By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership
On Thursday, a group of Minnesota businesses and MEP member group Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of the Interior over its reinstatement of expired mineral leases for Twin Metals. Twin Metals is proposing to use these mineral rights to open and operate a copper-nickel sulfide mine on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The plaintiffs contend that the reinstatement of the leases is both unlawful under U.S. water protection policy and an imminent threat to their businesses, which rely on the health of the Boundary Waters as a foundation of Minnesota’s recreation economy.
Indeed, Twin Metals would bring numerous hazards to northern Minnesota’s economy and livability. Any mining operation brings disruptions to local communities and ecosystems in the form of new private roads and railways, water and power consumption, and habitat destruction. But sulfide mining – never before done in Minnesota — presents much more serious risks. Sulfide mines produce sulfuric acid drainage, a particularly dangerous pollutant that can render water undrinkable and toxic to the surrounding humans and wildlife.
Acid mine drainage – photo credit: NASA
There has never been a sulfide mine that has not polluted surrounding waters, and Twin Metals (similarly to PolyMet in the Lake Superior watershed) has offered no adequate assurances that the Boundary Waters watershed would be protected. That’s largely due to the fact that an inevitable acid spill would be almost certain to spread and prohibitively difficult to clean up. This wilderness has a uniquely interconnected system of waters, leaving it vulnerable in the face of such an unprecedented disaster.
That vulnerability – and the importance of the Boundary Waters to Minnesota’s people and economy – is at the heart of this lawsuit. A wilderness contaminated by acid would no longer be a wilderness, and would no longer remain the beating heart of Minnesota’s recreation economy.
Said Steve Piragis, a business owner in Ely: “It would not take long for the recreational economy we have worked so hard to develop for many decades in Ely to be severely affected. My business will suffer.”
The framing of the sulfide mining debate in Minnesota as a jobs versus environment argument belies the real values at stake – and the fact that existing Minnesota businesses rely on clean water and pristine wilderness. Our recreation economy directly generates billions of dollars in consumer spending and over 100,000 jobs. In order to maintain these economic resources, we must firmly protect our natural resources – the lands and waters that provide for our communities, keep our ecosystems in balance, and draw thousands of people to experience our northern wilderness.
We urge state and federal regulators to recognize the value of Minnesota’s waters and keep this temporary sulfide mine from permanently harming our communities.
Location: Saint Paul
Job overview and requirements
Are you the type of person who has been successful working collaboratively in coalitions across different interests, specifically with diverse and traditionally underrepresented voices in energy? Would you enjoy engaging others in developing and implementing creative and inclusive solutions around equitably advancing clean energy in Minnesota? Do you want to be challenged at work, have a lot of fun, be inspired frequently, and make a significant impact at an innovative nonprofit working on electrifying our economy to reduce carbon emissions and benefit all Minnesotans?
Fresh Energy is hiring a full-time policy associate to join our Energy Performance team working on Energy Access & Equity. This position will actively support and sometimes lead on activities in this program area. Examples of current projects include the Saint Paul Tenant-Landlord Energy Project, a unique joint partnership with Community Stabilization Project, and collaborative work with environmental justice groups to improve air quality and reduce demand for oil through electrification of transportation. We’re looking for someone who is visionary, yet pragmatic, to help us create a clean energy future that benefits all. If you have experience in this area, thrive on engaging with others, and have a results-oriented approach, please read on!
For more than 26 years, Fresh Energy has been speeding Minnesota’s transition to a clean energy economy to ensure that our region enjoys good health, a vibrant economy, and thriving communities today and for generations to come. Our mission is to shape and drive realistic, visionary energy policies that benefit all. Together we are working toward a vision for an economy we thrive in and energy that ensures our well-being.
Strong energy policy is creating new options for Minnesotans to reap the benefits of solar power, smart efficiency, electric transportation, and more. As our state shifts to a cleaner energy economy, it is vital to ensure that no one is left behind. Over the last four years, Fresh Energy has been expanding its work to look at not just how much wind, solar, and efficiency we have in our state but also who benefits. Fresh Energy is doubling down on this work through our new Energy Access and Equity program area. The program houses our work to create and expand clean energy opportunities for under-resourced households and renters and ensure that equity is at the heart of our efforts. Fresh Energy will continue to focus on providing policy and technical expertise, actively partnering with community and equity-focused organizations to identify and secure inclusive solutions.
Director, Energy Performance
- Policy and Programs:
- Actively support, and sometimes lead, activities related to the development and implementation of key projects. (Current examples include the Saint Paul Tenant-Landlord Energy Project and collaborative work with environmental justice groups to improve air quality and reduce demand for oil through electrification of transportation.)
- Represent Fresh Energy in key equity- and environmental justice-focused coalitions.
- Explore opportunities to engage in local advocacy work, potentially including specific efforts in Minneapolis.
- Support Energy Markets staff in work related to electric vehicles and environmental justice.
- Support Energy Performance team in broader policy work as needed.
- Make written and oral presentations to collaborators, community groups, policy makers, and other stakeholders as part of the program’s outreach and advocacy functions.
- In collaboration with the communications department, create and publish reports, white papers, web content, e-newsletters, and other program information. When appropriate, work to optimize media coverage of program goals, activities, and successes; this may include media interviews as well as writing op-ed pieces, and also includes the recruitment and training of effective messengers.
- Support the creation and management of the annual budget for the program.
- Participate in culture of collaboration and model our core values.
- In collaboration with the development staff, participate in fund development and relationship building efforts.
- Work effectively in the context of your immediate team, the broader Fresh Energy team, and with external partners; enhance collaboration by maintaining good communication, seeking and respecting diverse viewpoints, engendering trust, fulfilling responsibilities, and ensuring that all team members and their contributions are valued.
- Model behavior and contribute to a culture that is consistent with Fresh Energy’s core values; A critical part of achieving our mission is by living the values we endorse.
- Other duties as assigned.
Our hiring process and timeline
- We will review applications on a rolling basis until the position is filled.
- Our hiring team will select finalists to interview in-person.
- Finalists will be invited to a second-round interview; at that time, we will ask for three references and two work samples relevant to this position, e.g. a technical paper, a professional writing sample, or other relevant materials.
- Ideally the selected candidate would begin work in early August.
- Fresh Energy’s Equal Opportunity Employer Policy reflects our commitment to ensure equality, treat everyone with respect, and promote diversity in the workplace.
- Bachelor’s Degree plus two years of experience in energy, economics, technology, or related field.
- Demonstrated experience working collaboratively in coalitions of stakeholders across different interests. Leadership within coalitions a plus.
- Proven success working closely with diverse and underrepresented voices.
- Ability to develop, implement, and advocate for creative and inclusive solutions and strategies to equitably advance clean energy in Minnesota.
- Ability to conduct rigorous research and compile findings into easily digested and compelling formats.
- Self-starter who is able to work independently.
- Planful and results-oriented.
- Excellent interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence.
- Demonstrated ability to manage and prioritize multiple projects in a fast-paced environment.
- Strong written and verbal communication skills.
- Solid computer skills in Windows environment, including MS Office.
- Team player who desires working in an environment where working as a team is valued and practiced.
- Ability to work occasional evenings/weekends is required.
- Persons in this position frequently lift, carry, push and/or pull objects weighing up to 20 pounds. They occasionally move objects weighing up to 50 pounds.
- Master’s Degree in related field, Juris Doctor, or other advanced degree.
- Demonstrated experience leading advocacy efforts related to equity and inclusion, environmental justice, community organizing, or related fields.
- Experience presenting before regulators, policymakers, utilities, and other key stakeholders.
- Experience developing communications to drive awareness of key issues, such as blog posts, research papers, social media, press statements, and/or video.
Compensation and benefits
- Starting salary range: $40,000-47,000 based on experience.
- Full-time, exempt position, working 40 hours per week. We believe in work-life balance and are committed to keeping the workload in alignment with the true hours worked.
- 24 days of PTO (increases each year of employment), 14 paid holidays, and a flexible, family-friendly schedule; plus summer Fridays, the office closes at noon.
- We provide medical and dental plans, additional voluntary vision, short- and long-term disability, life, AD&D insurance, and 5 percent of annual salary contribution to 403(b) retirement plan after one year. In addition, we incentivize transit, biking, and walking, offering a dollar for dollar bus pass match, a free annual NiceRide subscription, $1 for each trip to and from work by bike or walk, and an indoor bike storage area and showers.
- We foster a respectful, collaborative, and fun work environment.
E-mail cover letter and resume to Jillian Theuer at firstname.lastname@example.org. No phone calls, please.
By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership
This month is shaping up to be a big one for the health of Minnesota’s water, land, and communities. Last week, the staff of the Public Utilities Commission released nonbinding recommendation that the proposed Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline be approved, and that its new route should be favored as the least harmful to the environment. While this report is disappointing and contrary to the Department of Commerce’s conclusion that Line 3 is not needed by Minnesotans, it is also not the end of the story: the PUC’s five Commissioners are scheduled to make their final decision by the end of June.
Meanwhile, Minnesota’s U.S. Senators have attached an amendment to the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act that would force through the land exchange for the PolyMet sulfide mine in northern Minnesota. The land exchange – which would trade public land with PolyMet’s parent company at bargain prices – is already scheduled to conclude on June 28. But it is contingent on four pending lawsuits filed to stop it, and could be suspended depending on the legal outcome. The amendment to the National Defense Act in Congress would eliminate the lawsuits and push PolyMet toward becoming a reality.
These two projects, though focused on different activities, represent two sides of the same coin: the devaluing and misuse of northern our state’s critical land and water resources, despite strong opposition from majorities of Minnesotans.
Both have created unprecedented debates
Line 3 is a replacement of an old line that would increase its capacity by doubling the number of barrels per day, delivering toxic Alberta tar sands oil across Minnesota. State and federal laws were written largely to favor pipeline construction, and the PUC has historically rubber-stamped these proposals. But in the wake of controversies like Dakota Access and Keystone XL and with the broader understanding of the increasing effects of climate change, the PUC has heard testimony from thousands of Minnesotans. It’s clear that such dangerous pipelines are no longer considered a no-brainer.
PolyMet is unprecedented in its own way – sulfide ore mining has never been conducted in Minnesota, and it has never been conducted in any location with freshwater resources without leaving acid pollution in its wake. Minnesota has a long-held tradition of iron ore mining, but sulfides are a breed apart. A mine waste spill at the PolyMet site would result in pollution that would harm the area for decades even if it occurred long after the mine ceased operations.
Both would trample over indigenous rights
The PolyMet mine would lie in the St. Louis River watershed upstream from Lake Superior. Downstream the St. Louis River flows through the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation. The Ojibwe of this reservation depend on the St. Louis River’s water and fishing resources for their health, well-being and guaranteed cultural rights. The fish in the watershed have already been contaminated by sulfates and mercury that threaten human health – the addition of acid drainage pollution in the likely event of a mine spill at some point would be an even greater blow.
Throughout the Line 3 debate, the Leech Lake Band and Ojibwe tribal members throughout Minnesota have condemned this pipeline proposal as a violation of their treaty rights, their culture, and the viability of their communities. A tar sands oil spill from this pipeline into the vulnerable waters it would cross would be catastrophic for the water and wild rice resources on which the Ojibwe rely.
Both have been falsely framed as the economy versus the environment
Minnesota’s most basic and vital resource is our supply of clean water. The health of our communities and the livelihoods of thousands of Minnesota residents and businesses depend on the safety of our lakes and rivers. An accident on Line 3 or at PolyMet would create tremendous financial burdens on Minnesotans. We can’t afford to continue piling up risks to our water and moving backwards on climate action by approving such projects. If these projects are approved, Minnesotans will end up paying the costs for generations after the few temporary jobs on Line 3 and PolyMet have disappeared.
We urge state officials and our United States Senators to consider the future of Minnesota and reject these ill-conceived and dangerous proposals.
By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership
This week, leaders in the Minnesota House and Senate formally filed their resolutions to delay Minnesota’s draft Groundwater Protection Rule after having voted to do so near the end of the 2018 Legislative Session. This unprecedented measure, if upheld by Minnesota’s court system, could put the completion of the rulemaking process on hold, delaying much-needed action to protect Minnesota’s drinking water. However, the Dayton Administration has signaled its resolve to continue moving forward, and an actual delay is anything but certain.
The proposed rule
The draft rule proposed by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) would finally begin to implement the regulatory authority of the 1989 Groundwater Protection Act to safeguard Minnesota’s groundwater from nitrate pollution. Nitrates in our water are increasingly common and are creating an expensive health problem for Minnesota communities and well owners, many of whom spent thousands of dollars to dig new wells to avoid contaminated water. Nitrates can cause blue baby syndrome in infants and are linked to certain cancers. They originate from various sources, but the largest is fertilizer runoff from row-crop agriculture.
The MDA rule proposes a modest but important framework to reduce nitrate runoff from cropland in vulnerable areas. First, it restricts fall and winter fertilizer application on vulnerable soils that make up only 12.6% of Minnesota’s farmland. Second, it promotes voluntary best management practices to reduce nitrate levels in at-risk community wellhead protection areas, accounting for 0.45% of Minnesota’s farmland. These educational efforts can then convert to requirements if water pollution levels do not decline.
The Legislative delay (or lack thereof)
This rule has been developed with input from farmers, scientists, stakeholders, and communities across the state, and continues to be adjusted based on public comments. The Legislature’s attempt to use an obscure law to block the rule’s implementation seems designed to ultimately block the rule and thereby the reasonable water protections it would afford to thousands of Minnesotans.
Fortunately, at a press conference at the end of the session, Governor Dayton announced that he directed the state’s Commissioner of Agriculture to proceed with the rulemaking. “We don’t believe that that action is even constitutional – it’s certainly ill-advised,” Dayton said. He added, “We’re not making this stuff up. It’s about protecting the safety of Minnesotans when they turn on their faucet.”
How to speak up on the Groundwater Protection Rule
The MDA is moving forward with continued community dialogue on the rule throughout June and July, with a public comment period to close on July 26. We encourage all Minnesotans with a stake in this issue to attend one of the informational meetings or July public hearings or comment online on the rule to help ensure that it protects the public interest. Minnesota is long overdue for action to protect our precious groundwater and drinking water supplies. This rule is an opportunity to work together to ensure that all Minnesotans can feel secure when they turn on the tap.
By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership
With Governor Mark Dayton’s final vetoes and bill signatures this week, the 2018 Minnesota legislative session ended with successes, losses, and missed opportunities for Minnesota’s environment. Thanks to the Governor’s veto, bad legislation like the Line 3 giveaway bill and the wild rice standard roll back, didn’t become law – critical victories for Minnesota’s land, air and water. And the bill blocking the Groundwater Protection Rule didn’t reach the Governor’s desk. We thank all Minnesotans who spoke up to make sure this and other bad legislation would not threaten our natural resources.
Unfortunately, critical projects to boost our health and our great outdoors – like Forever Green and the Working Lands Watershed Restoration Program – were left underfunded this year. Worse still, the Legislature passed a raid in the bonding bill on the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. The ENRTF uses state lottery proceeds to fund innovative research and projects aimed at solving Minnesota’s pressing environmental challenges. The bonding bill signed into law would spend this money on basic services – like infrastructure and waste projects – that should be paid for with general bonding. This raid poses a long-term threat to the ENRTF and all constitutionally-dedicated funds.
For a full session summary, see MEP’s 2018 legislative wrap-up.
Looking to Minnesota’s future
Fortunately, the end of the session left the MDA’s Groundwater Protection Rule process intact, keeping it on track to be finalized this year, with opportunity for citizen input online or at hearings during the summer. MEP will continue to engage with the Department of Agriculture and local leaders to work toward a long-term solution to nitrate pollution in our drinking water.
This month, the Public Utilities Commission is concluding its review of Line 3 at several hearings and deciding whether to grant Enbridge’s pipeline a certificate of need. We call on Minnesotans to speak up at those hearings, and we ask the PUC to recognize that Minnesota does not need this pipeline.
And with the Governor’s office and the future of the Legislature hanging in the balance in the 2018 election, we’ll be working to educate the candidates and prepare our Coalition to bring a positive environmental vision in 2019.
We thank all those who contacted their representatives, joined us at our events, and followed the session with us in 2018. And we urge Minnesotans to keep speaking up on the environmental issues that affect us all!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 30, 2018
Sara Wolff, Advocacy Director
Minnesota Environmental Partnership
This morning, Governor Mark Dayton announced his veto of the Wild Rice Bill, which would have taken Minnesota backward on protecting this important resource.
This bill would not have protected wild rice or set up a system of reasonable steps to do so in the future. It would have done nothing to invest in developing new technologies to clean up and prevent sulfate pollution in our waters. And it would have expressly allowed new industries like sulfide mining to add sulfate pollution without having to invest in implementing any sulfate control technologies. Under current law, new dischargers upstream of wild rice waters would have to control their sulfates.
This bill threatened water and wild rice resources that are important to all Minnesotans and especially critical to the culture and vitality of our state’s native communities.
“We thank Governor Dayton for his veto of this ill-conceived attempt to undermine wild rice protections in Minnesota,” said MEP Executive Director Steve Morse. “We should be continuing an inclusive conversation about how to leverage our resources to protect the future of our wild rice waters. By vetoing this bill, the Governor has ensured that we can continue to have that discussion and work toward a long-term solution.”
About Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Minnesota Environmental Partnership is a coalition of more than 70 environmental, conservation, and civic organizations working together for clean water, clean energy and protection of our Great Outdoors. The Minnesota Environmental Partnership engages state leaders, unites environmental efforts and helps citizens take action for the Minnesota they love.