MEP Has a Lot to be Thankful For

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We know it’s felt like a tough year for our great outdoors, with many challenges to clean water, our greening economy, and public health in our state. But when we look at what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve defended in 2017, we find we have so many people and things to be thankful for!

  • We’re thankful for the hundreds of Minnesotans who showed up to the Capitol on Water Action Day in April to tell our lawmakers to protect our water!
  • We’re thankful for young activists working tirelessly for environmental justice – like the 13 Youth Climate Intervenors making a stand for the climate in the face of the proposed Line 3 oil pipeline.
  • We’re thankful for the incredible growth in clean energy – and the many jobs it brings – in Minnesota. Our state is stepping up and showing national leadership on wind, solar, and energy efficiency, helping us work toward ever more ambitious climate goals.
  • We’re thankful for our member organizations, old and new, who have made tremendous efforts this year to keep Minnesota clean, and to keep building a strong, inclusive, diverse coalition of environmental groups.

And most of all, we thank you, our subscribers, donors, action-takers and supporters!

  • We are grateful for everyone who donated on Give to the Max Day. You helped raise $6,500 in just 24 hours! Contributions help MEP support the work of environmental organizations across the state as we work to protect clean water, clean air, and pollinators!
  • We are grateful for the many thousands of contacts you made with your elected officials on behalf of Minnesota’s great outdoors this year! Your voices helped advance some important measures and put pressure on lawmakers to defeat many proposals that would have harmed our state’s land and water.
  • We are grateful to all those who help us share our message on social media, email, and in calls and meetings with your lawmakers – thank you for spreading the word on Minnesota’s great outdoors!

We couldn’t do it without you. From all of us at the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, thank you for helping to keep Minnesota beautiful, clean, and safe! 

Reality Check on Proposed Line 3

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Next Wednesday, November 22 will mark the conclusion of the Public Utilities Commission’s public comment period on the proposed Enbridge Line 3 pipeline. Since late September, the PUC has been collecting testimony from intervenors and members of the public on this proposal, specifically on the issue of the certificate of need and route permits that Line 3 would require. Without the PUC’s approval, the new Line 3 project can’t keep moving forward.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce has concluded that the dangers of this pipeline to Minnesotans far outweigh any benefits. But with the debate continuing up to the PUC decision, Line 3 backers have attempted to convince public opinion, through ads and articles, that the pipeline is necessary for Minnesota’s economy and healthy for the environment. To help ensure that the debate is balanced and based in sound science, MEP has released a fact sheet on Line 3, and addressed some of the disingenuous claims that have been put forward.

  • “Minnesota needs the oil that the new Line 3 would carry.” Apart from the fact that Line 3 would carry tar sands oil from Canada to Superior, Wisconsin, Minnesota’s demand for finished petroleum products like gasoline is down 19% from its 2004 levels.
     
  • “If the old Line 3 is shut down, there won’t be enough pipeline capacity.” In fact, even if the old Line 3 were shut down and not replaced, there would be at least 500,000 barrels per day of capacity on the existing network to haul this oil – which is declining in volume.
     
  • “Without this pipeline, we’ll have to ship oil by rail, which is more dangerous.” Oil by rail has declined sharply in Minnesota, and there’s little sign it’s going to return. Since the peak in 2014, oil by rail traffic in the state has decreased by 70%. And while oil trains do run higher risk of accidents, rail spills are easier to clean up and tend to be smaller in volume than pipeline spills.
     
  • “Minnesota may be moving away from fossil fuels, but we still need this oil for now.”  While it’s true that Minnesota won’t transition to an all-electric, green economy overnight, this oil is a bridge too far. The tar sands oil that Line 3 would carry is among the dirtiest on earth, with more than 30% greater carbon emissions than conventional crude. Burning the fossil fuels from already-used sources and infrastructure is projected to push the world above a 2% global temperature increase, which spells even greater climate catastrophe in years to come. We need to redouble our investment in renewable technology and jobs, not subsidize a declining, environmentally disastrous fuel source.

For more information on tar sands pipeline, read our fact sheet and more at mepartnership.org, and contact the Public Utilities Commission before Wednesday the 22nd to share your concerns!

Insider: November 17, 2017

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Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Reality Check on Proposed Line 3

Next Wednesday, November 22 will mark the conclusion of the Public Utilities  Commission’s  public comment period on the proposed Enbridge Line 3 pipeline. Since late September, the PUC has been collecting testimony from intervenors and members of the public on this proposal, specifically on the issue of the certificate of need and route permits that Line 3 would require. Without the PUC’s approval, the new Line 3 project can’t keep moving forward.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce has concluded that the dangers of this pipeline to Minnesotans far outweigh any benefits. But with the debate continuing up to the PUC decision, Line 3 backers have attempted to convince public opinion, through ads and articles, that the pipeline is necessary for Minnesota’s economy and healthy for the environment. To help ensure that the debate  is balanced and based in sound science, MEP has released a fact sheet on Line 3, and addressed some of the disingenuous claims that have been put forward.

  • “Minnesota needs the oil that the new Line 3 would carry.” Apart from the fact that Line 3 would carry tar sands oil from Canada to Superior, Wisconsin, Minnesota’s demand for finished petroleum products like gasoline is down 19% from its 2004 levels.
     
  • “If the old Line 3 is shut down, there won’t be enough pipeline capacity.” In fact, even if the old Line 3 were shut down and not replaced, there would be at least 500,000 barrels per day of capacity on the existing network to haul this oil – which is declining in volume.
     
  • “Without this pipeline, we’ll have to ship oil by rail, which is more dangerous.” Oil by rail has declined sharply in Minnesota, and there’s little sign it’s going to return. Since the peak in 2014, oil by rail traffic in the state has decreased by 70%. And while oil trains do run higher risk of accidents, rail spills are easier to clean up and tend to be smaller in volume than pipeline spills.
     
  • “Minnesota may be moving away from fossil fuels, but we still need this oil for now.”  While it’s true that Minnesota won’t transition to an all-electric, green economy overnight, this oil is a bridge too far. The tar sands oil that Line 3 would carry is the dirtiest oil on earth, with more than 30% greater carbon emissions than conventional crude. Burning the fossil fuels from already-used sources and infrastructure is projected to push the world above a 2% global temperature increase, which spells even greater climate catastrophe in years to come. We need to redouble our investment in renewable technology and jobs, not subsidize a declining, environmentally disastrous fuel source.

For more information on tar sands pipeline, read our fact sheet and more at mepartnership.org, and contact the Public Utilities Commission before Wednesday the 22nd to share your concerns!

 


Meet the young activists fighting Enbridge’s Line 3 oil pipeline

(From MPR News) — Much of the debate over Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 oil pipeline proposal has been framed as environmental issues against jobs and oil needs. But for a group of 13 young people calling themselves the Youth Climate Intervenors, it’s much bigger than that. Here’s their case: All the oil Enbridge’s replacement pipeline would carry across Minnesota would exacerbate climate change — and the youngest among us will suffer the effects the most. Young people are leading the fight against the pipeline, said 23-year-old Brent Murcia. “And that makes sense, because it’s our fight. We are here to be a voice for the future.” >>Read More.


photo credit: Kurt Haubrich

Safety demands saying no to pipeline

(From St. Cloud Times) — I appreciate the Oct. 29 Your Turn “Family business built on projects like Enbridge pipeline” by Lori Schott stating jobs are an important factor when considering Enbridge’s Pipeline 3 replacement, but I must disagree with her assessment.  There is no doubt the old pipeline is an ecological disaster waiting to happen and needs to be shut down. The real question is not where a replacement should be placed, but whether it should be replaced at all. Enbridge has a poor safety record. Its website contains data indicating 804 spills between 1999-2010 that released about 6.8 million gallons of oil. >>Read More.

 


               

Photo credit: Bureau of Land Management

University of Minnesota researchers are blasting weeds with corncob grit to protect raspberries and other crops

(From Star Tribune) — University of Minnesota researchers are confronting the age-old problem of controlling weeds with a new approach: blasting them at high pressure with abrasive corncob grit. Scientists at the U’s West Central Research and Outreach Center near Morris will begin a two-year research project next spring to test the technique on raspberry crops at the center and at two commercial raspberry farms. “When your plants are young and you’ve just worked up the soil, you get a flush of weeds from pigweed to lambsquarters to foxtail, and whatever else,” said Steve Poppe, a senior horticulture scientist at the center. >>Read More.

 


           

Recycling in Winona County: The good, the bad, and the non-recyclable

(From Winona Daily News) — Winona County residents appear to be getting the hang of it. Almost a year after Winona County shifted its recycling services from Veolia to Harter’s Quick Clean Up of La Crosse, Wis., the county’s sustainability coordinator, Anne Morse, said she is pleased with what she saw from a Winona County collection shipment on a recent tour of the county’s newest recycling servicer. “It was darn gratifying,” Morse said. “I didn’t see a lot of nonrecyclable materials.” And that impression mirrors the numbers. In 2016, Winona County recycled 28,565 tons of natural resources, while its wasted natural resource amount was just over 27,000 tons. This has given Winona County one of the best programs in the state in terms of items available to recycle and the number of homes participating, Morse said. >>Read More.


                

Would you change your commute for a possible reward?

(From Rochester Post Bulletin) — Rochester Public Transit has started a weeklong campaign encouraging people who live or work in Rochester to try a different way to get around. The fall Commuter Challenge is an invitation to visit the RPT website, www.rptride.com, this week and make an online pledge to give local transit, commuter bus, carpooling, biking or walking a try any time in the next six months. All completed pledge forms will be entered, subject to eligibility, into a drawing to win one of nearly 20 prizes being awarded. “Driving alone is not always the best — and certainly not the only way to get around Rochester,” said Nick Lemmer marketing and outreach coordinator for the City of Rochester Parking and Transit division. >>Read More.

 


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. A 2015 Minnesota government survey found that every dollar that businesses invest in Conservation Improvement Programs provides $4 to $4.30 in what area?

2. The deepest lake wholly within Minnesota was  artificially created from what type of hole?


Upcoming Environmental Events

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Youth and Policy Manager | Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy

Regional Policy Director, West | Wind on the Wires

Managing Director, Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition | Environmental Initiative

Events Coordinator | Environmental Initiative

Organizing Representative – Twin Cities | Sierra Club

State Policy Community Organizer | Land Stewardship Project

See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Energy savings. 2) Iron-mining pit


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Minnesota Faces the Climate Change Challenge

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

This week, delegates from 195 countries are meeting for the COP23 conference in Bonn, Germany to work on solutions to climate change and further advance the Paris Climate Accord. The meeting coincides with the announcement that war-torn Syria has begun its accession to the agreement, leaving the United States as the only country not supporting the accord. The federal government will still participate in the climate talks in Bonn, but the Trump Administration’s officials plan to host a panel to promote fossil fuel and nuclear power generation, rather than engage in discussions on clean, renewable energy solutions. With 2017 recently recorded as one of the three hottest years on record, (along with 2015 and 2016) this is an especially poor time to abdicate American leadership on climate change.

Fortunately, Minnesotans aren’t backing down from this challenge, or from representing a better path to the international community. MEP partner organization Climate Generation is leading a group of Minnesotans in Bonn, where they’ll be participating in meetings with fellow leaders and advocates. They’re attending to share ideas and learn about what the rest of the world is doing to tackle emissions. And they’re demonstrating that while federal leaders may not be interested in contributing to the Paris Accord, Minnesota is still in.

As a member of the United States Climate alliance, Minnesota is committed to meeting the emissions goals of the Paris Accord and the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, and our energy industry is making enormous strides toward those goals. Since 2006, we’ve increased the share of our power that comes from wind from 4% to 18%. Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy is planning to invest $3-4 billion in wind power in the next few years, creating low-emissions power and passing along cost savings to consumers as it replaces cost-intensive coal usage. Solar has also been a success story: Minnesota’s solar capacity grew 80% in the first three months of 2017 alone.

Ongoing developments in clean power generation and batteries mean that we can continue to transition our economy to rely on clean-generated electricity for living, commerce, and transportation. Using steel, sun, and wind for fuel will continue to grow jobs and slow the carbon emissions that are endangering our climate. And while the U.S. government has failed to act as a strong global leader on this clean revolution, our state continues to light the way, in Bonn and at home.

Insider: November 10, 2017

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Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Minnesota Faces the Climate Change Challenge

This week, delegates from 195 countries are meeting for the COP23 conference in Bonn, Germany to work on solutions to climate change and further advance the Paris Climate Accord. The meeting coincides with the announcement that war-torn Syria has begun its accession to the agreement, leaving the United States as the only country not supporting the accord. The federal government will still participate in the climate talks in Bonn, but the Trump Administration’s officials plan to host a panel to promote fossil fuel and nuclear power generation, rather than engage in discussions on clean, renewable energy solutions. With 2017 recently recorded as one of the three hottest years on record, (along with 2015 and 2016) this is an especially poor time to abdicate American leadership on climate change.

Fortunately, Minnesotans aren’t backing down from this challenge, or from representing a better path to the international community. MEP partner organization Climate Generation is leading a group of Minnesotans in Bonn, where they’ll be participating in meetings with fellow leaders and advocates. They’re attending to share ideas and learn about what the rest of the world is doing to tackle emissions. And they’re demonstrating that while federal leaders may not be interested in contributing to the Paris Accord, Minnesota is still in.

As a member of the United States Climate alliance, Minnesota is committed to meeting the emissions goals of the Paris Accord and the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, and our energy industry is making enormous strides toward those goals. Since 2006, we’ve increased the share of our power that comes from wind from 4% to 18%. Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy is planning to invest $3-4 billion in wind power in the next few years, creating low-emissions power and passing along cost savings to consumers as it replaces cost-intensive coal usage. Solar has also been a success story: Minnesota’s solar capacity grew 80% in the first three months of 2017 alone.

Ongoing developments in clean power generation and batteries mean that we can continue to transition our economy to rely on clean-generated electricity for living, commerce, and transportation. Using steel, sun, and wind for fuel will continue to grow jobs and slow the carbon emissions that are endangering our climate. And while the U.S. government has failed to act as a strong global leader on this clean revolution, our state continues to light the way, in Bonn and at home.



photo credit: Kurt Haubrich

From the Loon Commons Blog: Government and Industries Have Moral Responsibility to Update Regulations on Pollutants

Contributed by Ariana Jahiel, Macalester student — On September 8th, the New York Times released an article entitled, “More Than 40 Sites Released Hazardous Pollutants Because of Hurricane Harvey.” At first glance, it is easy for us here in Minnesota to skim over this report and write it off as irrelevant due to our geographic location. But the truth is climate change-induced natural disasters impact Minnesota, too. Flooding and tornados are not uncommon in this state, and such storms are likely to increase in frequency and severity. And like Texas, Minnesota is also home to oil refineries, one of which, the Pine Bend Refinery located just outside the Twin Cities, is the largest of all oil refineries located in non-oil-producing states, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. >>Read More.

 


               

Photo credit: NASA

Senate may move forward on dangerous VIDA law

Next week, the US Senate is considering a vote on a Coast Guard funding bill with a dangerous attachment: the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, or VIDA. This act would strip away at Clean Water Act protections used by the EPA and state authorities to fight invasive species and pollution. It would expose our communities and water resources to future economic and ecological threats.

Invasive species, like the zebra mussels, are already costing our economy billions and hurting the lakes we love. This bill would do harm to waters throughout the United States. The dangers of VIDA go far beyond Minnesota, so no matter where you live, call your Senators at 202-224-3121, and tell them to send the Coast Guard bill back to committee until the VIDA bill is removed.

Demystifying the complex world of water: Your questions, answered

(From MPR News) — From quality to regulations to usage, there’s a lot to know about water in Minnesota. So, MPR News wants to know what you’re curious about regarding water. This summer, we asked people at the MPR News State Fair booth to give us their questions on water. Reporters Kirsti Marohn and Cody Nelson researched answers to five of them and are ready to tackle yours. >>Read More.

 


           

photo credit: NASA

Tom Emmer’s quest to subvert Boundary Waters mining moratorium

(From City Pages) — Minnesota Congressman Tom Emmer (R), with co-sponsors Reps. Jason Lewis (R) and Collin Peterson (DFL), proposed legislation last month to undo Obama-era restrictions on copper-nickel mining near the Boundary Waters. The MINER Act would make it harder to halt mining on federal lands, and fast-track renewal of mineral leases for the contentious Twin Metals mine. Last December, the Obama Administration refused to renew leases for Twin Metals, a subsidiary of Chilean mining giant Antofagasta. At the same time, it proposed a 20-year moratorium on mining near the Boundary Waters, depending on the outcome of a two-year environmental review by the U.S. Forest Service. >>Read More.

Stop the sweetheart public land deal to PolyMet

Congress may vote soon on a bill – HR 3115 – to give PolyMet one heck of a deal on over 6,000 acres of National Forest land. PolyMet wants the land for its proposed copper-nickel sulfide mine. Sulfide mining is different from iron-ore mining and has never before taken place in Minnesota.

HR 3115 cheats taxpayers by undervaluing the land, circumventing court challenges and undermining bedrock environmental laws. Speak out here!


                

How solar-energy sites can provide habitat for our Minnesota monarchs

(From Star Tribune) — Forty years ago, amid a Mexican forest swirling with millions of monarch butterflies, an aging scientist and two young explorers solved a decades-old mystery when they found a thumbnail-sized sticker that two schoolboys in Minnesota had affixed to a monarch’s wing. Since that January day in 1976 — the first proof that monarchs were making an incredible migration to overwinter in the Sierra Madre mountains — Chaska, Carver County, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and our state as a whole have had an extraordinary and unique connection with the monarch butterfly. >>Read More.

Wisconsin DNR to restore 700 acres of monarch habitat along Mississippi River

(From La Crosse Tribune) — The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will restore or enhance more than 700 acres of goat prairie and oak savannas along the Mississippi River in an effort to improve habitat for the monarch butterfly. A $69,800 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, combined with nearly $107,000 in state, county and private sector donations, will fund the restorations on public lands between Trempealeau and Crawford counties. The DNR and its partners will use prescribed burns and other invasive-species control to restore the native prairie plants on steep slopes along the river. According to the DNR, the work will also benefit other pollinators, rare plants, reptiles and birds. >>Read More.

 


Weekly Outdoor Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!            

1. What conifer, named for a European country, is Minnesota’s official state tree?

2. What river, sharing its name with a type of liquor, connects Lake Mille Lacs with the Mississippi?

3. Minnesota has more bald eagles than any other state except for…?


Upcoming Environmental Events

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Youth and Policy Manager | Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy

Regional Policy Director, West | Wind on the Wires

Managing Director, Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition | Environmental Initiative

Events Coordinator | Environmental Initiative

Organizing Representative – Twin Cities | Sierra Club

State Policy Community Organizer | Land Stewardship Project

See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Norway pine. 2) Rum River. 3) Alaska


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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.

Student Voices Column: Government and Industries Have Moral Responsibility to Update Regulations on Pollutants

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The above image is from Pine Bend Refinery in Rosemount, Minnesota
Retrieved from: pinebendrefinery.com

 

The Minnesota Environmental Partnership is proud to feature the following post as part of a series of columns as part of a Student Voices Series issues. This is part of a continuing collaboration with Macalester College’s Geography Department and its students.

Contribued by Ariana Jahiel, Macalester Student:

On September 8th, the New York Times released an article entitled, “More Than 40 Sites Released Hazardous Pollutants Because of Hurricane Harvey.” At first glance, it is easy for us here in Minnesota to skim over this report and write it off as irrelevant due to our geographic location. But the truth is climate change-induced natural disasters impact Minnesota, too. Flooding and tornados are not uncommon in this state, and such storms are likely to increase in frequency and severity. And like Texas, Minnesota is also home to oil refineries, one of which, the Pine Bend Refinery located just outside the Twin Cities, is the largest of all oil refineries located in non-oil-producing states, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

So what type of toxic exposure actually happened? And why? Over 1.5 million pounds of toxic pollution was released into the air by fossil fuel-producing companies including, but not limited to ExxonMobil, Petrobras, Shell, and Chevron Phillips Chemical. In the face of an imminent natural disaster, oil refining and petrochemical facilities are often forced to make the choice to temporarily shut down due to environmental conditions. According to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), when an industrial facility decides to stop running, especially when the decision is made last minute, emissions will increase, possibly to an illegal level as was the case in Texas. Large amounts of pollution are also released when plants start up again after a closure. Making matters worse, the EDF states that many of these facilities use out-of-date technology, inefficient design, and poor training techniques, all of which act to magnify the problem.

As more and more of these climate change-induced natural disasters occur, it becomes even more critical that there be stricter standards to which all facilities must adhere. These standards work to avert these types of preventable environmental harms from adding to an already dire situation. Although there are state and federal protocols already in place to curb the effects of hurricanes on these facilities, they are clearly not enough; they have not prevented the 1.5 million pounds of pollutants from entering the atmosphere, ground, and water. When a storm hits, there are enough concerns for people who cannot evacuate; they should not have to worry about whether or not drinking water and the air they breathe has been contaminated with toxic chemicals.

 

The above map shows the location of plants that released hazardous emissions due to Hurricane Harvey. Image retrieved from: NY Times 

 

What does this mean for the future? First, it is important that we recognize that Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria are not merely flukes. Global warming has raised the temperature of ocean waters, fueling the unprecedented fury of these storms. Climate change is real, and so are its consequences. These hurricanes are indications of what is yet to come.

We can’t let industries continue their lax protocol and profit-driven negligence. At the bare minimum, refineries and other like facilities must function using the precautionary principle, the idea that the possible harmful impacts of a given situation present a social responsibility to protect public from these potential outcomes. Thus, industries must shut down enough in advance of the natural disaster so as to prevent large amounts of pollution entering our environment. Additionally, these events mean that the pollution-control devices are not well designed or sufficiently up to date so as to protect citizens or the environment from harmful toxins. According to Luke Metzger, the director of Environment Texas, all pollution-control devices must be renovated and meet more stringent standards.

Perhaps most importantly, these events mean that citizens must demand intense regulation from our governmental bodies. This is particularly important in this time when the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Trump Administration more generally are trying to deregulate and leave decision-making to the corporations themselves. Thus, we cannot look to our national government to meet our demands for a safer and healthier state. But we can and should demand of our state institutions to uphold such measure.

We must put pressure on the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the Minnesota Department of Health to enact safer regulations on industrial facilities in Minnesota. Additionally, we as Minnesotans must pursue with rigor our current commitment to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and increasing our use of renewable energy. We cannot back off this trajectory.

Buffers Help Boost Minnesota Water Health

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Wednesday, November 1 marked the deadline for Minnesota farmers to comply with the buffer law, which mandates that farms keep a 50-foot strip of perennial vegetation between their cropland and the streams and ditches that feed into Minnesota’s lakes and rivers. The law, passed in 2015, seeks to tackle the problem of agricultural runoff by implementing these strips to filter that runoff before it enters Minnesota waters. Though the buffer debate has been contentious, the Board of Water and Soil Resources estimates that over 95% of farmers are now in compliance with the law.

The vegetation grown on a buffer strip varies, but the general process is to rely on perennial vegetation’s root systems to absorb a portion of the pesticides and fertilizers that flow downstream. Pesticides in our rivers can kill off native wildlife and harm humans who drink or recreate in the water. Nutrient fertilizers cause harmful algal blooms that leave lakes and estuaries unlivable for fish and other animals. Nitrates in particular pose a health threat – over time, they leach into groundwater that people rely on for drinking, and can cause birth defects in the lungs of infants if consumed by pregnant women.

It’s important to recognize that this buffer law isn’t a cure-all for agricultural pollution. The law allows for the perennial vegetation on buffer strips to be used for other purposes, such as harvesting or grazing, that can reduce the strips’ effectiveness. Even under ideal conditions, not all of the nutrient pollution is filtered from entering lakes and rivers.

But an admittedly imperfect buffer law is still an important step toward restoring Minnesota’s waters, and comes at a critical time. Cities like Adrian and St. Peter, and residents with private wellsthroughout the state, have incurred enormous financial costs to treat water contaminated by nitrates. Buffers may present  farmers with costs of their own, but even prior to the law, a large majority of farmers already implemented buffers. Working to combat runoff pollution by leveling the playing field for farmers is a fair and reasonable policy.

Much more action is needed to restore and improve Minnesota’s water quality and make drinking water safe and accessible for all residents. The buffer law is a helpful step in the right direction, and we commend Minnesota farmers and communities for taking on this clean water challenge.

Insider: November 3, 2017

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Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership


photo credit: USDA

Buffers Help Boost Minnesota Water Health

Wednesday, November 1 marked the deadline for Minnesota farmers to comply with the buffer law, which mandates that farms keep a 50-foot strip of perennial vegetation between their cropland and the streams and ditches that feed into Minnesota’s lakes and rivers. The law, passed in 2015, seeks to tackle the problem of agricultural runoff by implementing these strips to filter that runoff before it enters Minnesota waters. Though the buffer debate has been contentious, the Board of Water and Soil Resources estimates that over 95% of farmers are now in compliance with the law.

The vegetation grown on a buffer strip varies, but the general process is to rely on perennial vegetation’s root systems to absorb a portion of the pesticides and fertilizers that flow downstream. Pesticides in our rivers can kill off native wildlife and harm humans who drink or recreate in the water. Nutrient fertilizers cause harmful algal blooms that leave lakes and estuaries unlivable for fish and other animals. Nitrates in particular pose a health threat – over time, they leach into groundwater that people rely on for drinking, and can cause birth defects in the lungs of infants if consumed by pregnant women.

It’s important to recognize that this buffer law isn’t a cure-all for agricultural pollution. The law allows for the perennial vegetation on buffer strips to be used for other purposes, such as harvesting or grazing, that can reduce the strips’ effectiveness. Even under ideal conditions, not all of the nutrient pollution is filtered from entering lakes and rivers.

But an admittedly imperfect buffer law is still an important step toward restoring Minnesota’s waters, and comes at a critical time. Cities like Adrian and St. Peter, and residents with private wellsthroughout the state, have incurred enormous financial costs to treat water contaminated by nitrates. Buffers may present  farmers with costs of their own, but even prior to the law, a large majority of farmers already implemented buffers. Working to combat runoff pollution by leveling the playing field for farmers is a fair and reasonable policy.

Much more action is needed to restore and improve Minnesota’s water quality and make drinking water safe and accessible for all residents. The buffer law is a helpful step in the right direction, and we commend Minnesota farmers and communities for taking on this clean water challenge.


From the Loon Commons Blog: Stop the “Poison Our Waters Act” before we poison ourselves

Contributed by Julia Fritz-Endres, Macalester student — When was the last time you swam in a lake, splashed in a stream, or drank tap water from your sink? Chances are, you have interacted with surface or groundwater at least once today. Water is omnipresent in our lives, and it is essential to our survival. When our water sources are contaminated, we pay the consequences. For a state proud to call itself the ‘land of 10,000 lakes,’ Minnesota is struggling to keep its lakes clean and healthy. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, about 40% of water bodies in the state are ‘impaired,’ meaning that they fail to meet water quality standards. Many of the pollutants impairing these waters come from pesticides, which can increase health risks when highly concentrated. >>Read More.

Tour highlights unique hydrology

(From Winona Post) — The first stop on a tour of the Ahrensfeld Creek watershed last weekend wasn’t even in the watershed. It was quarry a few miles away where a key feature affecting local water quality could be clearly seen in the cliff-like wall of the quarry: joints and fissures in the bedrock and a big hole where slightly acidic rainwater had dissolved a tunnel through the limestone bedrock. 
“That’s a karst feature,” Winona State University geology professor Dylan Blumentritt said, pointing to the hole and using the catch-all term for a range of underground phenomena in Southeast Minnesota, including sinkholes, springs, seeps, and disappearing streams. The maze of underground passageways makes it hard for scientists to predict how groundwater will flow. >>Read More.


Photo credit: NASA

Senate may move forward on dangerous VIDA law

Next week, the US Senate is considering a vote on a Coast Guard funding bill with a dangerous attachment: the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, or VIDAThis act would strip away at Clean Water Act protections used by the EPA and state authorities to fight invasive species and pollution. It would expose our communities and water resources to future economic and ecological threats.

Invasive species, like the zebra mussels, are already costing our economy billions and hurting the lakes we love. This bill would do harm to waters throughout the United States. The dangers of VIDA go far beyond Minnesota, so no matter where you live, call your Senators at 202-224-3121, and tell them to send the Coast Guard bill back to committee until the VIDA bill is removed.

 


               

Judge OKs environmental assessment of proposed Enbridge pipeline

(From Star Tribune) — The state’s environmental assessment of Enbridge’s proposed new Line 3 oil pipeline — heavily criticized by pipeline opponents — has been approved by a state judge. The environmental impact statement (EIS), done by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, was deemed “adequate” in a ruling released Wednesday by Eric Lipman, an administrative law judge.  The EIS made no recommendations. Rather, the August report assessed potential environmental damage from the proposed 340-mile pipeline that would replace Enbridge’s current Line 3. >>Read More.

Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 expansion is controversial for good reason

(From MinnPost) — The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s unfortunate cancellation of two public hearings in St. Cloud on Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 expansion denied the public a vital opportunity to provide input on a deeply important agency decision. The Minnesota Department of Commerce’s recent finding that Line 3 is “not needed” only confirms what we already know: Tar sands pipelines are inherently dangerous and increasingly unnecessary. Enbridge spilled over a million gallons of tar sands crude into the Kalamazoo River in 2010. That cleanup has now cost over $1 billion – but a million gallons is a fraction of what Enbridge would be transporting every day through the expanded Line 3. Make no mistake, this proposal is a pipeline expansion. >>Read More.

MEP Releases Line 3 Fact Sheet

To provide policymakers and journalists with a nuanced  understanding of the risks and economics of Line 3, MEP has released a fact sheet on the pipeline, and why it is unneeded and hazardous for Minnesota. We also debunk other myths about this proposal and clarify why Line 3’s supposed benefits to Minnesota are outweighed by its risks.

 


           

photo credit: Pioneer Press

Izaak Walton League’s View: Near Boundary Waters, 2-year review a reasonable consideration

(From Duluth News Tribune) — On Sept. 7, U.S. Reps. Rick Nolan and Tom Emmer passed an 11th-hour amendment to the federal omnibus appropriations bill that would defund an ongoing U.S. Forest Service environmental review to investigate the impacts of copper-nickel mining on the watershed that contains the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Known as the most toxic industry in America by the EPA, hardrock mining in sulfide ore has a track record for causing serious water pollution and deserves thorough review before allowing it in one of the most pristine watersheds in the country. >>Read More.

Stop the sweetheart public land deal to PolyMet

Congress may vote soon on a bill – HR 3115 – to give PolyMet one heck of a deal on over 6,000 acres of National Forest land. PolyMet wants the land for its proposed copper-nickel sulfide mine. Sulfide mining is different from iron-ore mining and has never before taken place in Minnesota.

HR 3115 cheats taxpayers by undervaluing the land, circumventing court challenges and undermining bedrock environmental laws. Speak out here!


                

Empowered to skip the grid: Renewable energy org makes global connections

(From Brainerd Dispatch) — When surgeons at Phebe Hospital in Liberia enter the operating theater, they wear miners’ headlamps and bring cellphones. Intermittent failure of diesel generators powering the health care facility makes these tools invaluable for illuminating patients’ bodies, allowing doctors to complete surgical procedures. Sometimes, power must be shut down to conserve fuel. During the wet season, roads to the hospital can become impassable, making fuel deliveries impossible. This expensive and unreliable electricity source was once all that was available for a hospital serving nearly 500,000 people in central Liberia. That changed this spring, when Backus-based Rural Renewable Energy Alliance helped install a solar microgrid system alongside some of the hospital’s staff and other locals. >>Read More.

 


Weekly Outdoor Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!            

1. Name any of the city of St. Paul’s three largest lakes.

2. What turtle, found in Minnesota, is known for having a shell that resembles a cartographic item?

3. Three north American watersheds meet at the Hill of Three Waters near what northern Minnesota city?


Upcoming Environmental Events

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Conservation Information Manager IV | The Nature Conservancy

Regional Policy Director, West | Wind on the Wires

Managing Director, Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition | Environmental Initiative

Events Coordinator | Environmental Initiative

Communications Director | Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness

Organizing Representative – Twin Cities | Sierra Club

Partnership Coordinator | Fresh Energy

Managing Editor, Energy News Network | Fresh Energy

State Policy Community Organizer | Land Stewardship Project

See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Pig’s Eye, Phalen, and Como. 2) False map turtle 3) Hibbing


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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.

Student Voices Column: Stop the “Poison Our Waters Act” Before We Poison Ourselves

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The Minnesota Environmental Partnership is proud to feature the following post as part of a series of columns as part of a Student Voices Series issues. This is part of a continuing collaboration with Macalester College’s Geography Department and its students.

Contributed by Julia Fritz-Endres, Macalester student:

When was the last time you swam in a lake, splashed in a stream, or drank tap water from your sink? Chances are, you have interacted with surface or groundwater at least once today. Water is omnipresent in our lives, and it is essential to our survival. When our water sources are contaminated, we pay the consequences.

For a state proud to call itself the ‘land of 10,000 lakes,’ Minnesota is struggling to keep its lakes clean and healthy. According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, about 40% of water bodies in the state are ‘impaired,’ meaning that they fail to meet water quality standards. Many of the pollutants impairing these waters come from pesticides, which can increase health risks when highly concentrated.

The only way that we can hope to track the use of pesticides near water bodies, and to prevent dangerous amounts of pesticides from entering our bodies, is to stop mass dumping of those chemicals. The good news is that the Clean Water Act currently requires pesticide permits nation-wide for anyone planning to spray pesticides near bodies of water. This permit requirement helps to keep Minnesotan lakes clean, and allows the Minnesotans to track what pesticides do enter their waterways.

The bad news? Ohio Representative Bob Gibbs has proposed the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act, which aims to do away with the permit requirement entirely. Nicknamed the “Poison Our Waters Act,” the bill would allow anyone to spray pesticides into or near any water bodies they choose. On May 24, 2017, the bill was approved by the House of Representatives. The U.S. Senate will vote next on the bill.

If signed into law, the bill would limit all oversight, federal and local, of pesticide spraying. On the federal level, this would undermine the Clean Water Act and the protection of U.S. waterways. In Minnesota, this would reduce the State Government’s ability to notify the public about pesticide contamination in local water bodies, including groundwater and wells. For a state like Minnesota, which is already struggling to keep its waters clean, the “Poison Our Waters Act” would be a huge step backward.

The act may also increase health problems across the state. A survey conducted by the United States Geological Survey found that atrazine, a popular pesticide in Minnesota, is found most commonly in water bodies of the Midwest. The Environmental Protection Agency states that atrazine is a highly dangerous chemical that increases one’s likelihood of developing cancer and reproductive problems. If permits are not required for using harmful chemicals, anyone can spray large quantities of atrazine without repercussion.

Why do some lawmakers want to pass the “Poison Our Waters Act,” knowing that it may have detrimental effects on public health? Some argue that the bill would protect farmers’ rights by reducing burdens on their pesticide usage. However, the permit requirement does not apply to runoff from land-based agriculture and other non-point sources of pollution. Farmers have no burdens to begin with. The bill would actually increase burdens on farmers by polluting water bodies that everyone (including farmers) rely upon.

Either the proponents of this bill are ignorant of its health costs, or they are willing to accept those consequences in order to benefit pesticide companies supporting the bill. The latter seems far more likely. They want to help pesticide companies make money, even if that means limiting public knowledge of pollution and crippling Minnesota’s ability to protect its water.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will vote next on the bill. Contact your representatives and tell them to vote no on the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act. This is our opportunity to stand up, to protect one of our most vital natural resources, and to take action against those who want to restrict public knowledge and poison our waters.

Further reading: House Passes Bill Nicknamed “Poison Our Waters Act”

Letter to Congress: Oppose HR 3115, the PolyMet land swap bill

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October 30, 2017

Honorable Paul Ryan                                                                      Honorable Nancy Pelosi
The Speaker of the House of Representatives                            House Minority Leader
H-232 Capitol Building                                                                   H-2404 Capitol Building

Washington, DC 20515                                                                   Washington, DC 20515                  

 

Dear Speaker Ryan and Minority Leader Pelosi:

The undersigned groups strongly oppose HR 3115, and ask you to join us in opposing this legislation.

HR 3115, sponsored by Rep. Rick Nolan of Minnesota, would compel the U.S. Forest Service to exchange 6,650 acres of contiguous National Forest land with PolyMet Mining Corp. for a proposed open pit copper-nickel sulfide ore mine. The PolyMet mine is deeply controversial and poses a threat to water quality, exceptional wetlands, endangered species, and Treaty-reserved rights and resources. Recent polling shows that a majority of Minnesotans are opposed to the proposal.  

If it passes, HR 3115 would set a terrible precedent across the United States.  HR 3115 undercuts due process, undermines bedrock environmental laws, and undervalues public land.

Undercuts due process – There are currently four separate lawsuits pending against the PolyMet land exchange. These lawsuits address issues that tens of thousands of citizens have raised in public comments on the environmental review of PolyMet’s proposed mine.  If passed, HR 3115 would substitute political judgment for the deliberative judgment of the federal court system. It is rare and highly unusual for the U.S. Congress to intervene in a land exchange while the courts are considering whether that land exchange is legal.

Undermines bedrock environmental laws – The lawsuits filed against the PolyMet land exchange argue the exchange violates bedrock U.S. environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.  The land in question is home to the threatened Canada Lynx and was acquired under the Weeks Act, which prohibits open pit mining on this National Forest land. HR 3115 would prevent federal courts from upholding these laws in this exchange – in effect repealing them for PolyMet and for future proposals that would seek the same exemption. 

Undervalues public land – One core principle of public land exchanges is that the public must benefit. In this case, 6,650 acres of contiguous public land, including thousands of acres of irreplaceable wetlands at the headwaters of the largest U.S. tributary to Lake Superior were valued for exchange at a paltry $550 per acre. The appraiser was specifically instructed to ignore the fact that a mining company wants to mine this site when valuing the land. There is a long and sordid history of public land giveaways to industry in the U.S., and the public suffers when resources are traded away at bargain basement prices.   

PolyMet’s mine proposal has not received a single federal or state permit and may never be in a position to use the lands proposed for exchange, yet HR 3115 would transfer National Forest lands to this mining company. Congress should let the federal courts do their job, uphold bedrock laws enacted to protect public lands, endangered species and the environment, and reject HR 3115.

Sincerely,

Minnesota Groups:

Alliance for Sustainability

Clean Water Action of Minnesota

Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness

Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest

Honor the Earth

Humming for Bees

Izaak Walton League – Minnesota Division

League of Women Voters Duluth
League of Women Voters Minnesota

Mankato Area Environmentalists

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Minnesota Ornithologist’s Union

MN350

Pollinator Friendly Alliance

Renewing the Countryside

Save Lake Superior Association

Save Our Sky Blue Waters

Sierra Club North Star Chapter

Voyageurs National Park Association

WaterLegacy

Wetland Action Group

 

Regional & National Groups:
American Rivers

Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project

Center for Biological Diversity

Conservation Congress

Deer Tail Press

Earthjustice

Earthworks

Environmental Justice Coalition for Water

Freshwater Future

Friends of Bell Smith Springs

Friends of the Bitterroot

Friends of the Clearwater

Friends of the Land of Keweenaw (FOLK)

The Front 40

Great Old Broads for Wilderness – Boise Chapter

Heartwood

Impact Fund

Information Network for Responsible Mining

John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community

Kootenai Environmental Alliance

Mining Impact Coalition of Wisconsin

MiningWatch Canada

National Parks Conservation Association

Northwood Alliance Inc.

Rock Creek Alliance

Save Our Cabinets

Sequoia ForestKeeper

Sierra Club National

Sierra Club John Muir Chapter

Silver Valley Community Resource Center

Swan View Coalition

The Lands Council

Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition

WildEarth Guardians

Wilderness Watch

Wisconsin Resources Protection Council

Yellowstone to Uintas Connection

 

cc:           Honorable Timothy Walz
Honorable Jason Lewis
Honorable Erik Paulson
Honorable Betty McCollum
Honorable Keith Ellison
Honorable Thomas Emmer
Honorable Collin Peterson
Honorable Richard Nolan
Honorable Amy Klobuchar
Honorable Al Franken
Honorable Chuck Schumer
Honorable Rob Bishop
Honorable Raul Grijalva
Honorable Mark Pocan
Honorable Steny Hoyer