Insider: February 2, 2018

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Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Minnesotans to Caucus February 6

On Tuesday, February 6, Minnesota’s political parties will hold statewide precinct caucuses – the first step in the parties’ process for endorsing candidates and adopting official positions in their platforms. This is an opportunity for voters to make their voices heard on critical topics and candidates. With Minnesota electing a Governor, two U.S. Senators, and every seat in the State and Federal Houses of Representatives in November, it’s crucial that Minnesotans get all the information they need on the issues.

To help inform voters, MEP and more than twenty of our partner organizations hosted last week’s Our New Environment Governor  Candidates Forum, which got candidates on the record on environmental issues. Twelve leading candidates from the Republican and DFL parties were invited to share their views, but only the six DFL candidates attended the forum. Questions included a wide variety of topics on water, land, air and energy, legacy funding, and cross-cutting issues, and each candidate shared their views and plans for Minnesota’s environment. Thousands of Minnesotans watched the forum in person and online, and the entire event is available to watch online!

We know that the resources Minnesotans care about – like clean water, breathable air, vital pollinators, and healthy, open lands – transcend political divides. Minnesotans can work across the aisle on boosting energy efficiency and renewable sources, keeping water safe and drinkable around the state, and protecting the lands we use to fish, hunt, and explore. We urge Minnesotans of all parties to attend the caucuses and tell local and state leaders to support a clean Minnesota. You can introduce resolutions to swing the parties in support of our natural resources, and talk to your neighbors about the environmental and conservation issues that matter to them.

Find your precinct caucus location on the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website, and show up to speak up on February 6!


Update: Rochester advances net-zero energy goals with benchmarking

(From Midwest Energy News) — After years of planning, Rochester, Minnesota’s ambitious Destination Medical Center is taking shape in a city internationally known as the home of Mayo Clinic. The $5.6 billion public-private partnership aspires to be a “model of sustainability” and help push the city toward its goal of being energy net zero by 2031. Enter Kevin Bright, the city’s new sustainability director. Hired last March, Bright came to Rochester after serving in sustainability positions at Colby College in Waterville, Maine and Harvard University. Part of his charge is advancing sustainability while also preparing the city to absorb as many as 50,000 residents to the city of 114,000 people by 2030. >>Read More.

Tariff on foreign-made solar products could cost Minnesota jobs

(From Star Tribune) — President Donald Trump promised last week that a new 30 percent tariff on foreign-built solar cells and panels will “create jobs in America for Americans.” Curt Shellum, who runs a solar panel installation business in Rochester, doesn’t see it. The tariff comes too late to save Minnesota’s biggest manufacturer of solar panels, which shut its doors in May, and only one solar-panel plant continues to operate in the state. The effect on installers like Shellum, who rely on the foreign producers that make 90 percent of all solar panels, is likely to be higher costs. Some in the industry fear that the tariff could slow the growth of renewable energy by raising prices, a possibility that could cost hundreds of solar jobs in the state. >>Read More.

               

Iowa environmentalists heading to Super Bowl to protest Dakota Access pipeline

(From Des Moines Register) — Iowa environmentalists will flock to the site of Super Bowl LII this weekend to protest the Dakota Access pipeline. Bold Iowa director Ed Fallon said his group would join Indigenous Iowa and others from across the Midwest to protest the four-state pipeline ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl LII game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The activists are accusing U.S. Bank of financing the $3.8 billion pipeline project, which Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners completed in 2017. During construction, environmental groups, farmers and Native Americans vigorously fought against the 1,172-mile oil pipeline, arguing it threatened water supplies, encroached on property rights and ignored the objections of indigenous peoples. >>Read More.

 


Photo credit: CA Bureau of Land Management

Trump administration tears down regulations to speed drilling on public land

(From Washington Post) — The Trump administration is aggressively sweeping aside regulations protecting public land to clear a path for expanded oil and gas drilling. A memorandum from the Interior Department, made public Thursday, directs its field offices “to simplify and streamline the leasing process” so that federal leases to the oil and gas industry can be expedited “to ensure quarterly oil and gas lease sales are consistently held.” According to the memo, which was dated Wednesday, doing so will ease such “impediments and burdens” as months-long environmental reviews that assess the impacts of drilling and potential spills on land and wildlife. The new approach requires the Bureau of Land Management to process a proposed lease within 60 days. Once-mandatory public participation in safety reviews is now left to the discretion of the agency’s field representatives. Public protests of finalized leases will be shortened to 10 days, and a sale can move forward even if disputes are unresolved, according to the memo. >>Read More.

                

Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio join battle to strengthen Asian Carp barrier near Joliet

(From Chicago Tribune) — An interstate partnership has been established to help cover costs of operating a system proposed for a Chicago-area waterway that would help keep invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said Wednesday. The initiative would support upgrades to the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, a key choke point between the carp-infested Mississippi River watershed and Lake Michigan. A $275 million draft plan released last year by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would attempt to block the carps’ path toward the lake with a gauntlet of devices, including an electric barrier, noisemakers and water jets. >>Read More.

Think road salt won’t reach your drinking water? Ask Madison

(From MPR News) — When we toss down the road salt that’s ubiquitous with icy, snowy winters in the North, the salt doesn’t just disappear after it clears up the roads and sidewalks. In fact, it’s starting to get into drinking water in places across the Midwest and New England — posing an emerging threat to water supplies and a health risk for people on sodium-restricted diets or with high blood pressure. “The salt doesn’t just evaporate, it doesn’t break down. Once it’s applied in the environment, it’s got nowhere to go. It goes into the soil, or it goes into the lakes. It doesn’t just disappear,” said Joe Grande, the water-quality manager in Madison, Wis. Madison is one of the more notable cases of drinking water contamination by sodium chloride. >>Read More.

Outdoor events for families celebrate 10th anniversary of Legacy Amendment

(From Fergus Falls Daily Journal) — A series of events celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the pass of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment will take place throughout Minnesota in 2018. The first of these events will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27, at Silverwood Regional Park, 2500 County Road E, St. Anthony.  Adults and kids who attend the Parks and Trails Legacy Celebration at Silverwood Regional Park can try kick-sledding, ice fishing, a snowmobile simulator and other indoor and outdoor activities. Visitors can also hike among art sculptures throughout the park. Between activities, there will be s’mores and other light refreshments around a crackling bonfire. “The pass of the Legacy Amendment was a game-changer for organizations working to support Minnesota’s outstanding system of parks and trails,” said Erika Rivers, director of the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. >>Read More.

 


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. What insect species is Minnesota’s official state butterfly?

2. “Lester” is the name of what official state symbol of Minnesota?

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

Upcoming Environmental Events

Public Meeting on PolyMet Draft Permits – Aurora, February 7
Mesabi East High School, Aurora
Hosted by Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness

Margaret Street Public Hearing, February 7
St. Paul City Hall
Hosted by Transit for Livable Communities-Smart Trips

Public Meeting on PolyMet Draft Permits – Duluth, February 8
Duluth Entertainment Convention Center
Hosted by Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness

2018 Watershed Summit, February 24
Normandale Community College, Bloomington
Hosted by Izaak Walton League – Minnesota Division

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Administrative Assistant | Friends of the Mississippi River
Project & Land Management Technician | Minnehaha Creek Watershed District
Information Technology Coordinator | Honor the Earth
Executive Director | Cannon River Watershed Partnership
Communications & Development Intern | Freshwater Society
Membership & Individual Giving Program Assistant | Land Stewardship Project
Executive Director | West Wisconsin Land Trust and Bayfield Regional Conservancy
Communications Director | Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness
Development and Membership Director | Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness

See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Monarch. 2) State soil. 3) Phalen, Pig’s Eye, and Como


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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.

Insider: January 19, 2018

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Year in Preview and Minnesota’s Gubernatorial Election

2017 was a critical year for our natural resources and human health – with mounting threats to clean water, a drastic decline in pollinator populations, and one of the three hottest years on record around the world among other threats. And 2018 brings with it the continuation of these and other challenges for Minnesota.

  • The permitting process for the hazardous PolyMet sulfide mine proposal continues to move forward, with the comment period on the DNR-issued draft permit to mine open until March 6.
  • The debate over the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline will reach a critical juncture as the Public Utilities Commission considers whether to grant the project the certificate of need it would require to construct the new pipeline across Minnesota’s lands and waters.
  • Legislators will consider whether to raise Minnesota’s renewable energy standard to 50% by 2030, which would spur investments and job growth in clean energy while mitigating carbon emissions.
  • Leaders and lawmakers must determine how to tackle the growing threat of nitrate pollution in Minnesota’s drinking water, and how to address the agricultural impacts that contribute to it.
  • Many more issues concerning public lands, conservation funding, pollinator protection, and other projects will be on the table at the Legislature this year.

With 2018 also seeing the election of Minnesota’s next governor, it’s vital that our state’s voters learn where the gubernatorial hopefuls stand on these issues. That’s why Minnesota Environmental Partnership and our friends and partners in the community are proud to be co-hosting the Our New Environment Forum, where our state’s gubernatorial candidates will have the chance to share their views and plans on these critical issues. We call on all interested citizens to watch and participate!

The forum will take place at 6:30 PM on Wednesday, January 24. The main stage has already run out of tickets, but anyone can sign up to watch the forum live on the web for free, and there are seats with free tickets available at seven satellite locations around the state, with more potentially coming soon – check back with the event page for details!

The Our New Environment Forum is for, by, and of the community, so we encourage Minnesotans to participate and interact. We encourage participants to engage with the forum and the candidates on social media using the hashtag #ONEGovForum. Registered participants will be able to pose and vote on questions using the pigeonhole.at website. The site is currently live and can be accessed with the password LEGACY.

If you’re looking for a way to be engaged on environmental issues and state politics in 2018, this forum is an excellent way to start off the year. Sign up to let us know you’re watching!

Register here!


Minnesota Sands to appeal case against Winona County frac sand ban

(From La Crosse Tribune) — A prospective frac sand company with claims to thousands of acres in southeastern Minnesota intends to pursue its challenge of Winona County’s ban on frac sand mining in a higher court. Minnesota Sands notified the state Court of Appeals Tuesday that it is appealing a District Court judge’s dismissal of its lawsuit. Minnesota Sands and a group of landowners argued that the 2016 mining ordinance violates their constitutional rights by singling out sand used for industrial purposes while allowing mining for construction uses. >>Read More.


photo credit: Pioneer Press

Editorial Counterpoint: No, PolyMet process would set a low bar

(From Star Tribune, contributed by the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy) — Minnesota stands at a crossroads as we consider a permit for PolyMet’s proposed copper-nickel mine. We are being asked to permit an entirely new industry with a long history of ecological and financial disaster. Other countries, states and provinces are learning from recent disasters and changing their policies to improve how mining companies store their waste. Experts hired by the state of Minnesota have warned the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for years to learn from those disasters as well. Unfortunately, the draft PolyMet permit to mine continues to allow the company to store mine waste in a dangerous, outdated way that puts people and water downstream at risk. >>Read More.

PCA agrees on PolyMet draft water quality permit

(From Duluth News Tribune) —  The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is apparently satisfied with a draft water-quality permit for the proposed PolyMet copper mine project, a major permit needed for water pollution discharge at the site. PolyMet on Thursday heralded the draft permit, posted on the PCA website this week, as another step toward the project’s reality. The PCA “has determined there is reasonable assurance that the proposed activities will be conducted in a manner that will not violate applicable water standards,” PCA Commissioner John Linc Stine noted in a letter to the company. Hearings on the PCA water permit will be held jointly with the Department of Natural Resources which earlier this month released PolyMet’s draft permit to mine. Those hearings are set for Feb. 7 in Aurora and Feb. 8 in Duluth. >>Read More.


               

By NOAA numbers, last year was worst for U.S. weather disasters since 1980

(From MinnPost) — If 2017 seemed to you like an unusually awful year for weather and climate catastrophe, your perspective is right on — it was a record-setter, and not just because of hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma. Or the wildfires in California. One of the contributors, in fact, occurred in Minnesota — the hail and high winds of early June that were especially intense in the Twin Cities metro, and are credited with causing losses in the range of $2.4 billion. These findings are freshly issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which since 1980 has been keeping tabs on the tier of weather and climate disasters that cause losses exceeding a billion bucks. >>Read More.


                

photo credit: Minneapolis Parks & Recreation Board

Minnesota lake named for pro-slavery Calhoun gets new name

(From MPR News) —A popular Minneapolis lake named in honor of slavery supporter and former Vice President John Calhoun will get its original American Indian name back, Minnesota officials announced Thursday. Lake Calhoun will be renamed Bde Maka Ska, the Department of Natural Resources announced. The name, which is pronounced beh-DAY’ mah-KAH’ skah and means White Earth Lake, was used by the Dakota people before federal surveyors renamed it in the early 1800s for Calhoun, who was then secretary of war. Official signs around the lake use both names. >>Read More.


UMN study sheds light on plastic sustainability

(From Minnesota Daily) — A study published this month by University of Minnesota researchers identified methods to recycle certain molecules found in plastics. The researchers spent about a year searching for ways to convert plastic materials back to their original molecules for reuse. While these findings could allow for more sustainable plastic use, researchers say consumers shouldn’t expect to see products like recyclable plastic forks in stores in the near future.  Plastics are made of polymers — chains of molecules — which determine physical properties like rigidness, said Marc Hillmyer, director of the University’s Center for Sustainable Polymers. The polymers are typically made from nonrenewable sources, like oil, and don’t break down, he said. >>Read More.

 


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. Of Minnesota’s thirty most populous cities, how many are outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area? Which cities are they?

2. Garden Island State Recreation Area, Minnesota’s northernmost state parks unit, is located in what lake?

3. Approximately what percentage of Minnesota’s energy comes from renewable sources as of 2017?


Upcoming Environmental Events

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Membership & Individual Giving Program Assistant | Land Stewardship Project
Executive Director | West Wisconsin Land Trust and Bayfield Regional Conservancy
Advocacy Director | Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
Director, Legislative Water Commission | MN Legislative Coordinating Commission
Minnesota Campaign Organizer | Clean Water Action
Communications Director | Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness
Green Lands Blue Waters Director | MN Institute for Sustainable Agriculture
Water Resources Technician | Prior Lake – Spring Lake Watershed District
Development and Membership Director | Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
Field Director, MN, ND, SD | The Nature Conservancy
Director of Strategy & Policy, MN, ND, SD | The Nature Conservancy
Managing Director, MN Sustainable Growth Coalition | Environmental Initiative

See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Five – Rochester, Duluth, St. Cloud, Mankato, Moorhead. 2) Lake of the Woods. 3) 21-22%


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.

 

Minnesotans Speak Up on PolyMet Proposal

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photo credit: Pioneer Press

By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

This week, the Department of Natural Resources and Pollution Control Agency held two public hearings on their draft permits for the PolyMet copper-sulfide mining project, and Minnesotans showed up to make their voices heard. While Wednesday’s hearing in Aurora heard mostly pro-mining comments, the Thursday hearing in Duluth saw hundreds of Minnesotans take a stand, with a majority opposed to this hazardous project. Fifty-five people spoke on the proposal, mainly calling on the state agencies to reconsider the permits as issued. Opponents raised serious concerns about the enormous consequences of acid runoff on local water, the dangers the project poses to air quality, and the staggering financial costs of handling the resulting pollution – costs that could impact Minnesotans for centuries.

It is critical that the DNR and PCA take these concerns into account in considering the draft permits. Sulfide mining, unlike traditional iron ore mining, has never been done in Minnesota, and it has never been done without polluting the water and land around it. PolyMet’s reliance on a 40-year-old dam to store waste makes the mine an especially risky project. The draft permits do not adequately address these dangers, or the millions of dollars in costs that Minnesotans would have to pay for centuries of cleanup after the two decades of the mine’s operation.

We thank our partner organizations such as the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Sierra Club North Star Chapter, Friends of the Boundary Waters, and many others for leadership in engaging the public to tell the DNR and PCA  to protect Minnesota’s water resources and downstream communities. And we encourage all concerned Minnesotans to speak up! Though the hearings are over, state agencies will be accepting online comments on the Permit to Mine until March 6 and the PCA permits until March 16. This is the time to make your voice heard for present and future generations of Minnesotans!

Minnesotans to Caucus February 6

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

On Tuesday, February 6, Minnesota’s political parties will hold statewide precinct caucuses – the first step in the parties’ process for endorsing candidates and adopting official positions in their platforms. This is an opportunity for voters to make their voices heard on critical topics and candidates. With Minnesota electing a Governor, two U.S. Senators, and every seat in the State and Federal Houses of Representatives in November, it’s crucial that Minnesotans get all the information they need on the issues.

To help inform voters, MEP and more than twenty of our partner organizations hosted last week’s Our New Environment Governor  Candidates Forum, which got candidates on the record on environmental issues. Twelve leading candidates from the Republican and DFL parties were invited to share their views, but only the six DFL candidates attended the forum. Questions included a wide variety of topics on water, land, air and energy, legacy funding, and cross-cutting issues, and each candidate shared their views and plans for Minnesota’s environment. Thousands of Minnesotans watched the forum in person and online, and the entire event is available to watch online!

We know that the resources Minnesotans care about – like clean water, breathable air, vital pollinators, and healthy, open lands – transcend political divides. Minnesotans can work across the aisle on boosting energy efficiency and renewable sources, keeping water safe and drinkable around the state, and protecting the lands we use to fish, hunt, and explore. We urge Minnesotans of all parties to attend the caucuses and tell local and state leaders to support a clean Minnesota. You can introduce resolutions to swing the parties in support of our natural resources, and talk to your neighbors about the environmental and conservation issues that matter to them.

Find your precinct caucus location on the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website, and show up to speak up on February 6!

#ONEGovForum Gets Candidates On the Record

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Minnesota Environmental Partnership is grateful to everyone who organized, participated in, and watched the Our New Environment Gubernatorial Forum on January 24. This event gave Minnesotans a chance to learn where candidates stand on critical environmental issues facing our state, including the air, land, water, and legacy funding.

Though major party candidates for Governor were invited, only the six leading DFL candidates participated in the forum. Over 250 Minnesotans attended the event in person, and thousands more participated remotely, watching online and proposing and voting for questions. Moderators Elizabeth Dunbar (Minnesota Public Radio) and Dave Orrick (St. Paul Pioneer Press) fielded questions both from policy experts and from members of the public. Questions ranged from candidates’ plans to address agricultural runoff – by far the state’s biggest source of water pollution – to the disproportionate impact of pollution on Minnesota’s people of color.

We appreciate the engagement of Minnesotans in the discussion via Pigeonhole – many important questions were submitted and asked via the website which helped to shape the debate. The night concluded with an informal audience poll, asking participants to pick the candidate who best reflected their environment and conservation priorities. Due to limited bandwidth and the potential for duplicate votes, however, the event’s partners and sponsors cannot endorse the results.

If you weren’t able to watch the forum live, you can watch a video of the event.

In less than two weeks, precinct caucuses for the major parties will begin around the state, and we’ll be sharing tips and strategies Minnesotans can use to help influence policy at the local, district, and state levels. Thank you for staying engaged on environmental issues, and keep it up in 2018!

News Release: Our New Environment Forum Gets Leading Governor Candidates on The Record

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For Immediate Release
Thursday, January 25th, 2018

St. Paul, MN – Six leading candidates for Governor of Minnesota faced tough questions about the state’s environment at Hamline University on Wednesday night. Over 250 Minnesotans attended the event in person, and thousands more participated remotely by proposing and voting for questions on Minnesota’s air, water, land and environmental legacy. The forum gave voters the rare chance to get candidates on the record before the February 6th caucuses.

Moderators Elizabeth Dunbar (Minnesota Public Radio) and Dave Orrick (St. Paul Pioneer Press) fielded questions both from policy experts and from members of the public. Questions ranged from candidates’ plans to address agricultural runoff –by far the state’s biggest source of water pollution– to the disproportionate impact of pollution on Minnesota’s people of color. Speaking to agriculture runoff, Representative Paul Thissen emphasized incentivizing more cover crops and perennials, but also called for better regulatory solutions. Representative Tim Walz, however, cautioned that farmers have to be at the table when regulations are discussed.

The forum also addressed Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment –a key source of funding for clean water, clean air, and public parks around the state– and state funding of environmental protection and infrastructure, generally. Representative Erin Murphy promised to make clean water infrastructure a bonding priority every session, while State Auditor Rebecca Otto and Representative Paul Thissen promised to restore environmental spending to traditional levels.

The forum covered controversial proposals like Enbridge’s Line 3 crude oil pipeline expansion and PolyMet’s Hoyt Lakes sulfide-ore mine. The moderators asked candidates to take clear positions on these projects, but also to provide voters with insight into the reasoning behind their positions. Representative Walz and former St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman expressed some support for the PolyMet mine, while Representative Tina Liebling and State Auditor Otto were firmly opposed.

The candidates did find one area of consensus: each agreed that climate change is real and requires immediate action, with Representative Liebling firmly stating that “climate change is an emergency.” Participants also agreed that environmental equity is a fundamental problem in Minnesota. “We have to make the case to our neighbors that the environment and environmental justice are central,” said Representative Walz.

The night concluded with an informal audience poll, asking participants to pick the candidate who best reflected their environment and conservation priorities. Due to limited bandwidth and the potential for duplicate votes, however, the event’s partners and sponsors cannot endorse the results.

A video of the event is available online.

 

 

Governor Candidates Forum on the Environment January 24

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

With so much at stake for Minnesota’s land, air, and water in today’s political climate, our next Governor will play a crucial role in determining the future of our natural resources and the health of our communities. That’s why Minnesota Environmental Partnership and our friends and partners in the community are proud to be co-hosting the Our New Environment Forum, where our state’s gubernatorial candidates will have the chance to share their views and plans on these critical issues. And we call on all interested citizens to watch and participate!

The forum has already drawn an impressive crowd – so much so that the live stage event at Hamline University is already full! But that doesn’t mean that Minnesotans can’t watch with friends and neighbors. Members of our coalition will be hosting satellite viewing parties where the event will be shown live with no cost of admission! Some satellite locations have limited space, so registration is needed. And for those who prefer to watch from the comfort of their home, the forum will also be streamed online – see the event page for details.

The Our New Environment Forum is for, by, and of the community, so we encourage Minnesotans to participate and interact. Registered participants will be able to pose and vote on questions using Pigeonhole – details to follow. We also encourage participants to engage on social media using the hashtag #ONEGovForum.

If you’re concerned about clean drinking water, renewable energy jobs, community health, sustainable agriculture, and more, please join us in asking candidates what they plan to do about these critical issues. The next few years will be critical for the land we live in, and our next Governor should fully understand how much Minnesotans value our vital resources.

Register here!

Insider: January 12, 2018

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Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Governor Candidates Forum on the Environment January 24

With so much at stake for Minnesota’s land, air, and water in today’s political climate, our next Governor will play a crucial role in determining the future of our natural resources and the health of our communities. That’s why Minnesota Environmental Partnership and our friends and partners in the community are proud to be co-hosting the Our New Environment Forum, where our state’s gubernatorial candidates will have the chance to share their views and plans on these critical issues. And we call on all interested citizens to watch and participate!

The forum has already drawn an impressive crowd – so much so that the live stage event at Hamline University is already full! But that doesn’t mean that Minnesotans can’t watch with friends and neighbors. Members of our coalition will be hosting satellite viewing parties where the event will be shown live with no cost of admission! Some satellite locations have limited space, so registration is needed. And for those who prefer to watch from the comfort of their home, the forum will also be streamed online – see the event page for details.

The Our New Environment Forum is for, by, and of the community, so we encourage Minnesotans to participate and interact. Registered participants will be able to pose and vote on questions using Pigeonhole – details to follow. We also encourage participants to engage on social media using the hashtag #ONEGovForum.

If you’re concerned about clean drinking water, renewable energy jobs, community health, sustainable agriculture, and more, please join us in asking candidates what they plan to do about these critical issues. The next few years will be critical for the land we live in, and our next Governor should fully understand how much Minnesotans value our vital resources.

Register here!



photo credit: Pioneer Press

PolyMet mine, inexorably moving toward approval, will doom more than water

(From Star Tribune) — Despite all the excellent coverage of the PolyMet/NorthMet mine proposal, and despite lengthy comment periods with persistent opposition by environmentally conscious groups, Minnesota is about to move forward with its first open-pit copper and nickel mine (“State outlines its PolyMet permit,” Jan. 6). Not just a little mine to test the waters, mind you, but a mine with a proposed 30 square miles of coverage. As a biologist and scientist — and as a Minnesota citizen — I am heartbroken. Yes, an emotional response, but it is grounded in tremendous concern for future generations. We really aren’t paying enough attention to the irreplaceable losses with these sorts of decisions. >>Read More.

Twin Metals decision part of a much broader initiative

(From The Timberjay) —  Now we know why the Trump administration has been so intent on reshaping America’s courts. For more than a century, governmental decisions have for the most part been made based on facts and law. Sure, politics intercedes at times, and no one would deny that the decision-making gears of the federal bureaucracy grind slowly. But the executive branch of government makes thousands of decisions every month, from administrative to regulatory, most of which the public never hears about, and despite the oftentimes rancid rhetoric of critics, most are sound and based on facts, the law, and a sincere desire to advance the public interest. And that’s a problem for an administration that acknowledges its desire to “blow up” the administrative state and effectively reverse decades of well-established rules, regulations, and protections that previous administrations, of both parties, have put in place. >>Read More.


               

Judge rejects PCA’s proposed sulfate limit for wild rice waters

(From Duluth News Tribune) — A state administrative law judge has flatly rejected a plan by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to abandon the statewide 10 parts-per-million limit for sulfate pollution in wild rice waters in exchange for a lake-by-lake system with varying limits. Administrative Law Judge LauraSue Schlatter, in an 82-page opinion approved by the state’s chief administrative law judge and released Thursday, considered 1,500 written comments on the proposed changes in state law and held five public hearings that drew a combined 300 people. Schlatter ruled against repealing the existing, statewide 10 ppm limit due to the PCA’s “failure to establish the reasonableness of the repeal, and because the repeal conflicts” with the federal Clean Water Act. >>Read More.

Shingle Creek’s cautionary tale for Minnesota’s water

(From MPR News) — Fifty Minnesota lakes and streams are now on the state’s impaired waters list because of too much chloride, mainly from road salt. Excess chloride has widespread implications — everything from affecting aquatic life reproduction to corroding our infrastructure to health problems for humans. As scientists test more Minnesota lakes and streams, they expect to find more with salty problems. Shingle Creek was the first body of water added to the impaired list for too high a chloride concentration. But even 20 years of efforts to curb salt use around the creek haven’t made much of a dent in the amount of chloride in the watershed, illustrating the long-lasting damage salt can leave behind. >>Read More.


           

 Why construction of the Line 3 pipeline in northern Minnesota could happen as soon as this summer

(From MinnPost) — After meetings packed with protesters and more than a year of procedural delays, the decision to green light Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement pipeline could come as early as this summer. Earlier this week, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted unanimously to set an April briefing deadline, provided the state’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project is deemed adequate; the agency narrowly rejected the EIS back in December and asked for four things to be fixed before moving forward. That’s anticipated to happen next month. That means Enbridge could finally be looking at discussions over whether to permit the 1,031-mile U.S.-Canada oil pipeline route as early as May or June. >>Read More.


                

Will millennials step up as hunting and angling continue decline?

(From Star Tribune) —  Most parents of children born between 1946 and 1964 – baby boomers – didn’t worry about whether their kids would hunt or fish. Of course they would. Or, at least, many would. These outdoor traditions dated to the nation’s founding, and had long been embedded in Americans’ aggregate recreational lifestyle. Yet whether hunting and fishing can catch on in significant numbers with more recent generations of Americans is an open question, particularly with the cohort known as millennials, who are now age 19 to 35, give or take. The issue is important for a number of reasons. >>Read More.


Report aims to help small towns mitigate climate change damage

(From Mankato Free Press) — A regional group that has been studying ways communities can better prepare for more turbulent weather amid climate change has a new name but the same focus. The Region Nine Renewable Energy Task Force is now the Southcentral Minnesota Clean Energy Council. Pam Rodewald, who is a Region Nine commissioner, a Courtland City Council member and a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency engineer, said a report developed by Region Nine is aimed at helping small communities take mitigation steps to help them prepare for crises such as worse flooding, more severe droughts, increased wildfires or increased pathogens. >>Read More.

 


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. What state park in Cook County contains Minnesota’s highest waterfall?

2. Approximately what fraction of Minnesota’s land is forest?

3. Bradbury Brook, the earliest dated (7500 BC)  archaeological site in Minnesota, is located near what major lake?


Upcoming Environmental Events

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Executive Director | West Wisconsin Land Trust and Bayfield Regional Conservancy
Advocacy Director | Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
Director, Legislative Water Commission | MN Legislative Coordinating Commission
Minnesota Campaign Organizer | Clean Water Action
Communications Director | Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness
Green Lands Blue Waters Director | MN Institute for Sustainable Agriculture
Water Resources Technician | Prior Lake – Spring Lake Watershed District
Development and Membership Director | Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
Field Director, MN, ND, SD | The Nature Conservancy
Director of Strategy & Policy, MN, ND, SD | The Nature Conservancy
Managing Director, MN Sustainable Growth Coalition | Environmental Initiative

See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Grand Portage State Park. 2) One-third. 3) Lake Mille Lacs. 


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Minnesota Environmental Partnership
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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.

Media Advisory: PolyMet Permit to Mine Released; Environmental Community Maintains Opposition

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MEDIA ADVISORY

For Immediate Release

Friday, January 5, 2018
Contact: Steve Morse, 651.789.0653
Sara Wolff, 651.491.1229

PolyMet Permit to Mine Released; Environmental Community Maintains Opposition
 

January 5, 2018 (Saint Paul, Minn.) – Earlier today, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released the Permit to Mine for the PolyMet open-pit sulfide mining project in Northeastern Minnesota. The PolyMet Sulfide Mine poses a direct threat to Lake Superior and communities downstream, including the Fond du Lac Reservation. Sulfide mining is different from taconite mining, and no mine of this type has operated and closed without pollution to nearby lakes, streams, or groundwater.

The PolyMet mining plan is based on flawed science, and poses the risk of catastrophic failure. The mine will require continuous water treatment of the waste hundreds of years after the mine closes, even though PolyMet only plans to operate the mine for 20 years.

The plan includes reusing a forty year old, leaky dam and storing sulfide mine waste on top of an unstable foundation of old taconite mine waste. If this dam were to fail, mine waste would contaminate the St. Louis River, impacting thousands of people who depend on this water and potentially polluting Lake Superior.

According to a non-partisan poll produced by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership in 2017, 72% of Minnesotans are concerned about runoff from mines threatening to pollute the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior. In the same poll, respondents were asked if they were in favor of or opposed to sulfide mining. 52% reported they were opposed to sulfide mining.1

Below is a statement from Minnesota Environmental Partnership’s executive director Steve Morse on the release of the Permit to Mine:

“This would be Minnesota’s first ever sulfide mining project, and no mine of this type has operated and closed without polluting local waters with acid-mine drainage. This plan relies on outdated technology and a flawed tailings basin. The long-term risks to the safety and health of downstream communities and Lake Superior far outweigh the short-term benefits; the mine will only be operational for 20 years, but will need active water treatment plants for hundreds of years after it closes.”

 


1Minnesota Environmental Partnership; Public Opinion Strategies; Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. “Minnesota Voters’ Environmental Priorities in 2017: Results of a Statewide Voter Survey Conducted Feb 1-5, 2017.” Available here: https://www.mepartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Public_Mining-Polling-results.pdf.

 


1 Minnesota Environmental Partnership; Public Opinion Strategies; Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. “Minnesota Voters’ Environmental Priorities in 2017: Results of a Statewide Voter Survey Conducted Feb 1-5, 2017.” Available here: https://www.mepartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Public_Mining-Polling-results.pdf.

 

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 natural resources. The Minnesota Environmental Partnership engages state leaders, unites environmental efforts, and helps citizens take action for the Minnesota they love.

www.mepartnership.org
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www.twitter.com/MEPartnership
 

 

DNR Releases Draft Permit to Mine for PolyMet

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photo credit: NASA

On January 5, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources marked a major development in the PolyMet debate by releasing a draft Permit to Mine for the sulfide mining project. The permit is one of several that PolyMet would require to move forward with its proposed mine near Hoyt Lakes in Northeastern Minnesota, but its approval would be a major step toward allowing the mining operation to begin. By releasing this draft permit, the DNR has given PolyMet a signal that Minnesota may soon allow it to begin this hazardous project.

The PolyMet mine would be built in the St. Louis River watershed, where its toxic waste would be an ongoing threat to downstream communities like the Fond du Lac Reservation, as well as the waters of Lake Superior. Unlike taconite iron mining in Minnesota, this mine would create acid runoff pollution, which PolyMet intends to store behind a massive forty-year-old dam. The mine would only operate for twenty years, while the dam would have to be maintained indefinitely to prevent a catastrophic spill.

This mine poses a troubling threat to the health and livelihood of Minnesota’s communities. Our state should not be put on the hook for many years of cleanup for the damage to our lands and waters for sulfide mining, which the majority of Minnesotans don’t want to see happen here. Said MEP Executive Director Steve Morse: 

“This would be Minnesota’s first ever sulfide mining project, and no mine of this type has operated and closed without polluting local waters with acid-mine drainage. The plan also relies on outdated technology and a flawed tailings basin. The long-term risks to the safety and health of downstream communities and Lake Superior far outweigh the short-term benefits; the mine will only be operational for 20 years, but will need active water treatment plants for hundreds of years after it closes.”

Fortunately, the fight isn’t over. The DNR has opened a comment period on the draft permit from January 5 to March 6, allowing members of the public to comment on and object to the permit. They will also hold hearings in Aurora on February 7 and in Duluth on February 8. This is a critical time for Minnesotans to speak up! We need to let the DNR know that Minnesotans will not stand for a dangerous sulfide mine that would harm our communities now and for generations to come.