Long-awaited MDA rule opens door to protecting Minnesotans’ drinking water

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership – @mattjdoll

After a multiyear process and input from Minnesotans from around the state, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has approved and is beginning implementation of its new Groundwater Protection Rule, which aims to start tackling the insidious threat of nitrate pollution in our drinking water. This rule regulates nitrogen fertilizer – the primary source of nitrate in groundwater – in vulnerable areas of the state, especially near communities already threatened by this contamination.

The rule is a relatively modest step, but it moves Minnesota in the right direction, and should be used as a bridge to more ambitious action on cleaning up our drinking water supplies.

A long-awaited protection using longstanding legislation

This rule – and the threat of nitrate contamination – has been anticipated by state law for three decades. MEP Executive Director Steve Morse was the author of the Groundwater Protection Act in the Minnesota Senate in 1989, authorizing the state to regulate nitrogen. This is the first regulation of fertilizer application that was taken by the state government under the legislation, while the nitrate threat has continued to grow since passage of the Act.

Nitrate’s threat to human health has been well-known since before the 1940s, when Minnesota first started taking steps to prevent its associated illnesses. The best-known hazard is methemoglobinemia, or blue baby syndrome, caused when babies or pregnant mothers consume nitrate-contaminated water. This respiratory condition is potentially fatal in infants.

More recent research indicates nitrate may also contribute to bladder and thyroid cancers in adults.

As more Minnesota communities and well-owners find their water contaminated by nitrate (requiring the expensive drilling of new wells in most cases) the need for action is increasingly clear.

The rule is a starting point to tackle the most imminent contamination

The Groundwater Protection Rule applies a ban on fertilizer application in the fall and winter within areas where groundwater and soils are particularly vulnerable to nitrogen infiltration. This translates to roughly one-eighth of the cropland in the state. It encourages best-management practices in especially at-risk areas where community water supplies are threatened. And it leaves a door open for stronger requirements in the future.

On its own, this rule won’t solve the nitrate crisis facing Minnesotans. While it will help a number of communities impacted by the high costs and risks of nitrate, it will have little direct benefit for private well owners, who are facing increasingly expensive and dangerous levels of contamination. But it’s a signal that the Department of Agriculture and the state government generally is getting serious about working with stakeholders to tackle this increasing challenge.

It’s clear that Minnesotans need strong solutions to the nitrate challenge. New conservation crops and farming techniques, like those developed by the Forever Green Initiative, are part of the solution: bringing them to farmland in vulnerable areas could significantly cut nitrogen infiltration of groundwater while providing new crops and profits to farmers and ecological benefits to the landscape. (The Forever Green Initiative saw its state funding more than double in this year’s budget in a significant win for clean water.)

Business as usual won’t help us make progress. But we have positive, win-win solutions to the nitrate crisis, and we’re steadily building the political will to make them a reality.

Tribal and environmental advocates win renewed environmental scrutiny for Line 3

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photo credit: NASA

By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership – @mattjdoll

On Monday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals laid a significant new obstacle in the path of the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline project. The presiding judge stated that the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) did not adequately account for the risk of the pipeline spilling tar sands oil into the Lake Superior watershed when it approved its environmental impact study (EIS) for Line 3. Though this decision doesn’t put an end to the Line 3 project, it could create a significant delay and does force the PUC to more effectively reckon with the Superior watershed spill question.

This decision resulted from an appeal of the PUC’s study brought forward by the White Earth, Red Lake, and Mille Lacs Ojibwe bands as well as Friends of the Headwaters and MEP member organization Honor the Earth. Their appeal focused on various deficient sections of the EIS, including the Lake Superior watershed issues as well as the tremendous climate impacts and threats to indigenous treaty rights in Minnesota. This ruling, however, rejected these other concerns.

Lake Superior faces rising threats

While Lake Superior is considered the cleanest of the Great Lakes, its watershed faces challenges on many fronts, including invasive species, plastic and pharmaceutical pollution, and industrial activity. Four Enbridge pipelines cross through the Minnesota part of the watershed and terminate in Superior, Wisconsin. Another Enbridge pipeline continues across northern Wisconsin and eventually crosses the Straits of Mackinac.

Due to the nature of the tar sands oil carried by these lines, a spill in the watershed could be catastrophic to the surrounding water and wildlife and present a herculean cleanup task. Concerned citizens raised this issue during the environmental review process. The Court of Appeals found that the Public Utilities Commission had scarcely addressed this risk in its EIS process, and would have to confront the issue to satisfy existing law. It’s not clear how much this affects plans for the Line 3 pipeline, but it does require the PUC to return to the drawing board for this portion of the EIS.

Other concerns go unaddressed by court

This ruling is beneficial in that it requires a full assessment of pollution threats to Lake Superior. Robust citizen concern for Lake Superior helped raise the concern for this risk.  But the ruling only scratched the surface of Line 3’s hazards.

The Court found that the EIS had adequately addressed climate impacts and possible harm to tribal rights, at least enough to satisfy its legal requirements. But considering the many negative repercussions of new fossil fuel infrastructure – such as a new pipeline that could threaten Minnesota waters and tribal communities for decades – it’s not clear that current laws are working to adequately protect Minnesotans. The apparent default position for courts and regulators has long been that oil pipelines must be allowed to go forward in some manner. Through the tireless efforts of climate advocates and water protectors, that paradigm may finally be starting to change.

Fortunately, this appeal – and the ruling it won in court – is only one part of the defense of Minnesota and the planet against Line 3. Environmental advocates and the Department of Commerce are also challenging the PUC’s approval of the pipeline, working through multiple means to make sure Minnesotans’ needs are heard.

We thank all those who have been working to protect our water, climate, and communities in the face of this proposed pipeline – and urge Minnesotans to keep standing and speaking up.

Promising legislative session ends with gridlock, a few bright spots

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership — @mattjdoll

The 2019 Minnesota Legislative Session saw some of the most ambitious legislation in  years for Minnesota’s environment, but unfortunately, the Legislature did not live up to its responsibility to Minnesotans to pass progress into law. With the signature of the final budget and policy bills by Governor Walz following the special session, the state passed victories for clean water and funding for our natural resources, but failed Minnesotans by taking little action to advance climate solutions, pollinator protections, and safeguards against pollution. Fortunately, most of the cuts and provisions that would have taken our natural resources backwards were successfully stopped.

Victories for clean agriculture and environmental projects

MEP and our allies advocated strongly this session for a boost in state investment to the Forever Green Initiative at the University of Minnesota, a critical program to bring conservation crops that protect water and land and provide income to farmers. The Legislature raised the funding by more than double from the last biennium to $4.3 million. While this is not the $10 million that would fully fund this program, it is a foundation to build on and will have a positive impact on Minnesota’s water resources.

As we reported earlier in the session, the Legislature came to an agreement on fixing last year’s raid on the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Though other raids were attempted on this and other dedicated funds, we’re glad to report that those raids did not pass through final negotiations and will not threaten the sustainability of these important sources of funding for environmental progress.

Promising progress stymied in the Senate

This session saw Minnesotans working to take leadership, as have several other states, on meeting our climate obligations. The Minnesota House passed a bill that would set a standard of 100% carbon-free electricity in the state by 2050 and provide support for energy efficiency and prioritizing renewables to get there. This was more ambitious than any previous energy legislation passed by either House in the Legislature, but the corresponding Senate bill was not even heard in that chamber.

The Senate blocked new funding for transit and electric vehicles around the state. It rejected the House moves towards bringing the percentage of Minnesota’s waters that meet health and safety standards from 60% to 100%. It failed to enact commonsense efforts to reverse the decline of pollinators – the Legislature failed even to pass a measure for pollinators that was approved by both chambers.

The Legislature took no new action to protect Minnesota from threats on the immediate horizon from sulfide mining or from the Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline, though promising bipartisan bills on mining pollution were introduced, and harmful legislation that would chill free speech and pipeline protests did not become law.

Minnesota is ready for progress – now our lawmakers need to fully understand it

We saw unprecedented energy at the Capitol – from both new legislators and their constituents – for ambitious action this session. Thousands of people participated in rallies and lobby days for clean energywater, and transportation throughout the five months, and thousands more took action by calling and emailing their lawmakers. That had an impact: it brought Minnesota’s communities and natural resources several victories and protected us from bills moving us backwards. And it built new relationships and a policy foundation at the Capitol on which we will build a brighter future.

But this year’s work isn’t over – for us, or for legislators. We urge Minnesotans to contact their legislators and keep up the pressure. Educate them on why we need 100% clean energy, and why we need it soon. Tell them about the wonderful potential of conservation crops. Let them know what clean transportation means to you. Make them understand that we have solutions to our greatest challenges – we need only the courage to act.

Check out additional legislative summaries from some of our member organizations:
Friends of the Mississippi River
Land Stewardship Project
Fresh Energy

Copper-nickel mines inch forward, but advocates defend MN’s waters

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership — @mattjdoll

On Wednesday, the federal Bureau of Land Management announced its renewal of two mineral leases held by Twin Metals, the company seeking to construct a copper-nickel mine in the Superior National Forest near Ely. The leases were previously blocked by the Obama administration due to the tremendous environmental risk posed by the mine, and their renewal is a significant boost to Twin Metals’ efforts to build the mine. The other major copper-nickel project in northern Minnesota, the PolyMet mine near Hoyt Lakes, has already received its required permits and is awaiting court challenges and financing.

Both of these mines would pose significant threats to Minnesota waters, ecosystems, and communities. The sulfide ore mined at these sites would create waste that reacts in water to form sulfuric acid, toxifying water and habitats. This type of mining has never been done before in Minnesota, and has never occurred anywhere in the United States without polluting the surrounding environment. The Twin Metals mine would threaten the uniquely vulnerable and interconnected Boundary Waters just as the PolyMet mine would risk harm to the St. Louis River watershed and its downstream communities and Lake Superior.

Fortunately, Minnesotans continue to speak and act for our water

Late last year, Minnesota groups including MEP partners Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) filed an appeal of the state’s copper-nickel mining rules put in place by the Department of Natural Resources. They argue that the rules – untested until now – are inadequate and too vague to serve as a protective framework for Minnesota’s natural resources. If the appellate panel responsible for considering this challenge agrees, it could support other challenges to PolyMet’s permits and ensure that Minnesota waters will be better protected.

MCEA also worked recently to introduce a bipartisan bill in the Legislature that would strengthen state standards around copper-nickel mining, especially concerning the storage of sulfide waste that is one of the critical dangers of this type of mine. It wouldn’t necessarily affect PolyMet, which has already been permitted, but it could protect the state in the case of a new mine or if PolyMet is constructed and then expands.

Similar legislation was passed in Montana in 2015, and was supported by the state’s mining industry – underscoring the fact that Minnesota’s copper-nickel mining regulations aren’t especially strict as some have claimed. The bill is unlikely to pass in the last few days of session, but it will start the conversation on this important issue.

It’s not clear what the future holds for the Minnesota watersheds under threat from sulfide mining, or for the downstream communities that would be permanently impacted by the pollution that follows. But one thing is certain: Minnesotans and the waters we care about are fortunate to have passionate advocates working every day to defend our future.

House and Senate offer divergent paths on environment this session

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Minnesota’s 2019 Legislative Session is entering its final stages. With a May 20 deadline to pass its budget and policy bills through both houses for Governor Walz’s signature, the Legislature is poised to make deals and compromises that will shape Minnesota’s environment for years to come. The DFL-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate have each appointed members to Conference Committees that will negotiate the differences between their omnibus bills before sending them to the Governor.

Several key legislative priorities of the MEP community hang in the balance in these final two weeks, and while this article is not meant to be exhaustive, it covers some of the legislation that could greatly impact our natural resources and community health. We encourage Minnesotans represented by any of the mentioned Senators or Representativesto contact them to make sure they prioritize our future in these discussions.

Clean Water

Proactive clean water-related provisions have been included in several omnibus bills at the Capitol. The House Legacy Funding bill includes a goal of all Minnesota waters meeting basic health standards by 2040 – right now, only 60% do, so this goal would be a useful north star for statewide cleanup efforts. The Environmental and Natural Resources  Bill includes a new program that can help address growing chloride contamination from road salt in Minnesota’s waters. The Smart Salt program would offer training and incentives for professional snow removers to apply less harmful amounts of salt to driveways and paths, cutting down on this pollution.

The House also supports full two-year funding for the Forever Green Initiative, a UMN program working to bring profitable crops that clean up groundwater and sequester carbon to Minnesota farmland. The Senate has so far offered only a quarter of this funding.

Additionally, the Senate is attempting to pass new raids on the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, to the detriment of the fund’s financial sustainability and in defiance of the will of Minnesota voters (Read more about the new raid in our previous blog post.)

Clean Energy and Pipelines
Economic Development and Energy Conference Committee: Representatives Mahoney, Wagenius, Stephenson, Long, and Hassan; Senators Pratt, Dahms, Osmek, Housley, and Simonson

As we observed last weekend, the Minnesota House passed important legislation for 100% clean electricity by 2050, working along the lines of what Governor Walz had proposed in March. This legislation would begin moving Minnesota forward, and the omnibus bill that contains it includes funding for priorities like electric vehicle infrastructure and solar on schools.

The Senate counterpart does not contain 100% legislation, and has significantly fewer provisions for renewable investments, cutting and rolling back programs in several cases. It also includes a familiar threat: a provision to chill free speech by making it easier to charge Minnesotans with felonies for peaceful actions in protest of “critical infrastructure” – read: pipelines. This legislation was opposed by MEP and defeated in 2018 – it should not be included in the final omnibus bill.

Clean Transportation
Transportation Finance Conference Committee: Representatives Hornstein, Koegel, Tabke, Richardson, Torkelson; Senators TBA.

The House transportation bill has drawn headlines for its proposed 20 cent increase in the gas tax, but its provisions for clean transportation merit close attention. The bill would institute a half-cent sales tax in the seven Twin Cities-area counties (Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, Washington) to raise $400 million over the next two years to support and improve the Metro area’s transit system, including upgrades to service and new rapid bus lines. It would also establish a state goal for promoting zero-emission electric vehicle use, a helpful tool for combatting our largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Senate Bill proposes no new investment or funding sources for transit, and eliminates funding for new light rail routes. It also includes a surcharge on electric vehicle charging and increases the annual fee for electric vehicles.

Protecting Pollinators
Environment and Natural Resources Conference Committee: Representatives Hansen, Persell, Fischer, Becker-Finn, and Nathan Nelson; Senators Ingebrigtsen, Ruud, Eichorn, Johnson, and Tomassoni.

MEP supports ambitious measures to protect and restore pollinators in Minnesota, and we’re encouraged by the fact that several have a strong chance of becoming law this session. We know that neonicotinoid pesticides are a leading cause of pollinator declines in our state, and both the Senate and House bills would ban their use on State Wildlife Management Areas – 1.29 million acres across the Minnesota. The House version would also fund grants for homeowners to replace traditional lawns with pollinator-friendly plants, offering pollinators safe havens to thrive in residential areas.

There are many more provisions throughout these and other bills, but the key point is this: Minnesota has a unique opportunity to move forward on creating a clean future this session, but we also run the risk of moving backward. We ask that all concerned Minnesotans watch closely in these final days of session, and contact your legislators to make sure they know how vital it is to make progress – not rollbacks – this session.

House passes 100% clean energy by 2050, showing Minnesotans’ efforts are bearing fruit

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

On Wednesday evening, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed an omnibus bill for energy and economic development that includes a major milestone for climate action in our state: a path toward 100% carbon-free electricity statewide by 2050. This bill would marshal Minnesota’s utilities, energy efficiency expertise, and ingenuity to solve one of our largest contributions to climate change by eliminating fossil fuel use for our electric grid.

This bill represents a big step forward for Minnesota’s part in tackling climate change. It would require utilities – as Xcel Energy has already pledged – to begin working toward the 100% carbon-free goal. It does not prescribe how they get there, but it includes provisions that make renewable sources like wind and solar a priority for all new generation. It also includes investments in efficiency upgrades, especially for low- and middle-income Minnesotans, to reduce consumption, keeping in mind that the cleanest energy is the energy that isn’t used. That’s a recipe for job growth that will boost communities across the state.

The bill isn’t a silver bullet, and much more work must be done to move Minnesota forward on decarbonization. We need even more ambitious action to grow equitable solar and wind generation for our communities. With transportation now our number one sector for greenhouse gas emissions and agriculture not far behind, we also need to invest heavily in electrifying transportation, expanding public transit and bike infrastructure, and bringing climate-friendly crops to our land. But this bill is a signal that Minnesota is prepared to step up to do our part.

Furthermore, the Minnesota Senate must act to pass its own clean energy legislation. Our Senators must recognize that climate change is a threat that is already affecting every community in our state, and one that requires a truly ambitious response. Though it’s true that Minnesota is one state in a global network of fossil fuel use, this does not mean we should abdicate our responsibility to lead. As Senator Nick Frentz, an author of 100% clean energy legislation, said at a rally in March, “…if Minnesota does not lead, ask yourself, why would any other state?”

It’s Minnesota’s time to take the lead on clean energy. And the passage of this bill shows that we can do it – that the hard work of advocates from around the state is making real change. We thank all of those who have spoken up for a cleaner future, and we urge you to keep up the good work. (And we invite you to attend the 100% Campaign End of Session Rally at the State Capitol on May 13 to continue the effort!)

Minnesota Senate threatens harmful cuts and rollbacks in environmental budget

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership – @mattjdoll

Last week, the Minnesota Senate Environment and Natural Resources Finance committee unveiled an omnibus budget bill that would dramatically cut general state support for our natural resources by 25%. These cuts, representing a funding decrease of $90 million from the last two year budget, would harm the ability of agencies like the Department of Natural Resources, the Pollution Control Agency, and the Board of Water and Soil Resources to tackle environmental threats to Minnesota’s health and livelihoods.

At a moment when Minnesota’s public health and natural resources face challenges from all sides, this bill would leave Minnesota underequipped to handle these challenges, and stall progress being made to protect our lands and waters.

Minnesota’s environmental protections need further investments, not rollbacks

Beyond ordinary operations of state parks and other programs, Minnesota’s environmental agencies are facing an array of challenges:

  • 40% of waters in the state don’t meet health standards for human use, and an increasing number of Minnesotans are contending with nitrate contamination in their home’s water. The PCA and other departments are working to clean up and protect these waters.
  • Chronic wasting disease is rapidly threatening Minnesota’s deer population, requiring a rapid response from the DNR.
  • Minnesota’s landscape is being altered by climate change, threatening communities with flooding and ecological disruption.

This bill would not only reduce the funding available to address these needs, it also includes a number of harmful policy provisions, such as requiring unanimous consent of all 87 Minnesota counties before the state can update water quality standards to protect human health. (For more information on these cuts and policies, see this factsheet.)

Another unsustainable raid

Some Senators have argued that the general fund cuts wouldn’t actually disrupt agency operations because they could shift dollars from fees and rely on other sources, such as the constitutionally-dedicated Legacy Amendment Funds and the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Relying on fees is a volatile solution at best – MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop wrote about states where such reliance is the norm: “It is not a healthy situation for businesses, the public, nor for the environment and human health.” And the Legacy Funds and Trust Fund were always intended to operate in addition to baseline funding, never to fill in the gaps due to cutbacks.

Testifying in the Senate Committee on April 10, Darrell Gerber of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy said: “This bill treads back into the territory of unconstitutional use of the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund.” This same type of raid last session was the impetus for a lawsuit by MEP and our partners. That raid was fixed by legislative action this year, but the Senate looks to be setting up a case of déjà vu. (For further analysis of this new raid, check out Dennis Anderson’s latest column in the Star Tribune.)

Filling the gaps from general fund cuts for our environment isn’t merely a misuse of funds – it threatens the sustainability of the funds themselves. MEP Executive Director Steve Morse testified that “This bill is like raiding the piggy bank for day-to-day expenses with no plan to refill it.”

A bill between two houses

This proposal is leagues apart from the two environmental budget proposals from Governor Walz and the House of Representatives, both of which would maintain general fund dollars for our natural resources, parks, and environmental infrastructure to tackle our pressing challenges. With dire threats impacting our water, pollinators, habitat, and climate, Minnesota needs greater investment and smarter policies for our future over the next two years, not cuts, rollbacks, and raids.

We ask that Senators reconsider the cuts in this environmental budget bill and remove its harmful policy provisions. And we urge Governor Walz and leaders in the House of Representatives to stand up for our community health and Great Outdoors when they negotiate the final budget this year. Minnesotans deserve progress on making our state cleaner and healthier – with a budget that reflects our values and helps us stand firm against the challenges we all face.

Hundreds share the dream of a clean future at Water Action Day 2019

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photo credit: Duluth for Clean Water

By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

On Wednesday, hundreds of Minnesotans gathered at the Capitol in St. Paul to send a clear message to the Legislature that we need action on clean water. They shared the same  wisdom – that Water is Life –  with the new Legislature and new Governor that Water Action Day has centered on for three years, with a renewed since of ambition and urgency in the face of our environmental challenges. Those who attended learned, laughed, rallied, and spoke up in the belief that everyone in the Land of 10,000 lakes deserves clean water and a healthy future.

More than forty organizations large and small worked together to make this day a reality, representing communities from across the state. Minnesotans gathered from as far south as Austin and as far north as International Falls, driving home the fact that the need to protect our water crosses all regions, all zip codes, and all legislative district boundaries. 

The morning featured trainings on issues like pipelines, sustainable land use, sulfide mining, and factory farms, as well as how to effectively communicate with legislators and those of differing views. Throughout the day, attendees met with Senators and Representatives to share their clean water priorities. (For more information on some of the pressing clean water issues facing our state, check out the Water Action Day Policy Priorities sheet.)

This year featured an exciting new engagement opportunity for Water Action Day: an Environmental Town Hall where citizens raised questions and concerns with state agency leaders, including officials from the DNR, the Department of Health, the Environmental Quality Board, the Board of Water and Soil Resources and the Pollution Control Agency. With the help of moderator Walker Orenstein, participants were able to ask important questions about the agencies’ decision making and offer feedback about how it can be more transparent and responsive to Minnesotans.

Another first-time feature of this year’s event was a special honor in the city that hosted it. The St. Paul City Council passed a resolution recognizing the need for action on climate change, water pollution, and environmental justice, and declaring April 10, 2019 as Water Action Day in the city.

In the afternoon, hundreds gathered in the Capitol Rotunda for the third annual #ProtectOurWater rally. This year’s speakers included:

  • Emcee Don Arnosti of the Izaak Walton League
  • Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Peterson
  • Youth speakers:
    • William Chatterjei
    • Ojibwe Water Walker Reena Petrich
  • Pesticide Action Network organizer Willa Childress
  • and Representative Todd Lippert of Northfield.
photo credit: Janette Dean

The energy in the room was electric and amplified the central story that Water Action Day tells: ordinary Minnesotans from all walks of life coming together and agreeing to act to bring clean water to all.

This Wednesday’s Water Action Day offers hope for a cleaner Minnesota

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

In the middle of a contentious but exciting state Legislative session, Minnesotans from around the state have an opportunity to shape our state’s work to protect and provide clean water for all of us. On April 10, Water Action Day at the State Capitol will provide a chance to tell legislators, state agency leaders, and media that Minnesotans care deeply about programs and policies to keep our water healthy and safe. Hundreds of people have already registered to attend, and we expect next Wednesday to build on the success of the previous two years and drive real change at the Capitol.

We need solutions to our pressing water challenges

Minnesota’s reputation as a land of clean water – with 10,000 lakes, the mighty Mississippi, and Lake Superior – is well-deserved. But it isn’t the full picture – 40% of our surface waters are considered unswimmable, unfishable, and undrinkable. Thousands of wells across the state are contaminated by nitrate from crop runoff, putting Minnesotans’ health at risk. And our waters face increasing threats from sulfide mining, oil pipelines, and climate change.

We have ideas and knowledge to make clean water a reality

This is a moment of big challenges and equally big solutions. This legislative session has featured some of the most exciting legislative proposals we’ve seen in years. Bills are moving to fund the Forever Green Initiative to bring the next generation of crops to Minnesota lands – crops that clean water, restore soil health, and sequester carbon. And for the first time, the legislature is considering establishing a clean water goal to make all of Minnesota’s waters swimmable and fishable by the year 2040.

Water Action Day is about advocacy for all

We encourage any Minnesotan, regardless of specific knowledge of policies, to come to the Capitol and meet with legislators on April 10. At the Water Action Day home base at Christ Lutheran Church across the street, we’ll be conducting trainings and sessions on clean water issues, lobbying skills, and how to be an effective advocate. We’ll also be scheduling groups of attendees to meet with their legislators. Breakfast and lunch will be provided for free.

For the first time, Water Action Day will also feature an Environmental Town Hall with state agency leaders who are critical players in clean water issues. The town hall will be moderated by MinnPost reporter Walker Orenstein and will feature

  • John Jaschke, Board of Water and Soil Resources Executive Director
  • Susan Stokes, Minnesota Department of Agriculture Assistant Commissioner
  • Laura Bishop, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner
  • Will Seuffert, Environmental Quality Board Executive Director

Audience members will be able to submit questions for Orenstein to ask these agency leaders.

And at 2:00, we’ll gather for a rally in the Capitol Rotunda to send lawmakers the message that Minnesotans demand action to protect our water. We encourage those who can’t attend earlier in the day to join us for this always electrifying event to make our voices heard!

This event is free and open to all, and we encourage our readers to join us – because this is our moment to put Minnesota on the path to 100% clean water.

Line 3 fight returns to Legislature, continues in appeals

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Last month, Governor Tim Walz announced that his administration would allow the Department of Commerce to continue an appeal – begun under the Dayton Administration – of the Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) decision to grant a Certificate of Need for the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline. This week, the Minnesota Senate passed a bill to block that appeal by prohibiting the Department of Commerce from using state funds to finance the appeal.

MEP and our partners testified against this bill stating that it is the responsibility of the Department of Commerce to use its authorities to protect the long-term well-being of Minnesotans.

Some Senators who voted in support of the bill (SF 1757) argued that the cost of the appeal is a misuse of taxpayer dollars. The cost of this appeal – reportedly about $41,000 thus far – pale in comparison with the environmental and health-related costs of constructing this pipeline and facilitating the transport of millions of barrels of emissions-heavy tar sands oil through it.

MEP has detailed why neither the replacement Line 3 nor the existing, aging Line 3 are necessary, justifiable, or financially beneficial to Minnesotans. We concur with the Department of Commerce, indigenous voices, climate scientists, and advocates from around Minnesota that this new line should not be built – its tremendous cost to our natural resources and our planet’s climate would be far too great.

Appeals provide counterweight to powerful pro-Line 3 lobby

The Department of Commerce’s appeal – along with those filed by Minnesota advocacy organizations – is part of the defense against the risk of Line 3, and stands in opposition to a concerted and well-funded campaign by Enbridge. Enbridge was the biggest lobbying spender in 2017, when its $5.34 million was the highest of any organization’s expenditure over the previous ten year period.

That sum was extraordinary enough, but it was merely the pipeline company’s opening act. It was reported last week that Enbridge spent a whopping $11 million lobbying for Line 3 in 2018, and again, by far, more than any other organization in Minnesota.

Minnesota has been fortunate to have strong voices – armed not with $11 million, but with courage, facts, and solidarity – on the side of safeguarding our communities, water, and climate. Ordinary Minnesotans from around the state, using their talents and voices, are engaging in a powerful movement to secure the fossil fuel-free economy we need.