It’s our water, and our Capitol

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

In last week’s Environmental Insider, we reported on several bills moving through the Minnesota legislature that would have dangerous consequences for our ability to protect the vital waters of our state.

  • A bill to prevent the Minnesota Department of Agriculture from adopting policies that would protect community drinking water and well owners from nitrate pollution and the staggering financial costs of treating it.
  • A bill to prevent the Pollution Control Agency from protecting against toxic sulfate pollution in wild rice waters – a resource guaranteed to the Ojibwe people and critical to their health and culture.
  • A bill to bypass the Public Utilities Commission’s review process and approve construction of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands pipeline across Minnesota’s most vulnerable lands and waters.

Why the bad bills?

All this seems surprising, knowing that a large majority of Minnesotans don’t want protections for our water stripped away. MEP-sponsored public opinion polling last year found that 79% of Minnesotans were concerned about our state’s drinking water, and 70% said that they would look less favorably on their legislator if they tried to weaken our environmental laws. But citizens’ concerns – and critical state safeguards to protect them – too often take a backseat in the face of lobbying by interests who want the legislature to maintain the status quo, or, as in the case of Line 3, hand over extraordinary power to enrich a private company.

Governor Mark Dayton has promised to veto several of these bad bills. But this drive to preempt pollution protections can only be stopped by organized, vocal opposition at the Capitol. MEP and our partners are at the Capitol every week to urge lawmakers to reject these bills and make positive change for Minnesota’s Great Outdoors.

The strongest power to make positive change lies with citizens.

Lawmakers consistently say that the biggest impact a constituent can make is to come to a meeting in person, and make themselves heard – showing up is indeed half the battle. Meeting with your legislature to talk about legislation, calling them to express your concerns, and attending town halls and hearings are some of the strongest steps that you as a citizen can take to help steer the policy boat in the right direction.

Your legislators represent you, and you have the power to let them know you stand for Minnesota’s water, land, and air. Minnesota Environmental Partnership is here to help you accomplish that, and we invite you to contact us if you need information or help navigating the process.

And that’s why we invite you to join us at the State Capitol on May 2 for Water Action Day. We’ll handle the work of arranging meetings with your legislators to talk about clean water – all you have to do is sign up and prepare for a good conversation! And in the afternoon, we’ll hold a rally in the rotunda to send a strong, clear message to the Legislature – our state’s water, like our State Capitol, belongs to all Minnesotans, and we’re here to protect it.

Letter to House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Committee Regarding HF 3759 Hearing and Line 3 Testimony

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The Honorable Pat Garofalo
Chair of the House Job Growth & Energy Affordability Committee
State Office Building, Room 485
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55115

The Honorable Dan Fabian
State Office Building, Room 365
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55115

 

April 4, 2018

Dear Representatives Garofalo and Fabian,

On Tuesday night, March 27, 2018, Minnesota Environmental Partnership’s Duluth-based Great Lakes Program Coordinator, Irene Folstrom, testified at the House Job Growth and Energy Affordability Committee hearing on Representative Fabian’s HF 3759, a bill to authorize immediate construction of the Line 3 pipeline on Canadian oil pipeline company Enbridge’s preferred route.

Ms. Folstrom began her testimony by making a number of points that reflect the concerns of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership regarding the proposed tar-sands oil pipeline and the legislation.

However, she then made a series of extemporaneous comments. These included statements that do not reflect the position of Minnesota Environmental Partnership, nor were they presented in a manner that is acceptable to or consistent with MEP’s approach to working with our state’s elected leaders.

We believe that the proposed Line 3 pipeline is not needed and will do harm to the state of Minnesota, its residents, and the rights of its Tribal communities, and we oppose this legislation which bypasses citizen input and the Public Utilities Commission process. However, we will respect the outcome of the Line 3 government review process and want to be very clear that we do not support or condone violence in any form.

We apologize for the errant statements that were made and the inappropriate manner in which they were delivered.  We look forward to a civil, fair, and just process on the Line 3 project.

Steve Morse
Executive Director

cc: Members of the House Job Growth & Energy Affordability Committee

Letter to Legislators: Please Vote NO on HF 3759 Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline Approval Bill

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RE: Please Vote NO on HF 3759 – Terminating PUC process and granting immediate Approval to Construct Canadian Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline

To: Chairperson Garafalo

Members of the House Job Growth & Energy Affordability and Finance Committee

March 27, 2018

Dear Representative,

We, the undersigned, wish to express a deep concern about HF 3759, a bill to immediately authorize the construction and routing of the Canadian Enbridge Line 3. This measure would terminate all review and permitting processes at the Public Utilities Commission and give Enbridge full authority to build the pipeline immediately, on the company’s chosen route, without any substitute form of regulatory oversight.

Minnesotans have worked hard to ensure a fair and evidence-based process. So far, the review process has taken into consideration hundreds of hours of public testimony, tens of thousands of public comments, and the expert analysis of dozens of witnesses brought by Enbridge and intervening parties. This legislation would disregard proceedings put in place in statute and rule, the good faith participation of community members and groups with a wide variety of views, and ignore due process — solely to the benefit of one corporation. This bill is not in Minnesota’s tradition of good governance.

Moreover, HF 3759 would grant this approval without actually issuing the customary Certificate of Need and Route Permit, meaning that the State would be unable to impose conditions on those permits or revoke them in the future, even to avoid harm to Minnesota citizens. To circumvent this process would neglect the needs and concerns of communities, landowners, industries, and First Nations along the proposed route.

The Line 3 pipeline review process is almost complete as planned, with a Public Utilities Commission decision expected by June. Minnesota’s leaders must let it finish instead of preemptively granting extraordinary power to a foreign company and telling tens of thousands of Minnesotans that their time and investment in Minnesota’s review process has been ignored.

We ask you to please vote NO on HF 3759.

Sincerely,
Steve Morse
Minnesota Environmental Partnership

and the following 13 groups

Alliance for Sustainability
Friends of Minnesota Scientific & Natural Areas
Friends of the Mississippi River
Honor the Earth
Izaak Walton League – Minnesota Division
Land Stewardship Project
MN Center for Environmental Advocacy
Minnesota Native Plant Society
MN350
Pollinator Friendly Alliance
Save Our Sky Blue Waters
Sierra Club – North Star Chapter
Wilderness in the City

Enbridge spent $5.34 million on lobbying in Minnesota last year

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

This week, we learned that Enbridge, the Canadian company pursuing a pipeline across our precious lands and waters, spent $5.34 million on lobbying in Minnesota in 2017. Enbridge’s lobbying costs were greater than any other lobbying interest’s one-year spending in the last decade. $5.08 million of the total went toward lobbying the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to approve Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 “replacement” pipeline. The new Line 3 would replace the current, aging Line 3 and double its maximum capacity to 760,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day, carrying the oil from the Alberta tar sands through Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin.

There’s no inherent problem with lobbying the PUC or the Minnesota legislature – it’s important that stakeholders make their concerns heard on energy issues. But this level of paid lobbying by one organization hasn’t been seen in Minnesota for a decade – so why did Enbridge spend 1 in 14 of all lobbying dollars in the state in 2017?

1.) The Line 3 pipeline would be a financial boon for Enbridge – even if it isn’t needed – and they can pass the high costs of lobbying on to consumers. Pipeline companies’ profits are set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which imposes fees on petroleum products in the United States to pay the companies’ expenses. These expenses include the pipeline’s physical construction as well as related costs – including lobbying for the pipeline. The costs would be passed along to Minnesotans – with an estimated price tag of $1.6 billion over the next 15 years – through additional taxes on gasoline, plastics, and other petroleum products.

2.) Minnesotans object to the new pipeline. In 2017, MEP’s public opinion poll showed that two thirds of Minnesotans are opposed to moving more tar sands oil across our lands and waters. For that reason, pipeline backers have called the pipeline a “Line 3 replacement” despite the fact that it would carry double the volume oil and follow a different route.

This line meets especially strong opposition from Minnesota’s tribal communities. It would pass through lands that support wild rice and fishing, which are culturally vital to the Ojibwe bands and legally guaranteed to them by treaty. A tar sands spill in wild rice waters would poison the waters and permanently destroy the wild rice in the area, endangering the Ojibwe communities’ health and way of life. For this reason, the Red Lake Tribal Council recently pulled out of an agreement to allow Enbridge to have four pipelines crossing reservation land, and tribal advocates have pointed out that the official assessments of the pipeline proposal do not adequately take tribal rights and culture into account.

3.) In September 2017, the Minnesota Department of Commerce stated that Line 3 is not needed and that Minnesota would be better off without the old or new pipeline. In its analysis, the Department noted that a greening, more efficient economy meant that Minnesota would have no need for the oil transported by the new Line 3, but would suffer harm from its environmental and social impacts. It further recommended that the old Line 3 be removed from Minnesota’s lands and waters.

The Department of Commerce’s recommendation doesn’t have the authority to override the PUC, but it underscores an important concern – the only party with any real economic interest in this this pipeline is Enbridge.

Fortunately, Enbridge was not the only group influencing the PUC in 2017. Advocates and volunteers from a variety of organizations – including MEP partners Honor the Earth, MN350, Friends of the Headwaters, and the Sierra Club North Star Chapter – have made tremendous efforts to shape the process at the PUC and at the Legislature, where a harmful bill putting Line 3 on a fast track was stopped last year.

We thank all the staff, volunteers, and speakers who have worked tirelessly to make Minnesotans’ concerns about Line 3 heard. And we urge the PUC to look clearly at what the evidence shows: Minnesota has no need for this costly, hazardous new pipeline.

Letter: Please Vote NO on Wild Rice Waters and Nullifying of Water Quality Standards

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RE: Please Vote NO on Wild Rice Waters and Nullifying of Water Quality Standards

To: Chairperson Carrie Ruud and Members of the Senate Environment & Natural Resources Policy & Legacy Finance Committee

March 19, 2018

Dear Senator:
We, the undersigned organizations and the citizens we represent, respectfully ask you to vote NO on SF 2983 – a bill removing a water quality standard that protects wild rice.
The science supporting retaining existing sulfate standards for wild-rice waters is not disputed: wild rice will largely not grow in waters with a sulfate content greater than 10 parts per million. Sulfate’s effects through chemical transformations in the sediments cause a series of reactions that negatively impact the chemistry and biology of lakes and streams.

Repealing the sulfate standard because it is unpopular with area industries that emit sulfates dangerously and unfairly jeopardizes the viability of this plant and crop in Minnesota. That is not acceptable for the water nor the people who depend on it.

Minnesota tribes maintain treaty rights to harvest wild rice and work hard to protect the lakes and wetlands it grows on. Wild rice lies at the heart of Ojibwe culture as a source of food, spiritual sustenance and economic activity.

Minnesota should maintain the evidence-based standard on sulfates – to protect the communities who rely on the wild rice and who would otherwise have to live with the impacts of high sulfate levels.

Please vote no on SF 2983.
Steve Morse
Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Honor the Earth
Alliance for Sustainability Izaak Walton League – Minnesota Division
Clean Water Action League of Women Voters Minnesota
Environment Minnesota MN Center for Environmental Advocacy
Friends of Minnesota Scientific & Natural Areas Minnesota Native Plant Society
Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness Save Our Sky Blue Waters
Friends of the Mississippi River Wilderness in the City

Insider: March 16

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Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Getting to the Roots of Nitrate Pollution

Ag Dept, Legislature Consider Groundwater Solutions

Last Tuesday, Governor Mark Dayton laid out a framework for the Groundwater Protection Rule to limit the movement of nitrates into Minnesota’s waters as part of the Department of Agriculture’s proposed work to implement the Groundwater Protection Act. The proposal aims to limit the overuse of nitrogen fertilizer in targeted agricultural areas to stave off some of the worst nitrate contamination affecting Minnesota communities and drinking water.

Acting on this contamination soon is crucial as more than 50 community water systems serving more than 225,000 people around Minnesota are currently working with the state to reduce elevated nitrate levels in their water systems. For now, they rely primarily on upgrades to treatment technology in their systems, addressing the symptom of nitrate pollution, not the cause: the high levels of nitrogen runoff and filtration from our state’s agriculture systems that are tainting our waters.

The Problem

Upgrades to water treatment facilities and maintenance can run up enormous costs for communities, with some costs per household ranging in the thousands of dollars – a tall order for many small towns. And Minnesotans with private wells, of which ten percent of those tested already exceed health risk limits for nitrates, face enormous costs of their own.

Our communities don’t have time to delay drinking water solutions. If the nitrate contamination in our water supplies isn’t addressed, the health and cost consequences will add up. Exposure to high levels of nitrates causes “blue baby syndrome” – a condition that causes serious breathing and circulatory problems in infants. Exposure has also been linked to certain types of cancer in adults. And once nitrates enter a groundwater supply, they don’t break down unless treated. Their prevalence in our drinking water will continue to rise without strong action.

The Proposed Rule

The Department of Agriculture’s Groundwater Protection Rule takes steps in the right direction, and it represents an improvement over the initial draft rule the Department proposed last year. We are especially glad to see that the Department moves to use their authority to protect the groundwater recharge areas for community drinking water supply areas around the state.

The framework of the rule would restrict nitrogen fertilizer use in the fall and winter in certain vulnerable areas, and implement special protections for wellhead areas of communities that are already struggling with nitrate contamination. But it’s disappointing that this rule does not extend protections to those Minnesotans who may need it most — private well-owners. And the pace of change in the rule is slow. Minnesotans shouldn’t need to wait a decade or more for clean drinking water.

Still, the proposed rule is a good opportunity to start developing drinking water protections that work for communities, farmers, and well owners across the state. MEP and our partners stand ready to collaborate with the  Department of Agriculture on creating stronger drinking water protections for all of Minnesota’s communities and families.

Unfortunately, some members of the legislature are seeking to move in the opposite direction, pushing a bill that would prohibit the Department of Agriculture from regulating nitrogen fertilizer and protecting our water.

How You Can Help

It’s critical that we act now and act boldly to protect our drinking water, for the infants at risk of health problems and the communities and rural citizens struggling to pay the cost to treat their contaminated water. If you want to stand up for our drinking water, there are several steps you can take:

  1. Call your legislators to tell them you oppose any attempt to challenge the state’s authority to protect our health from groundwater pollution.
  2. In May, the Department of Agriculture will open a comment period on the nitrogen rule plan and hold hearings throughout the summer. Share your comments online or at a hearing, and help make sure the revised rule holds water and protects drinking water for all Minnesotans.
  3. Help educate the public and policymakers on programs that would help transition our agriculture to a more water-friendly system of agriculture by raising cover crops and perennials that restore soil and keep our water healthy. Check out the Forever Green Initiative and the Working Lands Watershed Restoration Program, which would help advance these healthy practices and increase their productivity and economic viability.

The strongest way to advocate for Minnesota’s health and natural resources is to share stories with lawmakers in person at meetings and hearings. If you live in a community that has struggled with contaminated water, let us know! We can help you get in touch with your legislators and be a strong advocate for Minnesota’s waters – contact us at info@mepartnership.org or call 651-290-0154.

MEP Press Release: Statement on Governor Dayton’s Proposed Groundwater Protection Rule


Bloody red shrimp a reminder that Great Lakes need stronger protections

(From Star Tribune, by Steve Morse and Molly Flanagan) — News broke last month that a solitary bloody red shrimp (hemimysis anomala), an aquatic invasive species not found before in Lake Superior, was discovered in the Twin Ports Harbor (“Worries of a new invasive species,” February 20). With ship ballast tanks being the top means of moving invasive species across the globe and around the Great Lakes, this news is disappointing but not a surprise.This finding is a stark reminder of the unknowns floating around in ship ballast tanks waiting to be emptied in ports around the region. >>Read More.

Safe drinking water must be a shared value in Minnesota

(From Star Tribune) — It’s hard to persuade residents of a state whose very name bespeaks an abundance of water to worry about water quality. Maybe that’s why three successive governors did little to implement a 1989 statute empowering state agencies to “promote best practices … to the extent practicable” to minimize groundwater pollution. Then again, Govs. Arne Carlson, Jesse Ventura and Tim Pawlenty were in office before Minnesotans knew the extent to which nitrate is contaminating groundwater, the drinking water source for 75 percent of Minnesotans. Nitrate causes a potentially fatal condition in infants and is a suspected source of other health disorders. >>Read More.

Registration is open for Water Action Day 2018!

Whether you joined us for our Water Action Day event last year or you’re a first timer, we hope to see you at the Capitol on May 2! This is your chance to show up and stand up to protect our waters!

This all-day event will include free breakfast and briefings in the morning, both on how to actively engage legislators and on the water issues that we face in Minnesota. Throughout the day, attendees will meet with legislators to ask them to protect our water, and the Clean Water Rally will be held in the Capitol Rotunda at 1:30 pm. Sign up today and find out how you can volunteer and support this important event!


               

Minnesota is in the midst of a massive and historic energy transformation

(From MinnPost) — Minnesota is on the front lines of a clean energy transformation that is reshaping the U.S. energy landscape. Increased use of clean energy sources and strong and consistent investments in energy efficiency are saving Minnesotans money and creating tens of thousands of jobs. The question? How do we build on this success? The Business Council for Sustainable Energy and Bloomberg New Energy Finance recently released its 2018 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook. The data told a compelling story: Energy businesses are thriving and growing faster than many imagined possible. It also stated that energy efficiency, renewable energy, and natural gas are — together — dominating today’s energy economy. >>Read More.


                

Safety tops talk at bike summit

(From Rochester Post Bulletin, featuring MEP member Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota) — Ed Denbow said he sees both sides of the issue when it comes to creating new bike lanes. As a daily bicycle rider who logged more than 5,000 miles last year, he said safety is a priority.As a homeowner in the Country Club Manor neighborhood, he knows his neighbors are concerned about a proposed bike-lane project that could reduce on-street parking, which some worry would affect property values. “Being retired, you are always concerned about values going down.” he said. However, he said he expects changes could address unsafe biking conditions in the area, which includes Harriet Bishop Elementary School. >>Read More.

Northern Lights Express project cleared to seek funding

(From Duluth News Tribune) — Having cleared a pair of environmental hurdles recently, the proposed half-billion-dollar passenger train between the Twin Ports and Twin Cities is proceeding to its next phase — namely seeking funding for final design and construction, said a Minnesota Department of Transportation news release on Wednesday. The Northern Lights Express Higher Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Project was found to have no significant environmental barriers and will not require an Environmental Impact Statement, MnDOT said. Processes and public comment periods by both the Federal Railroad Administration and MnDOT came to similar conclusions in recent months. The Federal Railroad Administration’s “Finding of No Significant Impact on the Tier 2 Project Level Environmental Assessment” was the most recent conclusion on the 152-mile project corridor. That finding in late February clears the way for the project to move forward, MnDOT said. >>Read More.


A family goes to war with the dozen factory farms that surround them

(From City Pages) — Eighty-eight-year-old Lowell Trom was born on his family’s farm about an hour southeast of the Twin Cities. This is land his parents purchased back in 1925, land he’s worked for the last 75 years, harvesting corn and soybeans with his two sons. When you’ve been living and working on the same farm for three-quarters of a century, you get to see agriculture evolve first-hand. Over the years Dodge County, where the Troms live, has welcomed a thicket of factory farms where thousands of pigs, pumped full of antibiotics, huddle in windowless buildings. >>Read More.

Your yard is a powerful force against climate change

(From MPR News) — City yards are more than just idle patches of grass. They’re also powerful traps of carbon — a primary cause of the warming climate, put into the atmosphere as a gas by human activity. A new study from University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers Carly Ziter and Monica Turner finds that spaces like backyards or public parks can store more carbon than urban grasslands or forests. That means even the smallest urban green spaces are a major factor in how the natural world is holding down rising temperatures. For the study, Ziter took soil samples from a variety of locations in Madison and measured how different features on the urban landscape store carbon, affect water quality and mitigate floods. >>Read More.


Apply now to be a Minnesota GreenCorps Host Site!

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is now accepting applications from organizations interested in serving as host sites for the 2018 – 2019 Minnesota GreenCorps program year. Minnesota GreenCorps is an environmentally focused AmeriCorps program coordinated by the MPCA. The program places AmeriCorps members with organizations around the state to spend a year of service addressing critical environmental issues. Eligible organizations include public entities, school districts, not for profit institutions of higher education, and 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organizations.. Applications are due by 5:00 pm CDT on Friday, March 23, 2018.

Host site application materials, including a detailed guidance document and the application are available on the Minnesota GreenCorps website.


Regulators OK environmental review for disputed northern Minnesota oil pipeline

(From Pioneer Press) —  Minnesota regulators approved the final environmental review Thursday for Enbridge Energy’s proposal to replace its aging Line 3 crude oil pipeline in northern Minnesota, setting the stage for a final decision on the disputed project in June. The Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously to declare the review “adequate,” meaning it met the legal requirements, after ordering rewrites in December in four narrow areas dealing mostly with proposed route alternatives. “You’re going to make a really important decision here in a couple months,” Brent Murcia of Youth Climate Intervenors, which opposes the project, told the commission. >>Read More.

 


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. What state park, known for its namesake lake, is the oldest and second-largest in Minnesota?

2. Minnesota rivers flow into the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico, and what other body of water?

3. What Minnesota city and county are named after the Ojibwe word for wild rice?

Upcoming Environmental Events

Brewing a Better Climate, March 16
Surly Brewing Company, Minneapolis
Hosted by Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy

Farmers Take the Stage, March 16
Amazing Grace Bakery, Duluth
Hosted by Sustainable Farming Association

Unveiling the World’s First Beer with Solar Honey, March 22
56 Brewing, Minneapolis
Hosted by Fresh Energy

Code Blue for for Patient Earth: Responding to the urgent threat of climate change to One Health, April 20
Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul
Hosted by Fresh Energy

Water Action Day 2018, May 2
Christ Lutheran Church and State Capitol
Hosted by MN’s clean water community

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Event and Engagement Coordinator | Fresh Energy
Ecological Restoration Technician – Full Time | Natural Shore Technologies
Seasonal Outreach Assistant | Friends of the Mississippi River
Interim Executive Director | Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center
Development and Membership Director | Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
Executive Director | Cannon River Watershed Partnership
See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Itasca State Park. 2) Hudson Bay. 3) Mahnomen


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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.

Getting to the Roots of Nitrate Pollution

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Ag Dept, Legislature Consider Groundwater Solutions

By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Last Tuesday, Governor Mark Dayton laid out a framework for the Groundwater Protection Rule to limit the movement of nitrates into Minnesota’s waters as part of the Department of Agriculture’s proposed work to implement the Groundwater Protection Act. The proposal aims to limit the overuse of nitrogen fertilizer in targeted agricultural areas to stave off some of the worst nitrate contamination affecting Minnesota communities and drinking water.

Acting on this contamination soon is crucial as more than 50 community water systems serving more than 225,000 people around Minnesota are currently working with the state to reduce elevated nitrate levels in their water systems. For now, they rely primarily on upgrades to treatment technology in their systems, addressing the symptom of nitrate pollution, not the cause: the high levels of nitrogen runoff and filtration from our state’s agriculture systems that are tainting our waters.

The Problem

Upgrades to water treatment facilities and maintenance can run up enormous costs for communities, with some costs per household ranging in the thousands of dollars – a tall order for many small towns. And Minnesotans with private wells, of which ten percent of those tested already exceed health risk limits for nitrates, face enormous costs of their own.

Our communities don’t have time to delay drinking water solutions. If the nitrate contamination in our water supplies isn’t addressed, the health and cost consequences will add up. Exposure to high levels of nitrates causes “blue baby syndrome” – a condition that causes serious breathing and circulatory problems in infants. Exposure has also been linked to certain types of cancer in adults. And once nitrates enter a groundwater supply, they don’t break down unless treated. Their prevalence in our drinking water will continue to rise without strong action.

The Proposed Rule

The Department of Agriculture’s Groundwater Protection Rule takes steps in the right direction, and it represents an improvement over the initial draft rule the Department proposed last year. We are especially glad to see that the Department moves to use their authority to protect the groundwater recharge areas for community drinking water supply areas around the state.

The framework of the rule would restrict nitrogen fertilizer use in the fall and winter in certain vulnerable areas, and implement special protections for wellhead areas of communities that are already struggling with nitrate contamination. But it’s disappointing that this rule does not extend protections to those Minnesotans who may need it most — private well-owners. And the pace of change in the rule is slow. Minnesotans shouldn’t need to wait a decade or more for clean drinking water.

Still, the proposed rule is a good opportunity to start developing drinking water protections that work for communities, farmers, and well owners across the state. MEP and our partners stand ready to collaborate with the  Department of Agriculture on creating stronger drinking water protections for all of Minnesota’s communities and families.

Unfortunately, some members of the legislature are seeking to move in the opposite direction, pushing a bill that would prohibit the Department of Agriculture from regulating nitrogen fertilizer and protecting our water.

How You Can Help

It’s critical that we act now and act boldly to protect our drinking water, for the infants at risk of health problems and the communities and rural citizens struggling to pay the cost to treat their contaminated water. If you want to stand up for our drinking water, there are several steps you can take:

  1. Call your legislators to tell them you oppose any attempt to challenge the state’s authority to protect our health from groundwater pollution.
  2. In May, the Department of Agriculture will open a comment period on the nitrogen rule plan and hold hearings throughout the summer. Share your comments online or at a hearing, and help make sure the revised rule holds water and protects drinking water for all Minnesotans.
  3. Help educate the public and policymakers on programs that would help transition our agriculture to a more water-friendly system of agriculture by raising cover crops and perennials that restore soil and keep our water healthy. Check out the Forever Green Initiative and the Working Lands Watershed Restoration Program, which would help advance these healthy practices and increase their productivity and economic viability.

The strongest way to advocate for Minnesota’s health and natural resources is to share stories with lawmakers in person at meetings and hearings. If you live in a community that has struggled with contaminated water, let us know! We can help you get in touch with your legislators and be a strong advocate for Minnesota’s waters – contact us at info@mepartnership.org or call 651-290-0154.

MEP Press Release: Statement on Governor Dayton’s Proposed Groundwater Protection Rule

Press Statement on Governor Dayton’s Proposed Groundwater Protection Rule

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PRESS STATEMENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 15, 2018

MEDIA CONTACT:
Steve Morse, Executive Director
Minnesota Environmental Partnership
stevemorse@mepartnership.org, 651-789-0653

 

Statement on Governor Dayton’s Proposed Groundwater Protection Rule

Last week, Governor Dayton and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) released a revised proposed draft groundwater protection rule to protect drinking and groundwater from nitrate contamination.

Nitrogen fertilizer applied to corn crops can readily leach into water. Because of this and other practices, communities across the state are facing high nitrate levels in their groundwater: 537 public drinking water systems across the state have elevated nitrate levels and roughly 10% of private wells in vulnerable areas already exceed state and federal health-risk limits for nitrate.

State authority to protect ground and drinking water was established in 1989. After decades of delay, the state is proposing to use this authority to protect our groundwater and drinking water. The MDA’s efforts are a commendable step toward protecting drinking water for many thousands of residents; however, the proposed draft rule also leaves many vulnerable Minnesotans unprotected.

We applaud the MDA for recognizing the need for change, and we are grateful for their willingness to listen to farmers, experts, citizens, and communities across the state as they work on significantly rewriting the flawed original draft rule. The MDA held 17 public meetings engaging over 1,500 individuals and reviewed over 820 public written comments.

This proposed multi-part rule limits the application of some cropland fertilizers in the fall or on frozen soils in the riskiest areas. It also establishes a framework and takes modest steps to encourage, and then require, farm operators to modify practices to reduce pollution to public drinking water supplies where nitrate concentrations are increasing or remain high. Protection of these public drinking water supplies is a fundamental responsibility of our state, and this proposed rule is an initial step in protecting the quality of the water sources for Minnesotans in these communities.

As we await the details, we note two significant shortcomings in the MDA’s draft rule:

We are disappointed that this rule does not extend all its protections to those Minnesotans who may need it most — private well-owners. Elevated nitrate levels are occurring in private wells across the state. Many thousands of Minnesota families, especially in rural areas, rely on these private wells for their drinking water. Yet these families are going to remain at the mercy of more voluntary actions to protect their water — actions that have failed over the last generation. They will not receive even the modest drinking water protections that their neighbors in town will receive under this rule.

Secondly, the pace of change built into the rule’s framework for well protection is far too slow. A farm operating on a public water supply wellhead area can go many years before being required to adopt the practices needed to effectively protect the community’s drinking water. Communities shouldn’t have to wait a decade or more for safe drinking water.

This rule represents a start and an opportunity to show that we can act to protect our drinking water supplies, so that everyone benefits — farm operators, local economies, and communities who drink the water. But we can’t protect just some residents; we look forward to working with MDA to strengthen the proposed rule to leave no residents behind. All Minnesotans deserve access to clean, safe and affordable drinking water.

We stand ready to work with Governor Dayton and his agency to stop any attempts to rollback their authority to act to protect our public health and water quality.     

 

Clean Up the River Environment (CURE)

Clean Water Action of Minnesota

Environment Minnesota

Freshwater Society

Friends of the Mississippi River

League of Women Voters – Upper Mississippi River Region

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Minnesota Trout Unlimited

 


About Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Minnesota Environmental Partnership is a coalition of 70 environmental, conservation, and civic organizations working together for clean water, clean energy, and protection of our Great Outdoors. We engage state leaders, unites environmental efforts, and helps citizens take action to protect and restore Minnesota’s natural resources.

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Insider: March 2, 2018

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Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Water Infrastructure Targeted in Bonding Proposals

Why MN should turn on the tap for clean water funding

In late January, Governor Mark Dayton unveiled a $1.5 billion bonding proposal for public works projects throughout Minnesota, which includes a proposal for $167 million in critically needed funding for clean water projects throughout the state. This week, two Republican legislators, Senator Gary Dahms and Representative Dean Urdahl, introduced a bipartisan bill to allocate that funding – which would financially support communities in need of assistance in tackling their water infrastructure challenges. Though this issue tends to have a low profile, it’s absolutely critical to the health and well-being of Minnesotans statewide.

When we turn on a faucet or use a drain, we tend not to consider where our water comes from – or where it’s going. Only when the water turns off or darkens with pollution, or when our regular bills spike in cost, do many of us think about how our most precious natural resource is made safe and usable. Both drinking water and wastewater treatment are vital to our health and well-being, as well as the natural ecosystems around us. Diseases like cholera that once ravaged entire cities are now virtually unheard of in the United States thanks to long-term investments in our pipes and treatment systems.

Sadly, many of our communities are struggling with aging, obsolete infrastructure that is deteriorating and can’t meet standards for health or pollution protection. Rural towns and tribal communities are in especially dire need of upgrades and maintenance in the short and long term, and in many cases, the cost of this work is unaffordable without state or federal aid. It’s estimated that over the next 20 years, our state will need to $11 billion in funds for water infrastructure improvements. Those bills can’t simply be passed along to our rural communities.

That’s why we’re glad to see a bipartisan push for state funding that will, along with federal investments, greatly reduce the burden on our cities and counties to bring safe water treatment for every Minnesotan. This effort can help heal the more than 4,600 lakes in our state with impaired water, boosting our economy and our ecosystems. We should hold our water infrastructure to high standards – and make sure that our communities have all the resources they need to protect our water.



 

Help change the game for Minnesota’s waters!

Under Governor Dayton’s direction, the State of Minnesota Department of Agriculture has been working on developing a Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule to help prevent the rising nitrate levels that are making too much groundwater unsafe to drink. Such a rule could change the game for Minnesota’s waters!

The Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule is still in the drafting stages and details are being worked out. But some legislators want to stop it by taking away the Governor’s authority to protect groundwater.

If you care about this issue, you can help by calling your legislators. Let them know you value protecting our groundwater! To learn more or to send an email to your lawmakers directly, click here.
 

Registration is open for Water Action Day 2018!

Whether you joined us for our Water Action Day event last year or you’re a first timer, we hope to see you at the Capitol on May 2! This is your chance to show up and stand up to protect our waters!

This all-day event will include free breakfast and briefings in the morning, both on how to actively engage legislators and on the water issues that we face in Minnesota. Throughout the day, attendees will meet with legislators to ask them to protect our water, and the Clean Water Rally will be held in the Capitol Rotunda at 1:30 pm. Sign up today and find out how you can volunteer and support this important event!


               

Study: Renewable energy now Minnesota’s 2nd-largest electricity source

(From MPR News) — Renewable energy is overtaking nuclear as Minnesota’s second-largest source of electricity generation, while coal remains the largest source, according to a report released Thursday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Coal made up 39 percent of the energy Minnesota generated inside its borders in 2017. That percentage is expected to go down dramatically in the next decade after Xcel Energy retires a large portion of its Sherco coal plant in Becker. When hydroelectric was added to wind and solar generation in 2017, it surpassed what Xcel’s two nuclear plants produced. And while nuclear capacity is static, Minnesota has been adding new wind and solar capacity every year. >>Read More.


                

Poll suggests growing opposition to mine near Boundary Waters

(From Duluth News Tribune) — A new statewide opinion poll appears to show growing opposition to copper mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. In the poll, paid for by opponents to copper mining, 70 percent of 800 Minnesota voters said they opposed allowing a copper mine near the BWCAW. That’s up from 59 percent opposition in a similar poll in 2017. Statewide, 22 percent of those polled said they supported “sulfide ore copper mining in the areas near the Boundary Waters Wilderness.” The number of people who had no opinion dropped from 13 percent last year to 7 percent this year. >>Read More.


Croplands can suck lots of CO2 from air if treated with crushed rock

(From MinnPost) — Most home gardeners know at a least a bit about soil amendments — how you can make plants grow better by working in compost to fertilize and loosen the loam, maybe some crushed limestone to lower acidity. What if the same principle could be applied, at a massive scale, to take globe-warming carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere? What if it could work relatively quickly, compared to other carbon-removal methods, and perhaps even cheaply? While simultaneously improving plant health and crop yields for a world with ever more hunger in its future? And reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides? This is the bold, if still somewhat blurry, vision outlined in a fascinating paper published last week in the respected journal Nature Plants. >>Read More.


Apply now to be a Minnesota GreenCorps Host Site!

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is now accepting applications from organizations interested in serving as host sites for the 2018 – 2019 Minnesota GreenCorps program year. Minnesota GreenCorps is an environmentally focused AmeriCorps program coordinated by the MPCA. The program places AmeriCorps members with organizations around the state to spend a year of service addressing critical environmental issues. Eligible organizations include public entities, school districts, not for profit institutions of higher education, and 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organizations.. Applications are due by 5:00 pm CDT on Friday, March 23, 2018.

Host site application materials, including a detailed guidance document and the application are available on the Minnesota GreenCorps website.

 


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

1. Construction on Minnesota’s state capitol was finished in which year: 1885, 1895, or 1905?

2. What national park is within the state of Michigan but lies closer geographically to Minnesota?

3. At 1,310 sq. miles, what tribal reservation is Minnesota’s largest in combined land and water area?

Upcoming Environmental Events

2018 Transportation Day at the Capitol, March 7
Best Western Plus Capitol Ridge, St. Paul
Hosted by MN Transportation Alliance

Think nationally, plan locally: How to get involved with Mississippi River planning, March 8
Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, Minneapolis
Hosted by Friends of the Mississippi River

HeArt Market LSP Fundraiser, March 10
Casket Arts Building, Minneapolis
Hosted by Land Stewardship Project

Talk Climate Institute, March 12-13
Wilder Center, St. Paul
Hosted by Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy

Minnesota Bike Summit on Capitol Hill, March 15
Christ Lutheran Church and State Capitol, St. Paul
Hosted by Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota

Water Action Day 2018, May 2
Christ Lutheran Church and State Capitol, St. Paul
Hosted by MN’s clean water community

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Seasonal Outreach Assistant | Friends of the Mississippi River
Interim Executive Director | Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center
Development and Membership Director | Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
Loyal Donor Officer | The Nature Conservancy
Administrative Assistant | Friends of the Mississippi River
Executive Director | Cannon River Watershed Partnership
See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) 1905. 2) Isle Royale National Park. 3) Leech Lake – though White Earth has greater land area


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Minnesota Environmental Partnership
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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.

Water Infrastructure Targeted in Bonding Proposals

Posted by

Why MN should turn on the tap for clean water funding

In late January, Governor Mark Dayton unveiled a $1.5 billion bonding proposal for public works projects throughout Minnesota, which includes a proposal for $167 million in critically needed funding for clean water projects throughout the state. This week, two Republican legislators, Senator Gary Dahms and Representative Dean Urdahl, introduced a bipartisan bill to allocate that funding – which would financially support communities in need of assistance in tackling their water infrastructure challenges. Though this issue tends to have a low profile, it’s absolutely critical to the health and well-being of Minnesotans statewide.

When we turn on a faucet or use a drain, we tend not to consider where our water comes from – or where it’s going. Only when the water turns off or darkens with pollution, or when our regular bills spike in cost, do many of us think about how our most precious natural resource is made safe and usable. Both drinking water and wastewater treatment are vital to our health and well-being, as well as the natural ecosystems around us. Diseases like cholera that once ravaged entire cities are now virtually unheard of in the United States thanks to long-term investments in our pipes and treatment systems.

Sadly, many of our communities are struggling with aging, obsolete infrastructure that is deteriorating and can’t meet standards for health or pollution protection. Rural towns and tribal communities are in especially dire need of upgrades and maintenance in the short and long term, and in many cases, the cost of this work is unaffordable without state or federal aid. It’s estimated that over the next 20 years, our state will need to $11 billion in funds for water infrastructure improvements. Those bills can’t simply be passed along to our rural communities.

That’s why we’re glad to see a bipartisan push for state funding that will, along with federal investments, greatly reduce the burden on our cities and counties to bring safe water treatment for every Minnesotan. This effort can help heal the more than 4,600 lakes in our state with impaired water, boosting our economy and our ecosystems. We should hold our water infrastructure to high standards – and make sure that our communities have all the resources they need to protect our water.