Insider: June 30, 2018

Posted by

Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

PUC approves Line 3 certificate of need and Enbridge’s preferred route through pristine waters

On Thursday, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously to grant a certificate of need to the proposed Enbridge Line 3 replacement oil pipeline, which would deliver Canadian tar sands oil across Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin. The Commission also chose, on a 3-2 vote, to grant Enbridge its preferred pipeline route, which would bypass tribal reservations but travel through Ojibwe treaty land and some of Minnesota’s most pristine and vulnerable waters.

Despite the objections of tribal representatives and environmental attorneys, the commissioners argued that approving the new pipeline would be the environmentally responsible option. They cited Enbridge’s statements that it would continue to operate the existing Line 3 if the replacement were not constructed and argued that the Commission cannot compel the company to cease its operation. However, opponents have pointed out that other state agencies like the Department of Natural Resources and the Pollution Control Agency have the authority and justification to act regarding the existing pipeline.

MEP has previously detailed why Minnesota has no need, economically or otherwise, for this pipeline.The Commission decided that the benefits of Line 3 outweighed the hazards, despite the pipeline’s massive projected carbon emissions, its danger to hundreds of waters along the new route, and its violation of the cultural rights of the Minnesota Ojibwe tribes, four out of five of which oppose the pipeline entirely.

However, as Governor Mark Dayton pointed out in a statement, this pipeline is not yet a done deal. Enbridge must secure various permits in order to begin construction, and organizations like Honor the Earth and the Sierra Club are already beginning to appeal the PUC’s decision. Organizations and citizens around the state have vowed to continue to oppose this pipeline every step of the way.

We thank all the organizations, advocates, and climate intervenors from around the state who have spoken out and continue to raise their voices on the dangers of Line 3. Now is the time to double down on Minnesota’s commitment to moving to a clean, safe, renewable energy economy. Further reading:

Honor the Earth and Sierra Club North Star Chapter Joint Statement
MN350 Statement
Environmental Law and Policy Center Statement


Great Lakes Restoration Initiative needs your input!

The U.S. EPA is in the process of crafting a plan for how it will prioritize federal Great Lakes restoration and protection investments. Restoration projects in Minnesota and other Great Lakes states are helping to restore fish and wildlife habitat, clean up toxic pollution, reduce polluted runoff, and fight invasive species.

On July 12, the EPA will be taking public input in Duluth on how to shape its Great Lakes restoration efforts from 2020-2024. We invite anyone who cares about the health of our Great Lakes to participate! Visit the event page or contact Andrew Slade at andrewhslade@gmail.com for details.


40 Under 40

Nominations open for Midwest Energy News’ 40 Under 40 Awards

Each year, Midwest Energy News recognizes Midwest-based leaders and innovators from all sectors— industry, government, regulatory, business, academia, nonprofit, and advocacy. Those selected are invited to the Honorees Reception in Chicago to celebrate and network with the prestigious advisory committee and past award recipients.

Midwest Energy News is now seeking nominations! Honorees are both self-nominated and nominated by peers. Visit the 40 under 40 web page to nominate a leader you believe is worthy of recognition.


Lawsuits on mining leases near BWCA resist governance by memo and whim

(From MinnPost) — Two more lawsuits were filed this week against the Trump administration’s about-face on Twin Metals Minnesota’s mineral leases at the edge of the Boundary Waters, bringing the total to three.The documents bring some clarity and concision to the tangled procedural history of the leases’ renewals, cancellation and re-granting. And on mining’s threat to area businesses centered on paddling and quiet recreation, they present some compelling illustrations of potential job losses. But perhaps their main value will be the focus they bring to this question: Has ours become a government of whim, or do the law, the rules and settled procedures still matter? >>Read More.


                

Local View: Minnesota’s outdoors need Land and Water Conservation Fund

(From Duluth News Tribune) —  As those of us who call Minnesota home know, we have all benefited greatly from our state’s breathtaking and wild public lands. Whether you enjoy recreating on our public lands or run a business guiding visitors on trips of lifetimes, we’ve all enjoyed access to pristine lands — access that in many areas is possible because of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Land and Water Conservation Fund, or LWCF, has funded conservation and recreation projects over the past 50-plus years. The concept is simple: Invest a portion of offshore drilling royalties toward protecting land, water, and recreation assets around the country. >>Read More.


Help sustain MEP’s work. Donate today!

Do you appreciate our coverage of environmental and conservation issues? You can help sustain MEP’s work with a donation. Your support will help MEP continue educating decision-makers and Minnesotans throughout the state about important issues that impact clean water, clean air, and land conservation. Contributions also provide the financial backing we need to help organize the advocacy efforts of our 70 member organizations and take action through public organizing, media campaigns, lobbying, and research.


Office space available in MEP’s building!

Is your organization in the market for a convenient, comfortable office space in St. Paul? The office suite above MEP’s office at 546 Rice Street is available for lease! The approximately 2200 square ft. space is ideal for a small to midsize nonprofit organization, featuring a kitchen and break area and offstreet parking.

Located in the Capitol-Rice Street neighborhood, it is also within three blocks of the Capitol complex and across the street from the Women’s Building. It is also positioned along bus routes 3, 62, and 67, and a two-minute walk from the Green Line. And perhaps best of all, the new tenant would have good neighbors in MEP’s staff!

The landlord may be open to letting portions or the entirety of the office space to individual organizations. Contact us for details!

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


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. Which lake (which is not among the Great Lakes) is the fourth-largest in North America?

2. How many states have waters that drain into the Mississippi River watershed?

3. Which is the only Midwestern state that does not have waters that drain to the Mississippi?


Upcoming Environmental Events

LSP Potluck Cookout, July 6
Land Stewardship Project Office, Minneapolis

Cover Crops in Western MN workshop, July 10
Howard Stegemen Farm, Benson
Hosted by Land Stewardship Project

Slow Roll St. Paul – Frogtown, July 11
Pilgrim Garden and Frogtown, St. Paul
Hosted by Move MN and Cycles for Change

Pollinator Festival, July 28
Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, St. Paul
Hosted by Lower Phalen Creek Project


Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Energy Efficiency Specialist | MN Chamber of Commerce – Waste Wise and Energy Smart Program
Policy Associate – Energy Access & Equity | Fresh Energy
Conservation Program Manager | Minnesota Land Trust
Education Program Supervisor | Minnesota Trout Unlimited
Senior Policy Associate, Electrification | Fresh Energy
Organizing Representative – Duluth | Sierra Club North Star Chapter
Minnesota GreenCorps AmeriCorps Member | Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Data Manager | Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Program Intern – Summer 2018 | Clean Water Action
Chief Financial Officer | Environmental Initiative
See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Great Bear Lake. 2) 31, plus two Canadian provinces. 3) Michigan.

 


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.

PUC approves Line 3 certificate of need and Enbridge’s preferred route through pristine waters

Posted by

By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

On Thursday, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously to grant a certificate of need to the proposed Enbridge Line 3 replacement oil pipeline, which would deliver Canadian tar sands oil across Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin. The Commission also chose, on a 3-2 vote, to grant Enbridge its preferred pipeline route, which would bypass tribal reservations but travel through Ojibwe treaty land and some of Minnesota’s most pristine and vulnerable waters.

Despite the objections of tribal representatives and environmental attorneys, the commissioners argued that approving the new pipeline would be the environmentally responsible option. They cited Enbridge’s statements that it would continue to operate the existing Line 3 if the replacement were not constructed and argued that the Commission cannot compel the company to cease its operation. However, opponents have pointed out that other state agencies like the Department of Natural Resources and the Pollution Control Agency have the authority and justification to act regarding the existing pipeline.

MEP has previously detailed why Minnesota has no need, economically or otherwise, for this pipeline.The Commission decided that the benefits of Line 3 outweighed the hazards, despite the pipeline’s massive projected carbon emissions, its danger to hundreds of waters along the new route, and its violation of the cultural rights of the Minnesota Ojibwe tribes, four out of five of which oppose the pipeline entirely.

However, as Governor Mark Dayton pointed out in a statement, this pipeline is not yet a done deal. Enbridge must secure various permits in order to begin construction, and organizations like Honor the Earth and the Sierra Club are already beginning to appeal the PUC’s decision. Organizations and citizens around the state have vowed to continue to oppose this pipeline every step of the way.

We thank all the organizations, advocates, and climate intervenors from around the state who have spoken out and continue to raise their voices on the dangers of Line 3. Now is the time to double down on Minnesota’s commitment to moving to a clean, safe, renewable energy economy. Further reading:

Honor the Earth and Sierra Club North Star Chapter Joint Statement
MN350 Statement
Environmental Law and Policy Center Statement

Insider: June 23

Posted by

Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Minnesota businesses take feds to court to protect Boundary Waters from sulfide mining

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.



photo credit: Kurt Haubrich

Would denial of Line 3 project mean more oil trains?

(From MPR News) — Enbridge Energy says its customers want more oil, and if a new pipeline doesn’t bring it to them, it will get there on trains instead. “You’re not stopping any oil from coming out of the ground. They’re putting it on the rails and driving it right next to your elementary schools, right next to your nursing homes, right through small towns all across the state,” Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said during a speech last month. To many, that’s a scary thought. But project opponents, including environmentalists, are skeptical. “There’s no evidence to suggest that we would see more trains,” said Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, who opposes the Line 3 project. >>Read More.

PUC’s final public meetings on Line 3 have been an affront to the concept

(From Star Tribune) — Coverage of the final public meetings concerning a proposed replacement of Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 pipeline in northern Minnesota has missed the opportunity to examine a case of a horribly mismanaged public process. While the Public Utilities Commission is accustomed to sparse turnout for its meetings, concern over climate change, jobs and Native rights has been bringing waves of people to the commission’s St. Paul office for final oral arguments and commission deliberations this week and next. >>Read More.



photo credit: EPA

Fillmore County residents request ‘Yes to EIS’

(From Rochester Post Bulletin) — An estimated 400 people attended a rally and public informational meeting at the Mabel Community Center Tuesday night in response to a proposed hog facility in Fillmore County. Catalpa LLC has proposed a 4,980-swine facility 10 miles east of Harmony. An estimated 7.3 million gallons of liquid manure will be produced annually, stored and spread on approved farms in the area. Due to residents’ concerns over the environmental impact of that scale of production, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency hosted the public meeting. >>Read More.


Xcel Energy land in Burnsville flowers into pollinator habitat

(From Pioneer Press) — Monarch butterflies gained 3 more acres of habitat in Burnsville, thanks to a community partnership seeking to stem steep declines in their population. In a partnership between the city of Burnsville and Xcel Energy, community members and volunteers planted pollinator-friendly plants near Tennisioux Park underneath Xcel Energy transmission lines this week. The effort coincided with National Pollinator Week. The initiative was part of a larger campaign Xcel Energy launched more than a decade ago “to build up the habitat butterflies and bees need to thrive,” Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy-Minnesota said in a statement earlier this week. >>Read More.


                

Minnesota adjusts solar incentives to cover more commercial projects

(From Energy News Network) — State lawmakers doubled the size limit for Xcel Energy’s Solar Rewards program to include projects up to 40 kilowatts. Meanwhile, the utility created a capacity credit that pays business customers a bonus for generating during peak hours. David Shaffer, policy and development director for the Minnesota Solar Electric Industries Association, predicts the changes together could spur up to 200 megawatts of projects and maybe attract new solar companies to the state. “Folks in other states don’t even know it’s happening,” Shaffer said. “No one has yet marketed it.” >>Read More.


Help sustain MEP’s work. Donate today!

Do you appreciate our coverage of environmental and conservation issues? You can help sustain MEP’s work with a donation. Your support will help MEP continue educating decision-makers and Minnesotans throughout the state about important issues that impact clean water, clean air, and land conservation. Contributions also provide the financial backing we need to help organize the advocacy efforts of our 70 member organizations and take action through public organizing, media campaigns, lobbying, and research.


Office space available in MEP’s building!

Is your organization in the market for a convenient, comfortable office space in St. Paul? The office suite above MEP’s office at 546 Rice Street is available for lease! The approximately 2200 square ft. space is ideal for a small to midsize nonprofit organization, featuring a kitchen and break area and offstreet parking.

Located in the Capitol-Rice Street neighborhood, it is also within three blocks of the Capitol complex and across the street from the Women’s Building. It is also positioned along bus routes 3, 62, and 67, and a two-minute walk from the Green Line. And perhaps best of all, the new tenant would have good neighbors in MEP’s staff!

The landlord may be open to letting portions or the entirety of the office space to individual organizations. Contact us for details!

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


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. Which national park is the most-visited in the United States?

2. Which state has the greatest number of national parks?

3. Which national park contains the deepest lake in North America?


Upcoming Environmental Events

Film “The Anthropologist” (about climate change impacts), June 24
Davanni’s in Woodbury
Sponsored by Southeast Metro Climate Action

Mankato Electric Vehicle Charging Strategy Workshop, June 25
AmericInn Hotel and Conference Center, Mankato
Hosted by Fresh Energy

Nicollet Island restoration kickoff information session, June 25
DeLaSalle High School, Minneapolis
Hosted by Friends of the Mississippi River

“Make and Take” Rain Barrel Workshop, June 26
Wellstone Center, St. Paul
Hosted by Friends of the Mississippi River

Film and Speaker on Climate Refugees, June 27
Plymouth Library
Sponsored by Northwest Metro Climate Action

MDA Informational Meeting on Groundwater Protection Rule, June 28
Orville Freeman Building, St. Paul
Hosted by Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Tend the rare prairie at Sand Coulee SNA, June 28
Sand Coulee Scientific and Natural Area, Hastings
Hosted by Friends of the Mississippi River

Pollinator Festival, July 28
Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, St. Paul
Hosted by Lower Phalen Creek Project


Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Policy Associate – Energy Access & Equity | Fresh Energy
Conservation Program Manager | Minnesota Land Trust
Education Program Supervisor | Minnesota Trout Unlimited
Senior Policy Associate, Electrification | Fresh Energy
Organizing Representative – Duluth | Sierra Club North Star Chapter
Minnesota GreenCorps AmeriCorps Member | Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Data Manager | Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Program Intern – Summer 2018 | Clean Water Action
Chief Financial Officer | Environmental Initiative
See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Great Smoky Mountains. 2) California. 3) Crater Lake National Park.

 


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.

Insider: June 16, 2018

Posted by

Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Line 3 and PolyMet: Two pivotal moments for Minnesota waters

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.


Office space available in MEP’s building!

Is your organization in the market for a convenient, comfortable office space in St. Paul? The office suite above MEP’s office at 546 Rice Street is available for lease! The approximately 2200 square ft. space is ideal for a small to midsize nonprofit organization, featuring a kitchen and break area and offstreet parking.

Located in the Capitol-Rice Street neighborhood, it is also within three blocks of the Capitol complex and across the street from the Women’s Building. It is also positioned along bus routes 3, 62, and 67, and a two-minute walk from the Green Line. And perhaps best of all, the new tenant would have good neighbors in MEP’s staff!

The landlord may be open to letting portions or the entirety of the office space to individual organizations. Contact us for details!

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


A rule protecting Minnesota’s groundwater is 30 years in the making. Republicans are fighting it.

(From City Pages) — Minnesota—especially southern Minnesota—has a nitrate problem. Nitrates are commonly found in fertilizers, and when too much of them get into drinking water, it can cause a number of health problems in babies and pregnant women—including “blue baby syndrome,” which lowers the blood’s ability carry oxygen and can be fatal. Almost 10 percent of the wells in vulnerable areas test above the healthy limit, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and the Minnesota Environmental Partnership (MEP) says more than 50 Minnesota communities have “high” nitrate levels in their drinking water. In Winona County, where MEP director Steve Morse lives, 19 percent of the wells tested exceeded safe nitrate levels. >>Read More.


Minnesota launches new online tool to compare state parks and trails

(From Pioneer Press) — Minnesota has a new online tool to help outdoor enthusiasts plan trips to state and regional parks and trails. The Minnesota Great Outdoors website, launched Tuesday, allows park-goers to search a state map of parks and trails and compare amenities. “Previously, you would have to know which office or region managed the park or trail you were looking for. Now, you have a clear, easy-to-navigate launchpad to find all of the information you need to plan your trip,” said Commissioner Tom Landwehr, of the state Department of Natural Resources, in a statement. State officials hope the new website will make it easier for residents to find attractions statewide. >>Read More.



photo credit: Pioneer Press

Congress shouldn’t short-circuit environmentalists’ legal challenge to PolyMet land exchange

(From MinnPost) — America’s federal courts are supposed to be the great equalizer. While the costs of litigation can certainly limit the ability of some to have their day in court, the federal judiciary is, for many, the one guarantor of equal protection under the law — the one place where average Americans can stand equal with powerful corporations or an arbitrary or abusive government agency. But what if only one side of a dispute had access to the courts? It’s not an academic question. It’s a reality that is playing out right now in the U.S. Senate, where Sen. Tina Smith has introduced a rider to an unrelated, must-pass defense bill that is intended to deny environmental groups the right to challenge the proposed PolyMet land exchange in federal court. >>Read More.


                

Red Wing asked to share clean energy success

(From Red Wing Republican Eagle) — Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Jessica Looman was in Red Wing on Monday, June 4, to learn from local leaders about Red Wing’s successful advancement of a clean energy agenda in a rural community. Red Wing received a Minnesota Clean Energy Community Award in 2018 for its Green Wing Energy Action Plan. Red Wing also will soon receive recognition as a Step Five City by the Minnesota GreenStep Cities Program, making it one of only 10 in the state to demonstrate leadership and improvement along certain green energy metrics. >>Read More.

Judge’s ruling against Minnesota wind farm causes alarm for advocates

(From Star Tribune) — A judge’s recommendation that a proposed Minnesota wind farm be nixed over turbine noise has drawn a flurry of opposition from the wind-power industry, which fears a chilling effect on development. In a rare move, Administrative Law Judge LauraSue Schlatter last month recommended that the Freeborn Wind farm be denied an operating permit, saying the southern Minnesota project failed to show it can meet state noise standards. Freeborn Wind’s developer, Invenergy, has objected, saying Schlatter’s interpretation of state noise rules would be “impossible” to meet. >>Read More.


Help sustain MEP’s work. Donate today!

Do you appreciate our coverage of environmental and conservation issues? You can help sustain MEP’s work with a donation. Your support will help MEP continue educating decision-makers and Minnesotans throughout the state about important issues that impact clean water, clean air, and land conservation. Contributions also provide the financial backing we need to help organize the advocacy efforts of our 70 member organizations and take action through public organizing, media campaigns, lobbying, and research.


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. What four locks collectively allow shipping traffic to pass between Lake Huron and Lake Superior?

2. What sport was invented on the waters of Lake Pepin?

3. What MN wildlife refuge is considered “the largest tallgrass prairie and wetland restoration project in U.S. history?”


Upcoming Environmental Events

Informational Meeting on Groundwater Protection Rule, June 18
Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Pipestone
Hosted by MN Department of Agriculture

Film “Happening: A Clean Energy Revolution”, June 18
Maple Grove Library
Hosted by NW Metro Climate Action

Informational Meeting on Groundwater Protection Rule, June 19
Ridgewater College, Hutchinson
Hosted by MN Department of Agriculture

Tend the native bluff prairie at Indian Mounds Park, June 19
Indian Mounds Park, St. Paul
Hosted by Friends of the Mississippi River

Film: “Chasing Ice”, June 19
Park Grove Library, Cottage Grove
Sponsored by Southeast Metro Climate Action

Film and Speaker on Climate Refugees, June 20
Faith Lutheran Church, Coon Rapids
Co-sponsored by Faith Lutheran and by Anoka Area Climate Action

The Federal Farm Bill: Supporting Vibrant & Sustainable Minnesota Communities, June 21
Plymouth Creek Center, Plymouth
Hosted by Environmental Initiative


Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Conservation Program Manager | Minnesota Land Trust
Education Program Supervisor | Minnesota Trout Unlimited
Senior Policy Associate, Electrification | Fresh Energy
Clean Energy Organizing Paid Intern | Sierra Club North Star Chapter
Organizing Representative – Duluth | Sierra Club North Star Chapter
Minnesota GreenCorps AmeriCorps Member | Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Data Manager | Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Warner Nature Center Director | Science Museum of Minnesota
Program Intern – Summer 2018 | Clean Water Action
Chief Financial Officer | Environmental Initiative
See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) The Soo Locks. 2) Water skiing. 3) Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge

 


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.

Insider: June 9, 2018

Posted by

Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

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

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.


Office space available in MEP’s building!

Is your organization in the market for a convenient, comfortable office space in St. Paul? The office suite above MEP’s office at 546 Rice Street is available for lease! The approximately 2200 square ft. space is ideal for a small to midsize nonprofit organization, featuring a kitchen and break area and offstreet parking.

Located in the Capitol-Rice Street neighborhood, it is also within three blocks of the Capitol complex and across the street from the Women’s Building. It is also positioned along bus routes 3, 62, and 67, and a two-minute walk from the Green Line. And perhaps best of all, the new tenant would have good neighbors in MEP’s staff!

The landlord may be open to letting portions or the entirety of the office space to individual organizations. Contact us for details!

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


Amendment to major bill would force PolyMet land exchange

Yesterday, Minnesota’s U.S. Senators submitted  an amendment to the must-pass National Defense Authozation Act that would compel the U.S. Forest Service to conduct the PolyMet land swap and end all related litigation, undermining due process and environmental laws and paving the way for this dangerous project. MEP and more than 70 Minnesota and national groups released a letter detailing why a bill forcing this exchange was harmful and irresponsible.

We urge Minnesotans to call Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith at 202-224-3121 and ask them to reverse this action and allow the process to continue working in order to protect Minnesota communities and the Great Lakes watershed.



photo credit: MPCA

Conservation group calls for action on water quality; Exact solutions are still murky

(From Austin Daily Herald) — After an environmental group asked for action on cleaner water in Mower County, the complexity of the issue still stands on the forefront. A large presence was made by members of the Izaak Walton League, a local conservation group, who called upon Mower County commissioners to take steps in improving water quality in several creeks and rivers on Tuesday afternoon. Specifically citing 500 water samples that were collected and monitored from the Cedar River Watershed District. It was referenced by members speaking at the meeting that the exact number of E.coli bacteria existing in the water was “not safe” for skin contact. >>Read More.

Our view: Cooperation critical to curb critters

(From Duluth News Tribune) — It just makes sense, when it comes to curbing the introduction and spread of invasives, to keep a close watch on the oceangoing vessels sailing across our Great Lakes. They’re from foreign waters, after all, and foreign waters are where zebra mussels, round gobies, and other harmful critters originated before coming to the U.S. and irreparably harming, to the tune of billions, ports including Duluth-Superior. It turns out we need to be keeping a close eye, too, on lakers, even though those big boats sail only within the Great Lakes and never venture into foreign waters. Nonetheless, they’re spreading the harmful creatures, too — once they’re in the Great Lakes, as the Great Waters Research Collaborative reported late last week. >>Read More.


‘Let’s try to do it right’: Lawmakers talk energy at forum

(From Mankato Free Press) — Minnesota’s energy future needs a balance of energy sources, but lawmakers don’t yet agree what that balance looks like. That’s the message local lawmakers gave to residents Friday morning at an energy forum put on by the Southcentral Minnesota Clean Energy Council. While Minnesota is pushing toward more renewable energy via wind and solar power, GOP lawmakers note the state still needs constant energy sources to keep costs down for residents. That means continuing to use natural gas and nuclear power, though the later will require heavy investment to keep the state’s nuclear plants running through 2035. >>Read More.


                

Pipeline protest: Why public should hear our “necessity defense”

(From Star Tribune) — Last month, the Clearwater County attorney filed an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, making a second attempt to limit expert testimony in my trial on felony charges. I’m one of four defendants in the Minnesota “valve-turner” trial — after extensive research, my friend Annette and I drove to a shut-off valve site for Enbridge pipelines 4 and 67 in Leonard, Minn., on Oct. 11, 2016. We cut the chains into the site, and our friend Ben called the company to give them our exact location, tell them that we were climate activists there in a peaceful protest against tar sands oil (the most carbon-intensive of all oils) and say that if they didn’t shut the valves remotely, we would do so. >>Read More.


Help sustain MEP’s work. Donate today!

Do you appreciate our coverage of environmental and conservation issues? You can help sustain MEP’s work with a donation. Your support will help MEP continue educating decision-makers and Minnesotans throughout the state about important issues that impact clean water, clean air, and land conservation. Contributions also provide the financial backing we need to help organize the advocacy efforts of our 70 member organizations and take action through public organizing, media campaigns, lobbying, and research.


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. What large cat species found in Minnesota is the major predator of the snowshoe hare? 

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

3. Minnesota’s lowest point lies at which body of water?


Upcoming Environmental Events

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

Remove buckthorn near Vermillion River’s South Creek, June 12
South Creek, Lakeville
Hosted by Friends of the Mississippi River

Tend the demonstration pollinator garden at Camel’s Hump Park, June 14
Camel’s Hump Park, Cottage Grove
Hosted by Friends of the Mississippi River


Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

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

Trivia Answers: 1) Canadian lynx. 2) Lake of the Woods. 3) Lake Superior.

 


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.

Minnesota businesses take feds to court to protect Boundary Waters from sulfide mining

Posted by

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.

Policy Associate | Energy Access & Equity

Posted by

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!

Our story

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.

Reports to

Director, Energy Performance

Essential responsibilities

 

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.


Job qualifications

Required:

  1. Bachelor’s Degree plus two years of experience in energy, economics, technology, or related field.
  2. Demonstrated experience working collaboratively in coalitions of stakeholders across different interests. Leadership within coalitions a plus.
  3. Proven success working closely with diverse and underrepresented voices.
  4. Ability to develop, implement, and advocate for creative and inclusive solutions and strategies to equitably advance clean energy in Minnesota.
  5. Ability to conduct rigorous research and compile findings into easily digested and compelling formats.
  6. Self-starter who is able to work independently.
  7. Planful and results-oriented.
  8. Excellent interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence.
  9. Demonstrated ability to manage and prioritize multiple projects in a fast-paced environment.
  10. Strong written and verbal communication skills.
  11. Solid computer skills in Windows environment, including MS Office.
  12. Team player who desires working in an environment where working as a team is valued and practiced.
  13. Ability to work occasional evenings/weekends is required.
  14. 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.

Preferred:

  1. Master’s Degree in related field, Juris Doctor, or other advanced degree.
  2. Demonstrated experience leading advocacy efforts related to equity and inclusion, environmental justice, community organizing, or related fields.
  3. Experience presenting before regulators, policymakers, utilities, and other key stakeholders.
  4. 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.

To apply

E-mail cover letter and resume to Jillian Theuer at theuer@fresh-energy.org. No phone calls, please.

Line 3 and PolyMet: Two pivotal moments for Minnesota waters

Posted by

By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

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

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

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

Both have created unprecedented debates

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

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

Both would trample over indigenous rights

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

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

Both have been falsely framed as the economy versus the environment

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

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

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

Posted by

By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

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

The proposed rule

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

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

The Legislative delay (or lack thereof)

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

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

How to speak up on the Groundwater Protection Rule

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

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

Posted by

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!