Line 3 and PolyMet: Two pivotal moments for Minnesota waters

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

This month is shaping up to be a big one for the health of Minnesota’s water, land, and communities. Last week, the staff of the Public Utilities Commission released nonbinding recommendation that the proposed Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline be approved, and that its new route should be favored as the least harmful to the environment. While this report is disappointing and contrary to the Department of Commerce’s conclusion that Line 3 is not needed by Minnesotans, it is also not the end of the story: the PUC’s five Commissioners are scheduled to make their final decision by the end of June.

Meanwhile, Minnesota’s U.S. Senators have attached an amendment to the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act that would force through the land exchange for the PolyMet sulfide mine in northern Minnesota. The land exchange – which would trade public land with PolyMet’s parent company at bargain prices – is already scheduled to conclude on June 28. But it is contingent on four pending lawsuits filed to stop it, and could be suspended depending on the legal outcome. The amendment to the National Defense Act in Congress would eliminate the lawsuits and push PolyMet toward becoming a reality.

These two projects, though focused on different activities, represent two sides of the same coin: the devaluing and misuse of northern our state’s critical land and water resources, despite strong opposition from majorities of Minnesotans.

Both have created unprecedented debates

Line 3 is a replacement of an old line that would increase its capacity by doubling the number of barrels per day, delivering toxic Alberta tar sands oil across Minnesota. State and federal laws were written largely to favor pipeline construction, and the PUC has historically rubber-stamped these proposals. But in the wake of controversies like Dakota Access and Keystone XL and with the broader understanding of the increasing effects of climate change, the PUC has heard testimony from thousands of Minnesotans. It’s clear that such dangerous pipelines are no longer considered a no-brainer.

PolyMet is unprecedented in its own way – sulfide ore mining has never been conducted in Minnesota, and it has never been conducted in any location with freshwater resources without leaving acid pollution in its wake. Minnesota has a long-held tradition of iron ore mining, but sulfides are a breed apart. A mine waste spill at the PolyMet site would result in pollution that would harm the area for decades even if it occurred long after the mine ceased operations.

Both would trample over indigenous rights

The PolyMet mine would lie in the St. Louis River watershed upstream from Lake Superior. Downstream the St. Louis River flows through the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation. The Ojibwe of this reservation depend on the St. Louis River’s water and fishing resources for their health, well-being and guaranteed cultural rights. The fish in the watershed have already been contaminated by sulfates and mercury that threaten human health – the addition of acid drainage pollution in the likely event of a mine spill at some point would be an even greater blow.

Throughout the Line 3 debate, the Leech Lake Band and Ojibwe tribal members throughout Minnesota have condemned this pipeline proposal as a violation of their treaty rights, their culture, and the viability of their communities. A tar sands oil spill from this pipeline into the vulnerable waters it would cross would be catastrophic for the water and wild rice resources on which the Ojibwe rely.

Both have been falsely framed as the economy versus the environment

Minnesota’s most basic and vital resource is our supply of clean water. The health of our communities and the livelihoods of thousands of Minnesota residents and businesses depend on the safety of our lakes and rivers. An accident on Line 3 or at PolyMet would create tremendous financial burdens on Minnesotans. We can’t afford to continue piling up risks to our water and moving backwards on climate action by approving such projects. If these projects are approved, Minnesotans will end up paying the costs for generations after the few temporary jobs on Line 3 and PolyMet have disappeared.

We urge state officials and our United States Senators to consider the future of Minnesota and reject these ill-conceived and dangerous proposals.

Legislators attempt to block Groundwater Protection, but Dayton administration vows to move forward

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

This week, leaders in the Minnesota House and Senate formally filed their resolutions to delay Minnesota’s draft Groundwater Protection Rule after having voted to do so near the end of the 2018 Legislative Session. This unprecedented measure, if upheld by Minnesota’s court system, could put the completion of the rulemaking process on hold, delaying much-needed action to protect Minnesota’s drinking water. However, the Dayton Administration has signaled its resolve to continue moving forward, and an actual delay is anything but certain.

The proposed rule

The draft rule proposed by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) would finally begin to implement the regulatory authority of the 1989 Groundwater Protection Act to safeguard Minnesota’s groundwater from nitrate pollution. Nitrates in our water are increasingly common and are creating an expensive health problem for Minnesota communities and well owners, many of whom spent thousands of dollars to dig new wells to avoid contaminated water. Nitrates can cause blue baby syndrome in infants and are linked to certain cancers. They originate from various sources, but the largest is fertilizer runoff from row-crop agriculture.

The MDA rule proposes a modest but important framework to reduce nitrate runoff from cropland in vulnerable areas. First, it restricts fall and winter fertilizer application on vulnerable soils that make up only 12.6% of Minnesota’s farmland. Second, it promotes voluntary best management practices to reduce nitrate levels in at-risk community wellhead protection areas, accounting for 0.45% of Minnesota’s farmland. These educational efforts can then convert to requirements if water pollution levels do not decline.

The Legislative delay (or lack thereof)

This rule has been developed with input from farmers, scientists, stakeholders, and communities across the state, and continues to be adjusted based on public comments. The Legislature’s attempt to use an obscure law to block the rule’s implementation seems designed to ultimately block the rule and thereby the reasonable water protections it would afford to thousands of Minnesotans.

Fortunately, at a press conference at the end of the session, Governor Dayton announced that he directed the state’s Commissioner of Agriculture to proceed with the rulemaking. “We don’t believe that that action is even constitutional – it’s certainly ill-advised,” Dayton said. He added, “We’re not making this stuff up. It’s about protecting the safety of Minnesotans when they turn on their faucet.”

How to speak up on the Groundwater Protection Rule

The MDA is moving forward with continued community dialogue on the rule throughout June and July, with a public comment period to close on July 26. We encourage all Minnesotans with a stake in this issue to attend one of the informational meetings or July public hearings or comment online on the rule to help ensure that it protects the public interest. Minnesota is long overdue for action to protect our precious groundwater and drinking water supplies. This rule is an opportunity to work together to ensure that all Minnesotans can feel secure when they turn on the tap.

Legislative session misses opportunities, but gives Minnesota a chance to move forward

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

With Governor Mark Dayton’s final vetoes and bill signatures this week, the 2018 Minnesota legislative session ended with successes, losses, and missed opportunities for Minnesota’s environment. Thanks to the Governor’s veto, bad legislation like the Line 3 giveaway bill and the wild rice standard roll back, didn’t become law – critical victories for Minnesota’s land, air and water. And the bill blocking the Groundwater Protection Rule didn’t reach the Governor’s desk. We thank all Minnesotans who spoke up to make sure this and other bad legislation would not threaten our natural resources.

Unfortunately, critical projects to boost our health and our great outdoors – like Forever Green and the Working Lands Watershed Restoration Program – were left underfunded this year. Worse still, the Legislature passed a raid in the bonding bill on the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. The ENRTF uses state lottery proceeds to fund innovative research and projects aimed at solving Minnesota’s pressing environmental challenges. The bonding bill signed into law would spend this money on basic services – like infrastructure and waste projects – that should be paid for with general bonding. This raid poses a long-term threat to the ENRTF and all constitutionally-dedicated funds.

For a full session summary, see MEP’s 2018 legislative wrap-up.

Looking to Minnesota’s future

Fortunately, the end of the session left the MDA’s Groundwater Protection Rule process intact, keeping it on track to be finalized this year, with opportunity for citizen input online or at hearings during the summer. MEP will continue to engage with the Department of Agriculture and local leaders to work toward a long-term solution to nitrate pollution in our drinking water.

This month, the Public Utilities Commission is concluding its review of Line 3 at several hearings and deciding whether to grant Enbridge’s pipeline a certificate of need. We call on Minnesotans to speak up at those hearings, and we ask the PUC to recognize that Minnesota does not need this pipeline.

And with the Governor’s office and the future of the Legislature hanging in the balance in the 2018 election, we’ll be working to educate the candidates and prepare our Coalition to bring a positive environmental vision in 2019.

We thank all those who contacted their representatives, joined us at our events, and followed the session with us in 2018. And we urge Minnesotans to keep speaking up on the environmental issues that affect us all!

Insider: June 3, 2018

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Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Legislative session misses opportunities, but gives Minnesota a chance to move forward

With Governor Mark Dayton’s final vetoes and bill signatures this week, the 2018 Minnesota legislative session ended with successes, losses, and missed opportunities for Minnesota’s environment. Thanks to the Governor’s veto, bad legislation like the Line 3 giveaway bill and the wild rice standard roll back, didn’t become law – critical victories for Minnesota’s land, air and water. And the bill blocking the Groundwater Protection Rule didn’t reach the Governor’s desk. We thank all Minnesotans who spoke up to make sure this and other bad legislation would not threaten our natural resources.

Unfortunately, critical projects to boost our health and our great outdoors – like Forever Green and the Working Lands Watershed Restoration Program – were left underfunded this year. Worse still, the Legislature passed a raid in the bonding bill on the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. The ENRTF uses state lottery proceeds to fund innovative research and projects aimed at solving Minnesota’s pressing environmental challenges. The bonding bill signed into law would spend this money on basic services – like infrastructure and waste projects – that should be paid for with general bonding. This raid poses a long-term threat to the ENRTF and all constitutionally-dedicated funds.

For a full session summary, see MEP’s 2018 legislative wrap-up.

Looking to Minnesota’s future

Fortunately, the end of the session left the MDA’s Groundwater Protection Rule process intact, keeping it on track to be finalized this year, with opportunity for citizen input online or at hearings during the summer. MEP will continue to engage with the Department of Agriculture and local leaders to work toward a long-term solution to nitrate pollution in our drinking water.

This month, the Public Utilities Commission is concluding its review of Line 3 at several hearings and deciding whether to grant Enbridge’s pipeline a certificate of need. We call on Minnesotans to speak up at those hearings, and we ask the PUC to recognize that Minnesota does not need this pipeline.

And with the Governor’s office and the future of the Legislature hanging in the balance in the 2018 election, we’ll be working to educate the candidates and prepare our Coalition to bring a positive environmental vision in 2019.

We thank all those who contacted their representatives, joined us at our events, and followed the session with us in 2018. And we urge Minnesotans to keep speaking up on the environmental issues that affect us all!


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.


Dayton vetoes wild rice bill, earning thanks from environmentalists

(From MPR News) — Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday vetoed a legislative attempt to put the brakes on regulations that could force the mining industry and municipal wastewater systems to invest in expensive treatment systems. Minnesota’s 45-year-old sulfate standard aimed at protecting wild rice has rarely been enforced. The Republican-led Legislature, with help from some DFLers, pushed through legislation that would have provided $500,000 for a work group to explore affordable solutions on how to protect wild rice from mining and wastewater discharge high in sulfate. But Dayton objected to provisions that would have prevented the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency from taking action on the standard. >>Read More.

The lake or the lawn? Watering ban hangs over heads of White Bear Lake neighbors

(From Pioneer Press) — First a judge put the brakes on the additional pumping of water within five miles of White Bear Lake. Then the Minnesota Legislature put the brakes on that ruling. Now the cities and many of their residents near the lake are left wondering where we move forward from here. “Water is so valuable,” Jean Auger said recently as she dug up weeds in her garden as White Bear Lake sparkled in the sun nearby. Will a watering ban protect the lake next to her yard? Will it mean she is forced to change her gardening habits? >>Read More.


Pilot Program aims to reuse, recycle materials from condemned buildings

(From Duluth News Tribune) — Society as a whole has taken a much dimmer view of highway littering in the past 50 years, said Alex Baldwin, a project manager for Better Futures Minnesota. “We’d like to think sort of the same thing is going to happen, in terms of how people think about throwing away a house,” he said. Better Futures Minnesota is one of St. Louis County’s partners in a project now underway in Duluth’s Morley Heights neighborhood. At a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Baldwin said: “What you see behind me is basically deconstruction versus demolition. So you see eight to 10 guys carefully dismantling and systematically reclaiming building materials.” >>Read More.


Wind energy: new revenue, new jobs, new hope

(From MinnPost) — It’s easy to list the reasons that rural communities love wind — they provide a new source of tax revenue for counties and townships, lease payments for rural landowners, new jobs and economic development in areas that need it most, and they help to fund community projects and schools. Now, a new report from Moody’s Investors Service highlights how wind projects are boosting tax revenues and helping erase debt in rural communities that host them.  A utility-scale wind farm is a multimillion-dollar project that provides a significant new source of tax revenue for the counties and townships through the Wind Energy Production Tax. Since 99 percent of wind projects are built in rural America, wind farms provide relief for small, rural towns that need it most. >>Read More.

St. Paul asks building owners to cut energy use this summer

(From Star Tribune) — St. Paul leaders are asking building owners to cut back energy use this summer, as part of a goal to reduce climate-changing pollution across the city. A city initiative called Energize St. Paul is kicking off this summer with Race to Reduce, a voluntary program in which the city will work with property owners to track energy use and make buildings more energy-efficient. >>Read More.


                

Coalition signs letters opposing Twin Metals’ mineral leases

(From Duluth News Tribune) — More than 170 businesses and outdoor groups signed letters opposing the U.S. Department of the Interior’s decision to reinstate Twin Metals’ expired mineral leases in May and the mining company’s new plans released last week. The three separate letters were each signed by a coalition of conservation, businesses and outdoor sporting groups and sent to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. >>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.


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. Is the majority of home water consumption in the U.S. used indoors or outdoors?

2. What Illinois island is the largest on the Mississippi River?

3. What migratory bird has the scientific name Branta canadensis?


Upcoming Environmental Events

Film and Speaker on Ocean Acidification, June 3
Davannis in Woodbury
Hosted by Southeast Metro Climate Action

Launch Party: Unveiling Our New Name & Expanded Vision, June 4
Dual Citizen Brewing Company, St. Paul
Hosted by Transit for Livable Communities & St. Paul Smart Trips

Native Prairie Planting at Cherokee Park, June 9
Cherokee Park, St. Paul
Hosted by Friends of the Mississippi River


Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Itasca Waters Coordinator | Itasca Waters
Organizing Representative – Duluth | Sierra Club North Star Chapter
Part-Time Administrative Associate | Wind on the Wires
Minnesota GreenCorps AmeriCorps Member | Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Data Manager | Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Office Manager | River’s Edge Academy
Warner Nature Center Director | Science Museum of Minnesota
Program Intern – Summer 2018 | Clean Water Action
Chief Financial Officer | Environmental Initiative
See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Outdoors – on pools, lawns, etc. 2) Arsenal Island. 3) Canada goose.

 


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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.

Insider: May 26, 2018

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With session’s end, dirty legislation dropped on Dayton’s desk

After three months of debate and discussion, the Minnesota Legislature on Sunday concluded its 2018 session following the passage of several last-minute bills. Governor Mark Dayton has less than a week and a half to decide whether to sign, veto, or modify spending in the bills that remain on his desk.

Fortunately, Governor Dayton has already vetoed several bills that would roll back environmental protections. We thank the Governor for vetoing:

  • The Line 3 Giveaway bill: This bill would have given Enbridge Energy immediate approval to construct its proposed pipeline along the company’s preferred route. It would have bypassed the Public Utilities Commission’s process for considering whether to grant a certificate of need to the project, a process that is scheduled to conclude with final hearings in June. This would have betrayed thousands of Minnesotans who have testified  and engaged throughout the process.
  • The Omnibus Supplemental Budget bill: This bill tied funding for programs to a pile of bad policy. Among the provisions were cuts to the Renewable Development fund, a 16-year holiday for industry to avoid responsible water treatment, and an irresponsible rollback of our protection against the spread of invasive species between Minnesota’s waters.

Now, we call on Governor Dayton to hold the line for our environmental protections and veto:

  • Items in the Bonding Bill that would raid our Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund: This fund was created by Minnesota voters via a constitutional amendment to spend lottery money on research and projects that help clean up and conserve Minnesota’s natural resources. This legislation would improperly take that money to spend on ordinary sewers, a basic government service. While these are worthy projects, they should be funded responsibly, as they have been traditionally, with state bonding – raiding the Trust Fund leaves it open to further raids for inappropriate purposes in the future.
  • The Guilty by Association Bill, which would create broad penalties against citizens and organizations who support or attend a protest where so-called “critical infrastructure” is damaged. For example, a person who attends or supports a protest against a pipeline at which someone else damages the pipeline could be held liable, even if they had nothing to do with the action. It’s against Minnesota values of democracy and free speech, and it’s targeted at those who want to protect our water and public health.
  • The bill to gut protections for wild rice waters by short-circuiting the regulatory process  for sulfate pollution. It would allow new industries like the PolyMet and Twin Metals sulfide mines to be completely exempt from requirements to control sulfate pollution that kills off wild rice and increases harmful mercury levels in our lakes, rivers and streams. The Governor vetoed the Legislature’s previous bill in hopes of a better compromise on protecting wild rice, but this bill is a step backward, not forward. (Use our action alert below to ask Governor Dayton for a veto!)

We thank Governor Dayton for standing against rollbacks to Minnesotans’ health and resources in his final session. And we thank all the Minnesotans who have spoken up to ask the Governor and the Legislature to protect Minnesota values!


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!

Please contact Matt Doll at matthew@mepartnership.org if interested.


Ask Governor Dayton to please veto the second wild rice bill!

The harmful Wild Rice bill (that would’ve nullified the protective sulfate standard for wild rice) moving through the legislature all session was vetoed by the Governor. But then on the last day of the session, a conference committee (9 of the committee’s 10 members had co-authored the previous bill) put together a new bill. They emerged from discussions touting the new version as a “compromise.” It is not.

There are many things wrong with this bill – learn more using our Action Alert, and please call the Governor’s office at 651-201-3400 and ask for another veto!


photo credit: MPCA

Dayton veto brings GOP counterpunch to governor’s groundwater legacy

(From MPR News, featuring MEP Executive Director Steve Morse)  —  A new Minnesota Department of Agriculture rule aimed at protecting drinking water from nitrates could be delayed for a year after last-minute politicking at the State Capitol. The GOP-controlled Legislature sent Gov. Mark Dayton an agriculture policy bill just as the Legislative session was ending. The House and Senate agriculture committees followed up with some additional pressure: If the governor didn’t sign the bill, the committees said, they might invoke an obscure 2001 law that allows the Legislature to halt executive-branch rulemaking. Dayton vetoed the ag policy bill on Monday. And now, lawmakers are moving toward delaying his agriculture department’s groundwater protection rule, which establishes voluntary and mandatory farming practices in areas of the state where nitrate contamination is a problem. >>Read More.


10 million gallons of mine sludge turns Trempealeau River orange; officials investigating spill after dramatic rescue 

(From La Crosse Tribune) — State and local authorities are working to determine the environmental impact after about 10 million gallons of sludge was released from a settling pond to rescue a worker at a Trempealeau County frac sand mine. Emergency responders from multiple agencies responded to the Hi-Crush mine in Whitehall just before 8 a.m. Monday after a contractor’s bulldozer slid into the pond, which company officials said was 12 to 15 feet deep. The operator, Robbie Gunderson, was trapped inside the airtight cab of the 23-ton earth mover for two and a half hours as rescuers tried to reach him. >>Read More.

New Twin Metals plan moves processing plant site

(From Duluth News Tribune) — Twin Metals Minnesota on Thursday released new details for its underground copper-nickel mine planned near Ely, including a new location for its proposed processing plant. The company announced new details on its plan, which has yet to be presented for any kind of regulatory approval. The company recently won back critical federal mineral leases from the Trump administration that had been withheld by the Obama administration. The leases cover areas at and around the proposed mine site along the Kawishiwi River and Birch Lake just outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. >>Read More.


A well-balanced agro-ecological system is needed

(From St. Cloud Times, by Land Stewardship Project member Bryan Simon) — It’s not the cow or the sow, but the how. I hate to break it to all the conscientious consumers who have bought into the idea that completely avoiding meat is the answer to our planet’s environmental woes, but they’ve been misled. That’s right, I’m calling you out, Beyonce, Brad Pitt, Al Gore and others who are coaching fans to become vegan to save the planet. Such a message, while well-intentioned, misses the mark. Animals are not the problem; the problem is how they are managed. Animals provide valuable goods and services, like nutrient cycling, habitat diversity, clean water and soil health, but only when integrated with the land. Unfortunately, confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have removed animals from the land, and the consequences are evident: a rapidly changing climate, polluted water, soil loss, rampant pest problems, and barren landscapes devoid of wildlife. >>Read More.


                

Minneapolis should combat climate change and inequality with bus lanes

(From MinnPost) — Go. Stop. Wait. Lurch. Wait. Go. Stop. That’s the daily experience of bus riders along Hennepin Avenue where the speed limit is 30 miles per hour and buses travel at 6 mph. The City of Minneapolis recently published a draft city plan that focuses largely on two great challenges: disparities and climate change. To address these challenges, the plan calls for “equitable and ample access” to transit options and stresses that “even with the adoption of electric cars, a 37 percent reduction in automobile trips is needed” for the city to reach its goal of reducing greenhouse gas pollution by 80 percent by 2050. >>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.


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. What invasive insect has the scientific name Agrilus planipennis?

2. How many rivers in the world have larger drainage basins than the Mississippi?

3. What state trail, stretching from Grand Rapids to Ely, is Minnesota’s longest?


Upcoming Environmental Events

Tend the demonstration prairie at Ole Olson Park, May 31
Above the Falls Regional Park, Minneapolis
Hosted by Friends of the Mississippi River

Plant shrubs, grasses and wildflowers at the Vermillion AMA, June 2
Vermillion Aquatic Management Area, Farmington
Hosted by Friends of the Mississippi River

WaterFest 2018, June 2
Phalen Regional Park, St. Paul
Hosted by Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District

Film and Speaker on Ocean Acidification, June 3
Davannis in Woodbury
Hosted by Southeast Metro Climate Action

Launch Party: Unveiling Our New Name & Expanded Vision, June 4
Dual Citizen Brewing Company, St. Paul
Hosted by Transit for Livable Communities & St. Paul Smart Trips


Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Organizing Representative – Duluth | Sierra Club North Star Chapter
Part-Time Administrative Associate | Wind on the Wires
Minnesota GreenCorps AmeriCorps Member | Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Executive Director | Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association
Data Manager | Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Office Manager | River’s Edge Academy
Warner Nature Center Director | Science Museum of Minnesota
Program Intern – Summer 2018 | Clean Water Action
Chief Financial Officer | Environmental Initiative
See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Emerald ash borer. 2) Three – the Amazon, the Congo, and the Nile. 3) Taconite State Trail

 


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.

Press Statement: Governor’s veto defends wild rice, blocks special favors for sulfide ore mines

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 30, 2018

 

MEDIA CONTACT:
Sara Wolff, Advocacy Director
Minnesota Environmental Partnership
sara@mepartnership.org, 651-789-0651

 

This morning, Governor Mark Dayton announced his veto of the Wild Rice Bill, which would have taken Minnesota backward on protecting this important resource.

This bill would not have protected wild rice or set up a system of reasonable steps to do so in the future. It would have done nothing to invest in developing new technologies to clean up and prevent sulfate pollution in our waters. And it would have expressly allowed new industries like sulfide mining to add sulfate pollution without having to invest in implementing any sulfate control technologies. Under current law, new dischargers upstream of wild rice waters would have to control their sulfates.

This bill threatened water and wild rice resources that are important to all Minnesotans and especially critical to the culture and vitality of our state’s native communities.

“We thank Governor Dayton for his veto of this ill-conceived attempt to undermine wild rice protections in Minnesota,” said MEP Executive Director Steve Morse. “We should be continuing an inclusive conversation about how to leverage our resources to protect the future of our wild rice waters. By vetoing this bill, the Governor has ensured that we can continue to have that discussion and work toward a long-term solution.”

###

About Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Minnesota Environmental Partnership is a coalition of more than 70 environmental, conservation, and civic organizations working together for clean water, clean energy and protection of our Great Outdoors. The Minnesota Environmental Partnership engages state leaders, unites environmental efforts and helps citizens take action for the Minnesota they love.

www.mepartnership.org
 

With session’s end, dirty legislation dropped on Dayton’s desk

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

After three months of debate and discussion, the Minnesota Legislature on Sunday concluded its 2018 session following the passage of several last-minute bills. Governor Mark Dayton has less than a week and a half to decide whether to sign, veto, or modify spending in the bills that remain on his desk.

Fortunately, Governor Dayton has already vetoed several bills that would roll back environmental protections. We thank the Governor for vetoing:

  • The Line 3 Giveaway bill: This bill would have given Enbridge Energy immediate approval to construct its proposed pipeline along the company’s preferred route. It would have bypassed the Public Utilities Commission’s process for considering whether to grant a certificate of need to the project, a process that is scheduled to conclude with final hearings in June. This would have betrayed thousands of Minnesotans who have testified  and engaged throughout the process.
  • The Omnibus Supplemental Budget bill: This bill tied funding for programs to a pile of bad policy. Among the provisions were cuts to the Renewable Development fund, a 16-year holiday for industry to avoid responsible water treatment, and an irresponsible rollback of our protection against the spread of invasive species between Minnesota’s waters.

Now, we call on Governor Dayton to hold the line for our environmental protections and veto:

  • Items in the Bonding Bill that would raid our Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund: This fund was created by Minnesota voters via a constitutional amendment to spend lottery money on research and projects that help clean up and conserve Minnesota’s natural resources. This legislation would improperly take that money to spend on ordinary sewers, a basic government service. While these are worthy projects, they should be funded responsibly, as they have been traditionally, with state bonding – raiding the Trust Fund leaves it open to further raids for inappropriate purposes in the future.
  • The Guilty by Association Bill, which would create broad penalties against citizens and organizations who support or attend a protest where so-called “critical infrastructure” is damaged. For example, a person who attends or supports a protest against a pipeline at which someone else damages the pipeline could be held liable, even if they had nothing to do with the action. It’s against Minnesota values of democracy and free speech, and it’s targeted at those who want to protect our water and public health.
  • The bill to gut protections for wild rice waters by short-circuiting the regulatory process  for sulfate pollution. It would allow new industries like the PolyMet and Twin Metals sulfide mines to be completely exempt from requirements to control sulfate pollution that kills off wild rice and increases harmful mercury levels in our lakes, rivers and streams. The Governor vetoed the Legislature’s previous bill in hopes of a better compromise on protecting wild rice, but this bill is a step backward, not forward. (Use our action alert below to ask Governor Dayton for a veto!)

We thank Governor Dayton for standing against rollbacks to Minnesotans’ health and resources in his final session. And we thank all the Minnesotans who have spoken up to ask the Governor and the Legislature to protect Minnesota values!

Letter to Governor Dayton: The Wild Rice Conference Committee Report is no Compromise – Please Veto

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May 21, 2018                                                                                               

Dear Governor Dayton:

We, the undersigned organizations and the citizens we represent, respectfully ask you to veto HF 3422 – the conference committee report on wild rice. The bill does not protect wild rice now or set-up a system that reasonably takes steps to protect wild rice in the future. In fact, enactment of this statute would take us backwards by explicitly allowing new polluters, including sulfide ore mine industries, to discharge sulfates without using technologies to mitigate them.

  • The bill prohibits protection of wild rice growing in most waters in Minnesota until they can be officially listed as a Wild Rice Water. Only 24 waters are currently named as Wild Rice Waters in rule, though the MPCA, tribes and DNR between them have identified at least 1300-1600 wild rice waters that need protection from sulfate pollution. Blocking the listing and protection of wild rice waters violates the Clean Water Act. 
  • The bill requires an exhaustive list of scientific information to be gathered and analyzed for each water body before it can be listed as a Wild Rice Water (and thus earn protection under the law.) But the bill provides $0 for this work, effectively blocking any progress in identifying and limiting sulfate pollution in additional wild rice waters.
  • The bill prohibits protection of our existing Wild Rice Waters until “cost-effective treatment technology is available.” But the bill only creates barriers to using existing and new technologies to make progress in cleaning up sulfate pollution in wild rice waters. The bill requires evaluation of new technologies for sulfate control, but provides no funding for NRRI research in promising new sulfate controls or to assist dischargers in funding treatment to reduce sulfate discharge. 
  • The bill explicitly allows new industries such as PolyMet, Twin Metals or other sulfide ore mines to add sulfate pollution to our waters without implementing any technologies that require investment to control sulfides. This is a big step backward and a violation of the Clean Water Act. Under current law, new dischargers upstream of wild rice waters would have to control their sulfates.

 For these reasons this bill is no compromise and should be opposed.

 

Please veto HF 3422. Thank you for your consideration.

 

Steve Morse                                                                           

Minnesota Environmental Partnership                                                                                               

 

Alliance for Sustainability     
Audubon Minnesota                                      
Clean Water Action – Minnesota                                          
CURE (Clean Up our River Environment)                                        
Environment Minnesota                                                         
Eureka Recycling       
Freshwater Society                                                                
Friends of Minnesota Scientific & Natural Areas                 
Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness                         
Friends of the Mississippi River                                            
Honor the Earth                                 
Izaak Walton League – Minnesota Division
Land Stewardship Project
League of Women Voters Duluth
Lower Phalen Creek Project
MN Center for Environmental Advocacy
Minnesota Council of Parks and Trails
Minnesota Native Plant Society
Minnesota Ornithologists Union
Pollinator Friendly Alliance
Save Our Sky Blue Waters
Sierra Club – North Star Chapter      
St. Croix River Association
WaterLegacy
Wilderness in the City
Women’s Congress for Future Generations

Letter to Governor Dayton: Please Veto Guilty by Association Bill

Posted by

The Honorable Mark Dayton

Governor of Minnesota

75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd.

Saint Paul, MN 55155

 

May 22, 2018

 

Dear Governor Dayton,

We are writing to respectfully request your veto of Senate File 3463, a bill that could make Minnesotans “guilty by association” when peacefully exercising their first amendment rights.

Senate File 3463 seeks to chill dissent and free speech by imposing “vicarious liability” to citizens and organizations who attend or support a protest where critical infrastructure is damaged. The language for this bill comes directly from the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). As you have pointed out frequently in the last few days, too much legislation this session has catered to large corporate interests and left regular Minnesotans out in the cold. We urge you to use your veto power to prevent that in this case.

The bill uses excessively broad language in creating penalties to anyone who “recruits, trains, aids, advises, hires, counsels…” while applying those penalties in a narrow and politically motivated manner only at selectively-defined “critical infrastructure” sites. Opposition to this legislation has been broad and included organizations working for free speech and civil liberty, Native American rights, environmental organizations, and unions, including the AFL-CIO. 

In short, Minnesotans of all backgrounds recognize that this legislation is a dangerous attack on a vibrant democracy to further corporate interests.  Thank you for your Administration’s work to remove this language from the Omnibus Finance Bill. We ask that you protect Minnesotans and free speech by vetoing SF 3463.

Sincerely,     

Steve Morse

Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Letter to Governor Dayton: Request for veto of Supplemental Budget Bill SF 3656

Posted by

May 22, 2018    

 

Dear Governor Dayton,

We, the undersigned organizations and the thousands of Minnesotans we represent, ask you to veto the Supplemental Budget Bill, SF 3656. The following provisions remain of concern:

Listed in order of appearance within each subject.

Energy Policy

Reducing Xcel Energy’s payment into the Renewable Development Account.

Section 1

This provision restructures the formula for determining how much Xcel Energy should annually pay into the Renewable Development Account, changing it from a fee for each cask of dry storage of spent nuclear fuel to a flat fee. The net result of this change is a compounding reduction of Xcel’s contributions into the RDA from approximately $26 million a year today to $20 million in 2022 and thereafter. The RDA is meant to fund research and development in renewable electric energy technologies, grid modernization (including storage) and projects that decrease demand for and increase efficiency of electricity use. In addition, this provision allows Xcel Energy to recover payments made into the RDA under this statute by charging a “rider” or extra fee to rate-payers.

 

Eliminating financing options for participating in community solar.

Section 6

This provision removes the word “financing” from the list of components a plan for community solar must include. Without this word, Xcel does not have to include reasonable financing options in their integrated resource plans, likely eliminating new residential or lower-income subscribers from participation in our most-successful-in-the-nation community solar programs.

 

Environment and Natural Resources

Transferring water from one water body to another without a permit.

Section 61      

This provision allows waters to be moved from one body to another or connected to each other without a permit. Some waters are polluted and have aquatic invasive species, others are pristine. Current law protects the state’s cleanest waters by requiring a permit for a water transfer between water bodies. Agencies should retain this authority in order to prevent transfers that harm Minnesota’s waters.

 

Degradation of Peer Review: Accepting conflicts of interest among peer review members.

Section 63

This section codifies the acceptance of conflicts of interest among peer review members, so long as they are disclosed. This is an unacceptable degradation of independent peer review, which is supposed to rely on unbiased science.

 

Giving industry 16 years to meet water quality standards.

Section 64      

This provision allows an industry that has already constructed or made improvements to a water treatment facility in order to meet water quality standards a 16-year pass for meeting any other water quality standards that may be developed. Similar language was passed by the legislature last year (and again this year) – though only for municipalities, not industry.

An Administrative Law Judge rejected the rulemaking that resulted from last year’s legislation because it was not in compliance with the federal Clean Water Act. The provision returned this year adding the words “to the extent allowable under federal law,” and in this bill, also granting the 16-year holiday to industries as well. Water quality standards are developed to protect human health and the viability of our waters for important uses.   If new water quality standards are established, polluters should be required to meet those new standards through the permitting process.

 

Limiting the definition of pipeline to weaken regulatory authority.

Section 86

This provision did not receive any hearings, was not introduced as a bill and narrows the definition of pipelines to “a pipeline owned or operated by a condemning authority.” The provision could allow frac sand operations to avoid regulation for piping frac sand slurry.

 

Jeopardizing native species by delaying needed conversion back to pre-settlement condition of oak-Savannah, oak woodland or prairie.

Section 90      

This provision extends an unfortunate conversion moratorium put into law last year in Sand Dunes State Forest (SDSF) from two years to three years.

Sand Dunes State Forest is home to nearly 1/5 of all species identified as “Species in Greatest Conservation Need” by the State in the Minnesota Wildlife Action Plan. A few species are now believed to be extinct from the property due to prior lack of management for rare species. Converting a portion of the forest back to its pre-settlement condition is important to prevent further loss. In addition, the State and partnering organizations have already invested significant amounts of time and funding toward the restoration of SDSF. Extending the moratorium is financially irresponsible and jeopardizes previous investments by the State and conservation organizations.

 

Please veto SF 3656. Thank you for your consideration.

 

Steve Morse

Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Alliance for Sustainability
Clean Water Action – Minnesota                                            
CURE (Clean Up the River Environment)                             
Environment Minnesota                                                          
Freshwater Society                                                                 
Friends of the Mississippi River                                             
Friends of Minnesota Scientific & Natural Areas                                 
Izaak Walton League – Minnesota Division                           
Land Stewardship ProjectWomen’s Congress for Future Generation
Lower Phalen Creek Project
MN Center for Environmental Advocacy
Minnesota Native Plant Society
Minnesota Ornithologists Union
MN350
Pollinator Friendly Alliance
Save Our Sky Blue Waters
St. Croix River Association
Wilderness in the City