee
State Office Building, Room 485
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55115

The Honorable Dan Fabian
State Office Building, Room 365
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55115

 

April 4, 2018

Dear Representatives Garofalo and Fabian,

On Tuesday night, March 27, 2018, Minnesota Environmental Partnership’s Duluth-based Great Lakes Program Coordinator, Irene Folstrom, testified at the House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Committee hearing on Representative Fabian’s HF 3759, a bill to authorize immediate construction of the Line 3 pipeline on Canadian oil pipeline company Enbridge’s preferred route.

Ms. Folstrom began her testimony by making a number of points that reflect the concerns of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership regarding the proposed tar-sands oil pipeline and the legislation.

However, she then made a series of extemporaneous comments. These included statements that do not reflect the position of Minnesota Environmental Partnership, nor were they presented in a manner that is acceptable to or consistent with MEP’s approach to working with our state’s elected leaders.

We believe that the proposed Line 3 pipeline is not needed and will do harm to the state of Minnesota, its residents, and the rights of its Tribal communities, and we oppose this legislation which bypasses citizen input and the Public Utilities Commission process. However, we will respect the outcome of the Line 3 government review process and want to be very clear that we do not support or condone violence in any form.

We apologize for the errant statements that were made and the inappropriate manner in which they were delivered.  We look forward to a civil, fair, and just process on the Line 3 project.

Steve Morse
Executive Director

cc: Members of the House Job Growth & Energy Affordability Committee

Letter to Legislators: Please Vote NO on HF 3759 Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline Approval Bill

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RE: Please Vote NO on HF 3759 – Terminating PUC process and granting immediate Approval to Construct Canadian Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline

To: Chairperson Garafalo

Members of the House Job Growth & Energy Affordability and Finance Committee

March 27, 2018

Dear Representative,

We, the undersigned, wish to express a deep concern about HF 3759, a bill to immediately authorize the construction and routing of the Canadian Enbridge Line 3. This measure would terminate all review and permitting processes at the Public Utilities Commission and give Enbridge full authority to build the pipeline immediately, on the company’s chosen route, without any substitute form of regulatory oversight.

Minnesotans have worked hard to ensure a fair and evidence-based process. So far, the review process has taken into consideration hundreds of hours of public testimony, tens of thousands of public comments, and the expert analysis of dozens of witnesses brought by Enbridge and intervening parties. This legislation would disregard proceedings put in place in statute and rule, the good faith participation of community members and groups with a wide variety of views, and ignore due process — solely to the benefit of one corporation. This bill is not in Minnesota’s tradition of good governance.

Moreover, HF 3759 would grant this approval without actually issuing the customary Certificate of Need and Route Permit, meaning that the State would be unable to impose conditions on those permits or revoke them in the future, even to avoid harm to Minnesota citizens. To circumvent this process would neglect the needs and concerns of communities, landowners, industries, and First Nations along the proposed route.

The Line 3 pipeline review process is almost complete as planned, with a Public Utilities Commission decision expected by June. Minnesota’s leaders must let it finish instead of preemptively granting extraordinary power to a foreign company and telling tens of thousands of Minnesotans that their time and investment in Minnesota’s review process has been ignored.

We ask you to please vote NO on HF 3759.

Sincerely,
Steve Morse
Minnesota Environmental Partnership

and the following 13 groups

Alliance for Sustainability
Friends of Minnesota Scientific & Natural Areas
Friends of the Mississippi River
Honor the Earth
Izaak Walton League – Minnesota Division
Land Stewardship Project
MN Center for Environmental Advocacy
Minnesota Native Plant Society
MN350
Pollinator Friendly Alliance
Save Our Sky Blue Waters
Sierra Club – North Star Chapter
Wilderness in the City

Enbridge spent $5.34 million on lobbying in Minnesota last year

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

This week, we learned that Enbridge, the Canadian company pursuing a pipeline across our precious lands and waters, spent $5.34 million on lobbying in Minnesota in 2017. Enbridge’s lobbying costs were greater than any other lobbying interest’s one-year spending in the last decade. $5.08 million of the total went toward lobbying the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to approve Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 “replacement” pipeline. The new Line 3 would replace the current, aging Line 3 and double its maximum capacity to 760,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day, carrying the oil from the Alberta tar sands through Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin.

There’s no inherent problem with lobbying the PUC or the Minnesota legislature – it’s important that stakeholders make their concerns heard on energy issues. But this level of paid lobbying by one organization hasn’t been seen in Minnesota for a decade – so why did Enbridge spend 1 in 14 of all lobbying dollars in the state in 2017?

1.) The Line 3 pipeline would be a financial boon for Enbridge – even if it isn’t needed – and they can pass the high costs of lobbying on to consumers. Pipeline companies’ profits are set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which imposes fees on petroleum products in the United States to pay the companies’ expenses. These expenses include the pipeline’s physical construction as well as related costs – including lobbying for the pipeline. The costs would be passed along to Minnesotans – with an estimated price tag of $1.6 billion over the next 15 years – through additional taxes on gasoline, plastics, and other petroleum products.

2.) Minnesotans object to the new pipeline. In 2017, MEP’s public opinion poll showed that two thirds of Minnesotans are opposed to moving more tar sands oil across our lands and waters. For that reason, pipeline backers have called the pipeline a “Line 3 replacement” despite the fact that it would carry double the volume oil and follow a different route.

This line meets especially strong opposition from Minnesota’s tribal communities. It would pass through lands that support wild rice and fishing, which are culturally vital to the Ojibwe bands and legally guaranteed to them by treaty. A tar sands spill in wild rice waters would poison the waters and permanently destroy the wild rice in the area, endangering the Ojibwe communities’ health and way of life. For this reason, the Red Lake Tribal Council recently pulled out of an agreement to allow Enbridge to have four pipelines crossing reservation land, and tribal advocates have pointed out that the official assessments of the pipeline proposal do not adequately take tribal rights and culture into account.

3.) In September 2017, the Minnesota Department of Commerce stated that Line 3 is not needed and that Minnesota would be better off without the old or new pipeline. In its analysis, the Department noted that a greening, more efficient economy meant that Minnesota would have no need for the oil transported by the new Line 3, but would suffer harm from its environmental and social impacts. It further recommended that the old Line 3 be removed from Minnesota’s lands and waters.

The Department of Commerce’s recommendation doesn’t have the authority to override the PUC, but it underscores an important concern – the only party with any real economic interest in this this pipeline is Enbridge.

Fortunately, Enbridge was not the only group influencing the PUC in 2017. Advocates and volunteers from a variety of organizations – including MEP partners Honor the Earth, MN350, Friends of the Headwaters, and the Sierra Club North Star Chapter – have made tremendous efforts to shape the process at the PUC and at the Legislature, where a harmful bill putting Line 3 on a fast track was stopped last year.

We thank all the staff, volunteers, and speakers who have worked tirelessly to make Minnesotans’ concerns about Line 3 heard. And we urge the PUC to look clearly at what the evidence shows: Minnesota has no need for this costly, hazardous new pipeline.

Letter: Please Vote NO on Wild Rice Waters and Nullifying of Water Quality Standards

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RE: Please Vote NO on Wild Rice Waters and Nullifying of Water Quality Standards

To: Chairperson Carrie Ruud and Members of the Senate Environment & Natural Resources Policy & Legacy Finance Committee

March 19, 2018

Dear Senator:
We, the undersigned organizations and the citizens we represent, respectfully ask you to vote NO on SF 2983 – a bill removing a water quality standard that protects wild rice.
The science supporting retaining existing sulfate standards for wild-rice waters is not disputed: wild rice will largely not grow in waters with a sulfate content greater than 10 parts per million. Sulfate’s effects through chemical transformations in the sediments cause a series of reactions that negatively impact the chemistry and biology of lakes and streams.

Repealing the sulfate standard because it is unpopular with area industries that emit sulfates dangerously and unfairly jeopardizes the viability of this plant and crop in Minnesota. That is not acceptable for the water nor the people who depend on it.

Minnesota tribes maintain treaty rights to harvest wild rice and work hard to protect the lakes and wetlands it grows on. Wild rice lies at the heart of Ojibwe culture as a source of food, spiritual sustenance and economic activity.

Minnesota should maintain the evidence-based standard on sulfates – to protect the communities who rely on the wild rice and who would otherwise have to live with the impacts of high sulfate levels.

Please vote no on SF 2983.
Steve Morse
Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Honor the Earth
Alliance for Sustainability Izaak Walton League – Minnesota Division
Clean Water Action League of Women Voters Minnesota
Environment Minnesota MN Center for Environmental Advocacy
Friends of Minnesota Scientific & Natural Areas Minnesota Native Plant Society
Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness Save Our Sky Blue Waters
Friends of the Mississippi River Wilderness in the City