Insider: October 6, 2017

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Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

 


photo credit: NASA

Mining Waste and a Big Dam Problem

Last month, the Department of Natural Resources released draft dam permitting for PolyMet’s proposed sulfide mine in Northern Minnesota, and opened up a comment period on the permit that ends on October 16. The permit would allow PolyMet to use a 40-year-old dam, previously used to store taconite waste, to store waste from the new mine. Proponents present this as a safe way to keep wastewater and byproducts contained and out of other waters. But the reality is much more alarming.

First, as the permit itself states, the dam would be permanent – not just a long term risk, but a fixture that generations of Minnesotans would have to pay to maintain for hundreds of years. In comparison, the mine itself would operate for about 20 years. The indefinite maintenance, well after the area has been mined out, would be required just to keep this already-leaky dam from releasing its toxic contents into the watershed beyond it.

That’s not a guarantee, however, that the dam wouldn’t break – and the consequences of a rupture would be catastrophic. Three years ago, a similar dam at the Canadian Mount Polley mine collapsed, spilling hundreds of millions of gallons of mine waste into previously clean waters. The dam contained toxic heavy metals like arsenic and lead, which are still contaminating vulnerable lakes and rivers. The resulting long-term damage to the local environment has been catastrophic and continues to mount.

A similar spill at PolyMet’s dam would threaten the St. Louis river watershed and other waters that thousands of Minnesotans depend on. The St. Louis River is the largest river to flow into Lake Superior, so a threat to this river is a threat to this Great Lake. Within hours, a spill of PolyMet’s dam could destroy buildings and wildlife areas and permanently damage local communities.

PolyMet refuses to consider using much a safer dry storage method, recommended by experts in the wake of the Mount Polley collapse, despite these dangers.

Risking the water, wildlife, people, and buildings downstream of the mine by approving this dam permit would be a shortsighted, dangerous move. Future generations of Minnesotans will not thank us for leaving them a dam that leaks toxic waste and saps their resources. The time to speak up is now – the DNR comment period closes on October 16! 

Click here to send a message to the DNR: that we need to commit to the health of Minnesota’s people and land, not to accepting this dam catastrophe. Click here for more information on the dam permit on the DNR website.
 

Many thanks to the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy for their tremendous research on this issue and setting up the comment submission page. Click here to watch an MCEA video on the dam project.


U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer pitches new pro-mining legislation

(From St. Cloud Times) — Twin Metals Minnesota could get its mineral licenses back and resume exploration in the Superior National Forest if a new bill from U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer becomes law. The Republican lawmaker’s proposal would give Congress the authority to approve mineral withdrawals in Minnesota’s national forest land — a task currently under the U.S. Forest Service’s purview. The bill also gives Congress, rather than the president, authority to designate national monuments on federal forest land in Minnesota.  Emmer says his bill, called the MINER Act, promotes economic development in Minnesota. But some conservation groups oppose the effort and say future mines put the Boundary Waters at risk. >>Read More.

Reader’s View: Water too critical to risk

(From Duluth News Tribune) — Human beings are 60 percent water. We are walking, talking, upright columns of water. Almost 100,000 miles of interconnected vessels, arteries, and capillaries run on water in our bodies. You are what you drink. Like in the human body, water flows in systems in the natural world, too. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Superior National Forest hold 20 percent of the fresh water in the National Forest System. Preserving fresh water must have value beyond commercial profit. Copper-nickel mining in sulfide rock is not like Minnesota’s mines of the past. >>Read More.

 


               

Lake Superior no longer the clearest of the Great Lakes

(From MPR News) — Many people who’ve spent much time around the Great Lakes take for granted that Lake Superior is the largest, coldest and clearest of the lakes. Not anymore. While Lake Superior has not gotten any dirtier, lakes Huron and Michigan have gotten significantly clearer in the past 20 years or so, a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Great Lakes Research found. Anecdotally, scientists knew water clarity was improving in those lakes. But it hadn’t been quantified. “What surprised us was the magnitude of the change,” said Robert Shuchman, a study co-author and co-director of the Michigan Tech Research Institute. >>Read More.


image credit: Great Lakes Commission

Register now for the 13th Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference

(From Healing Our Waters Coalition) — Join us at the 13th Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference in Buffalo, New York! This year’s conference will run from Tuesday, October 17 through Thursday, October 19, 2017, and will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Buffalo. The Great Lakes Restoration Conference is the largest annual gathering of Great Lakes advocates and supporters, providing a three day forum to learn about cutting edge Great Lakes issues, hear from diverse voices from around the lakes, network with leaders at the center of Great Lakes restoration efforts, and develop strategies to advance federal, regional, and local restoration goals. We hope you will join us! Click here for registration and more info!


          

Winona sustainable home open houses this weekend

(From Winona Daily News) — This weekend area residents will have an opportunity for a firsthand look at the energy saving features featured in sustainable homes. This Saturday the Minnesota Sustainable Home Tour, promoted by the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society, will be holding several open houses in the area. Two homes in Winona and a home outside of La Crescent are among around 30 locations statewide showcasing ways to become more sustainable, use clean energy and save money. >>Read More.


image credit: MN350

Xcel’s solar garden program passes milestone: 40 projects online

(From Star Tribune) — Xcel Energy announced Wednesday that 40 community solar gardens are up and running, passing the 100-megawatt threshold for electricity production. The Community Solar Garden program was created by the legislature and launched in 2014. It’s aimed at bringing solar energy to residents and businesses who don’t want the expense and complications of building their own solar arrays. The program got off to a slow start, delayed by a flood of applications and disputes between Xcel and solar developers.  Xcel had once projected that 200 megawatts of solar garden power would be online by the end of 2016. Instead, only around 50 megawatts were running. (A megawatt is one million watts). >>Read More.

       


    

Progress strong on new buffer requirements

(From Mankato Free Press) — Almost all landowners required to put in 50-foot buffers along rivers and other public waters have installed them or are in the process of doing it as the Nov. 1 deadline approaches. Many more, narrower buffers still need to be installed along farm drainage ditches, but the deadline for those isn’t until Nov. 1 of 2018. “On the public water component, 94 percent of the parcels in the state have a sufficient parcel in place. We feel very good about that,” said Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources Executive Director John Jaschke Thursday during a press conference where state officials gave an update on the program. Gov. Mark Dayton worked with lawmakers to pass buffer strip regulations in 2015. >>Read More.


Events and Advocacy News                                                                                              

Women’s Congress for Future Generations to meet in Brooklyn Park, Nov 3-5

The Women’s Congress works to live out what Martin Luther King, Jr. described as the “Beloved Community.” It supports people stepping into collective power to use laws, policies and norms to transition to a just and sustainable world. The 2017 conference focuses on climate, health, and justice. It bears witness to communities of color who are hit hardest by climate change and pollution as people of color are statistically more likely to suffer from autism, lead poisoning and breast cancer, and seeks to create more just systems in response. 

Speakers include nationally recognized experts on climate change and women working in communities impacted by groundwater contamination, pipelines, and toxins in our homes.

Learn more and register with the Women’s Congress for Future Generations! 

Calling all advocacy groups: Apply to be a Capitol Pathways Internship Host

Applications are now open for organizations to host a Capitol Pathways intern in the 2018 Legislative Session. With the long-term goal of making our government truly representative of our communities, the program seeks to open access to the Minnesota capitol to the next generation of leaders of color. Through this program, interns will build relationships with established capitol leaders, gain exposure to various kinds of careers in policy, get real-world experience in career fields they would like to learn more about and build a strong professional resume in the process. This is a spring internship and will run from January-May 2018.

Click for more information on Capitol Pathways and how to apply!

 


Weekly Outdoor Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!            

1. What MN lake features two islands that form the smallest National Wildlife Refuge in the U.S.?

2. What state forest in the Arrowhead region is named for a European country?

3. At less than 60°F, what northern community has the lowest average summer temperature of any Minnesota city?


Upcoming Environmental Events

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Organizing Representative – Twin Cities | Sierra Club

Partnership Coordinator | Fresh Energy

Managing Editor, Energy News Network | Fresh Energy

Clean Energy Associate | Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

Minnesota Organizer | Pesticide Action Network

Public Engagement Fellow | Sierra Club North Star Chapter

Conservation Director | Friends of the Mississippi River

Director of Public Affairs | Northeast Minnesotans for Wilderness

State Policy Community Organizer | Land Stewardship Project

State Director | Environment Minnesota

See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Lake Mille Lacs. 2) Finland State Forest. 3) Grand Marais.


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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.

Sulfate Standard Change Would Weaken Wild Rice Protection

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

This month, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is holding hearings on its proposed  changes to the state’s Wild Rice Sulfate Standard, which regulates the level of sulfate pollution allowed to be discharged into wild rice waters. If enacted, the amendments would shift the regulation from enforcing a uniform level of sulfate across these waters to a more complicated formula, creating a different amount of sulfate allowed for each body of water. While the changes have been promoted as a flexible way to balance wild rice protection with the individual needs of the area, the practical effect of the change is likely to do more harm than good to Minnesota’s state grain.

Sulfate pollution is most commonly discharged by mines, industrial plants, and municipal wastewater systems. When sulfate sinks to a river or lake bed, it combines with sediments to form sulfide compounds, which have harmful effects on wild rice and other organisms. Enough sulfide in a water body can make it hard or even impossible for wild rice to grow.

Getting a sulfate standard wrong could result in catastrophe for Minnesota’s already-diminished wild rice resources. This would be especially harmful to Minnesota’s tribal communities, who rely on wild rice for health, economic activity, and cultural survival.

The supposed strength of the new sulfate rule is its key weakness: making an individual standard for each body of water. The MPCA identifies approximately 1,300 waters as wild rice areas, (a conservative figure that does not cover all wild rice waters), and proposes to study and regulate each one individually.

Budget and time constraints and political considerations mean that many waters will likely not get the enforcement they need to keep sustaining wild rice. And that means they will continue to diminish from toxic pollution. Our waters would be much better served if the current standard were adequately enforced and expanded across all wild rice waters.

Fortunately, there’s still time to speak up for strong protection of this precious resource! Over the next two weeks, the MPCA will hold public meetings on the new standard in St. Paul, Virginia, Bemidji, Cloquet, and Brainerd, and will have a videoconference available on November 2. The Minnesota Environmental Partnership has set up an Action page to RSVP to one of these hearings – let us know if you show up and speak up! The MPCA will also accept written comments until November 22. Let the agency know that for the sake of the long-term health of our waters and our wild rice, Minnesota can’t afford to get this one wrong.

EPA Repeals Clean Power Plan, but Minnesota Moves Forward

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   photo credit: MPCA

By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

This week, the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency announced the beginning of the repeal process for the Clean Power Plan, a major Obama Administration policy that aimed to cut carbon emissions from the U.S. power grid. The plan aimed for a 32% cut in power plant carbon dioxide emissions, relative to the 2005 levels, by 2032. It largely allowed states to achieve these mandated reductions in ways that worked for them – including investing in renewable energy and expanding efficiency-creating technologies. Because of legal challenges from certain states and opponents – including current EPA Director Scott Pruitt – the CPP never went into effect before it was repealed.

The EPA will now begin the long process of collecting public input on the repeal. Thanks to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, the agency will also need to determine a new policy to regulate carbon emissions. As it begins this process, it should keep in mind the projected benefits that would have resulted from the Clean Power Plan by the year 2030:

  • Smog and soot pollution would fall by 25% across the United States, preventing as many as 6,600 deaths caused by these pollutants.
  • Children in the United states would suffer 140,000 and 150,000 fewer asthma attacks
  • Up to $45 billion would be saved on health and environmental costs nationwide.
  • The average family would save $85 a year on energy costs.

And there is a less tangible but no less critical benefit to making cuts in carbon. The United States contributes roughly one-seventh of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. If we want to live up to our international obligations and convince other countries to invest in clean energy, we have to show our commitment. With the Trump Administration signaling the United States’ departure from the Paris Climate Accord and the Clean Power Plan, the United States is sadly resigning leadership on a critical issue.

Fortunately, Minnesota is helping to fill the gap on clean energy leadership. In 2005, 62% of our electric power came from coal-fired plants – today that portion is less than 40% and continues to shrink. It’s no coincidence that wind power has skyrocketed in that same period from 4% of our electricity to almost 20%, ranking Minnesota seventh in the nation for wind energy. In just the first three months of this year, we increased our solar generation by 80%, providing clean power and new jobs to our communities. And the American Council on an Energy Efficient Economy rated Minnesota the most energy efficient state in the Midwest.

Along with the other states in the United States Climate Alliance, Minnesota is stepping up to ensure that the Clean Power Plan lives on in our actions, if not in federal law. We need to double down on our investments in our abundant renewable resources. We must reject calls to move backward toward more fossil fuel use. And we can and should embrace the enormous job growth that the clean energy industry offers. The health of our citizens, our economy, and our great outdoors depends on the commitment we make today.

Mining Waste and a Big Dam Problem

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photo credit: NASA

By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Last month, the Department of Natural Resources released draft dam permitting for PolyMet’s proposed sulfide mine in Northern Minnesota, and opened up a comment period on the permit that ends on October 16. The permit would allow PolyMet to use a 40-year-old dam, previously used to store taconite waste, to store waste from the new mine. Proponents present this as a safe way to keep wastewater and byproducts contained and out of other waters. But the reality is much more alarming.

First, as the permit itself states, the dam would be permanent – not just a long term risk, but a fixture that generations of Minnesotans would have to pay to maintain for hundreds of years. In comparison, the mine itself would operate for about 20 years. The indefinite maintenance, well after the area has been mined out, would be required just to keep this already-leaky dam from releasing its toxic contents into the watershed beyond it.

That’s not a guarantee, however, that the dam wouldn’t break – and the consequences of a rupture would be catastrophic. Three years ago, a similar dam at the Canadian Mount Polley mine collapsed, spilling hundreds of millions of gallons of mine waste into previously clean waters. The dam contained toxic heavy metals like arsenic and lead, which are still contaminating vulnerable lakes and rivers. The resulting long-term damage to the local environment has been catastrophic and continues to mount.

A similar spill at PolyMet’s dam would threaten the St. Louis river watershed and other waters that thousands of Minnesotans depend on. The St. Louis River is the largest river to flow into Lake Superior, so a threat to this river is a threat to this Great Lake. Within hours, a spill of PolyMet’s dam could destroy buildings and wildlife areas and permanently damage local communities.

PolyMet refuses to consider using much a safer dry storage method, recommended by experts in the wake of the Mount Polley collapse, despite these dangers.

Risking the water, wildlife, people, and buildings downstream of the mine by approving this dam permit would be a shortsighted, dangerous move. Future generations of Minnesotans will not thank us for leaving them a dam that leaks toxic waste and saps their resources. The time to speak up is now – the DNR comment period closes on October 16! 

Click here to send a message to the DNR: that we need to commit to the health of Minnesota’s people and land, not to accepting this dam catastrophe. Click here for more information on the dam permit on the DNR website.
 

Many thanks to the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy for their tremendous research on this issue and setting up the comment submission page. Click here to watch an MCEA video on the dam project.

A Greening, Electric Economy

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A Greening, Electric Economy

By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

In many discussions over the future of energy in Minnesota and around the United States, the debate is often framed as a basic argument between protecting the environment and keeping jobs. Proponents of coal, oil, or gas contend that shifting too quickly away from carbon-heavy fossil fuels will mean sacrificing potential job growth in sectors like construction and power plant maintenance. A recent Minnesota Public Radio News headline, “At Line 3 pipeline hearing, it’s environment vs. jobs,” captures this dichotomy. More and more, many fossil fuel advocates admit that moving toward renewable energy is the prevailing trend, but consistently argue that it will happen sometime in the future, and that more fossil fuel infrastructure is needed in the meantime.

But the future of our state’s economy is happening now. According to a report by Clean Energy Economy, Minnesota has more than 57,000 jobs in the clean energy sector – most in energy efficiency, but an increasing share are in harnessing our renewable energy resources like wind and the sun. Job growth in the sector is steaming forward at 5.3% a year, in comparison with overall growth in the state of around 1.3%. And our neighbors are seeing even faster results – in Wisconsin and Iowa, clean energy jobs are growing at almost 7% a year. Sources like wind and solar are becoming cheaper than ever to use for electric power, and much of Minnesota’s potential is still untapped, providing vast space for new production and new jobs.

Fossil fuel proponents point out that much of our transportation and economy still runs on gasoline, diesel, and other fuels, and this is certainly the case. But the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s testimony on the proposed Enbridge Line 3 pipeline demonstrated that Minnesota’s demand for oil products overall has been decreasing since 2015. The oil trains that once crossed the state with enormous frequency now travel through Minnesota at the rate of about one per day. Our vehicles are becoming more efficient and more reliant on electricity. Manufacturers like Volvo and major economies like the United Kingdom, India, and France have announced plans to halt new petroleum vehicles in favor of electric transportation entirely within a few decades.

With the effects of climate change becoming increasingly disastrous, and the demand for oil and coal declining, Minnesota can’t afford to waste resources on hazardous, unneeded new fossil fuel infrastructure. And the skyrocketing expansion of clean energy means we don’t need to choose between job growth and protecting our land, air, and water. The real debate is about how to best to invest in our natural, clean sources of energy to fuel Minnesota’s electric future.

Insider: September 29, 2017

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Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

 

A Greening, Electric Economy

In many discussions over the future of energy in Minnesota and around the United States, the debate is often framed as a basic argument between protecting the environment and keeping jobs. Proponents of coal, oil, or gas contend that shifting too quickly away from carbon-heavy fossil fuels will mean sacrificing potential job growth in sectors like construction and power plant maintenance. A recent Minnesota Public Radio News headline, “At Line 3 pipeline hearing, it’s environment vs. jobs,” captures this dichotomy. More and more, many fossil fuel advocates admit that moving toward renewable energy is the prevailing trend, but consistently argue that it will happen sometime in the future, and that more fossil fuel infrastructure is needed in the meantime.

But the future of our state’s economy is happening now. According to a report by Clean Energy Economy, Minnesota has more than 57,000 jobs in the clean energy sector – most in energy efficiency, but an increasing share are in harnessing our renewable energy resources like wind and the sun. Job growth in the sector is steaming forward at 5.3% a year, in comparison with overall growth in the state of around 1.3%. And our neighbors are seeing even faster results – in Wisconsin and Iowa, clean energy jobs are growing at almost 7% a year. Sources like wind and solar are becoming cheaper than ever to use for electric power, and much of Minnesota’s potential is still untapped, providing vast space for new production and new jobs.

Fossil fuel proponents point out that much of our transportation and economy still runs on gasoline, diesel, and other fuels, and this is certainly the case. But the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s testimony on the proposed Enbridge Line 3 pipeline demonstrated that Minnesota’s demand for oil products overall has been decreasing since 2015. The oil trains that once crossed the state with enormous frequency now travel through Minnesota at the rate of about one per day. Our Vehicles are becoming more efficient and more reliant on electricity. Manufacturers like Volvo and major economies like the United Kingdom, India, and France have announced plans to halt new petroleum vehicles in favor of electric transportation entirely within a few decades.

With the effects of climate change becoming increasingly disastrous, and the demand for oil and coal declining, Minnesota can’t afford to waste resources on hazardous, unneeded new fossil fuel infrastructure. And the skyrocketing expansion of clean energy means we don’t need to choose between job growth and protecting our land, air, and water. The real debate is about how to best to invest in our natural, clean sources of energy to fuel Minnesota’s electric future.


image credit: MN350

Minnesotans march to Hold the Line against Line 3

On Thursday, September 28, hundreds of Minnesotans from around the state gathered at the State Capitol to speak out against the proposed Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline. Pipeline opponents gathered in St. Paul as a judge held the only hearing to be held in the Twin Cities asking the public to weigh in on two key permits for the project: the Certificate of Need and Route Permit. The Minnesota Department of Commerce recently submitted testimony recommending that the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) not allow Enbridge to move forward with the project, and now the PUC will accept public comments over the next few months.

“We call on Governor Dayton and the PUC to act in Minnesota’s best interest and prevent more dirty tar sands from running through our state,” said Margaret Levin, State Director for the Sierra Club North Star Chapter. “If built, this pipeline would threaten Minnesota’s precious lands, water, climate, and Indigenous treaty-protected rights. That’s why thousands of Minnesotans have raised their voices and urged our state government to reject this pipeline once and for all.”

News coverage: MPRStar TribuneDuluth News Tribune

                

image credit: MN350

Greenspace: ‘There’s plenty of room for growth’

(From Rochester Post-Bulletin) — Minnesota’s clean energy industry continues to surge. A report released Sept. 7 by Clean Energy Economy Minnesota found clean energy jobs grew nearly four times faster than overall state job growth since last year — adding 2,893 jobs to the economy. Thirty percent of the state’s roughly 57,000 clean energy jobs are found in greater Minnesota, the report found. Roughly 5,800 of those jobs are located in Minnesota’s 1st congressional district, which covers Rochester and Southeast Minnesota. Curt Shellum, owner of Solar Connection, a Rochester solar installer, spoke with the Post Bulletin on Friday about Southeast Minnesota’s clean energy industry growth. >>Read More.

Plant closures could be turning point for Minnesota biomass industry

(From Midwest Energy News) — Minnesota utility regulators are studying a proposal by Xcel Energy to close two biomass plants that could mark a turning point for the industry here, particularly as prices for renewable energy drop. The proposal — which has approval by the state legislature and the communities affected — would close Benson Power, which burns turkey waste and wood, as well as a biomass plant in northern Minnesota owned by the Laurentian Energy Authority (LEA). Closing the two plants, which make up half of Minnesota’s biomass generation, could cost hundreds of jobs, and state forest management officials and the poultry industry say it will create turmoil among various suppliers to the plants. Their message is simple: slow down. >>Read More.

          

New tool helps farmers stay in compliance with Buffer Law

(From Fergus Falls Daily Journal) — The Nov. 1 deadline is quickly approaching for Minnesota farmers to commit to a plan to comply with the Minnesota Buffer Law. The law requires farmers to install a 16.5-foot buffer on public ditches and a 50-foot buffer on public waters that run along their farmland. “There was a lot of questions and discussions concerning the law from its conception,” Paul Meints, research director for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA), said. The law was put in place to prevent phosphorous and sediment runoff. While the law left room for alternative practices to be implemented, it wasn’t clear on what those acceptable alternatives would be. >>Read More.

Dayton hosting two more 25 by 25 town halls

Governor Dayton has so far hosted eight of his ten planned town hall meetings on his proposed “25 by 25” Water Quality Goal throughout Minnesota. The Governor is seeking input on how to improve the health of our state’s waters by 25% by the year 2025, and wants to hear Minnesotans’ ideas. The next several meetings will be coming next week to Burnsville and Stillwater. To find out how you can give your own input at a town hall, visit www.eqb.state.mn.us/25by25

           

photo credit: Tom Westbrook

Federal forests bill new irritant for Nolan critics

(From the Timberjay) — Federal forest management has become the latest flash point between environmental groups and supporters of industry, and this time it’s backers of industry, including Eighth District Rep. Rick Nolan, who are on the offensive. Nolan is one of only two Democratic co-sponsors of a measure that would, in effect, eliminate most environmental review related to timber management on federal forests, including the Superior and the Chippewa national forests in Minnesota. Minnesota Seventh District Rep. Collin Peterson, whose district includes no national forest land, is the other Democratic co-sponsor. The bill, HR 2936, is known as the Resilient Federal Forests Act, and it’s being pushed by a handful of mostly western lawmakers who say they are hoping to streamline federal regulations in order to increase timber production on national forests. >>Read More.

           


photo credit: NASA

Environmentalists seek more comment time on PolyMet permits

(From Star Tribune) — Environmental groups have asked the Department of Natural Resources to give the public more time to comment on the draft dam safety permits for the planned PolyMet copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota. The latest request came Wednesday from four groups: WaterLegacy, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest and the Izaak Walton League. It followed a request last week from the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. The comment period on the two draft permits closes Oct. 16. >>Read More.

 


Weekly Outdoor Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!            

1. Northern Minnesota is home to two continental divides, separating waters that flow in three different directions. What are the names of those divides?

2. From the continental divides, Minnesota waters flow into the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico, and what other body of water?

3. What border lake is the source of the Minnesota river?

Upcoming Environmental Events

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Managing Editor, Energy News Network | Fresh Energy

Clean Energy Associate | Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

Minnesota Organizer | Pesticide Action Network

Public Engagement Fellow | Sierra Club North Star Chapter

Conservation Director | Friends of the Mississippi River

Director of Public Affairs | Northeast Minnesotans for Wilderness

State Policy Community Organizer | Land Stewardship Project

State Director | Environment Minnesota

See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Laurentian and St. Lawrence 2) Hudson Bay 3) Big Stone Lake


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.

Great Lakes Commission Visits Duluth, Talks Water and Infrastructure Solutions

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

On Tuesday and Thursday, September 19-20, the city of Duluth hosted the annual meeting of the Great Lakes Commission (GLC), an interstate compact dedicated to discussing and implementing good public policy for water, land, and economic prosperity in the Great Lakes region. Members from eight states as well as Ontario and Quebec visited the Twin Ports, where they elected John Linc Stine, commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, as the GLC’s new chairman. Staff from MEP attended to learn from Great Lakes experts and offer input on pressing problems facing the region, and had the opportunity to view restoration projects that have already been accomplished in Duluth’s harbor.

The Commission’s most critical accomplishment was agreeing on an action plan to tackle the water infrastructure problems facing Great Lakes communities today. States around the basin are in need of drinking- and wastewater infrastructure upgrades that meet the needs of this century and prevent further pollution of these critical waters. These are issues that no city or state can address alone: the Commission will have to work with local stakeholders, federal agencies, and programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to move these projects forward.

Fortunately, Duluth provided an excellent opportunity for policymakers to learn. Native American leaders from the Fond du Lac Band and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission spoke about tribal sovereignty, engaging with indigenous communities, and the importance of wild rice as a critical resource for Great Lakes tribes. By listening to tribal, state, and local concerns in tackling the environmental challenges that face the Great Lakes, the GLC has an opportunity to build a cleaner and more equitable future for all of us who depend on these precious waters.

For more information on the GLC and Great Lakes issues, check out the 2017 Annual Meeting Briefing Book – the critical Joint Action Plan on clean water infrastructure can be found starting on page 38.

MEP Welcomes Commerce Testimony on Line 3

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

On Monday, September 11, the Minnesota Department of Commerce released an analysis arguing that the proposed Enbridge Line 3 replacement pipeline, which would carry Alberta tar sands oil across Northern Minnesota, was not needed by the state, based on independent analysis of oil consumption projections. The Department further testifed that the pipeline’s environmental and social impacts on Minnesotans would outweigh the benefits, and that the previous Line 3, which is aging and running at low-capacity, should be removed and cleaned up. This analysis came as a surprise to many observers, especially considering that Enbridge has already begun construction on segments of the pipeline in Wisconsin in Canada.

Steve Morse, the Minnesota Environmental Partnership’s Executive Director, welcomed the Commerce conclusions in a press release. “The age of growth in fossil fuel demand is over,” Morse said. “We don’t need increased fossil fuel capacity.” Instead, “We need to get about the business of abandoning and cleaning up the existing Line 3.”

Though this report represents a significant blow against this hazardous pipeline, the Department of Commerce does not have the authority to prevent Line 3. The politically independent Public Utilities Commission will consider these and other arguments in hearings next spring, when it determines whether to grant Line 3 a certificate of need. But it is clear that sustained pressure from advocates on the pipeline’s harmful effects is not going unheard.

The Public Utilities Commission should take into account the harmful effects that this oil pipeline would have on water, climate change, and the health and livelihoods of Minnesota’s indigenous communities. And it should carefully consider the Department of Commerce conclusion that this new fossil fuel infrastructure is not needed. It will take continued, vocal advocacy from Minnesotans to make sure that these concerns are heard. We invite residents from across our state to educate their neighbors and speak up on Line 3’s threats to our water and climate. Visit mepartnership.org to learn more find out how to take action!

Department of Commerce News Release on Line 3
MEP press statement on Department of Commerce testimony
WCCO coverage of Commerce testimony, featuring interview with Steve Morse

Insider: September 22, 2017

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Great Lakes Commission Visits Duluth, Talks Water and Infrastructure Solutions

On Tuesday and Thursday, September 19-20, the city of Duluth hosted the annual meeting of the Great Lakes Commission (GLC), an interstate compact dedicated to discussing and implementing good public policy for water, land, and economic prosperity in the Great Lakes region. Members from eight states as well as Ontario and Quebec visited the Twin Ports, where they elected John Linc Stine, commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, as the GLC’s new chairman. Staff from MEP attended to learn from Great Lakes experts and offer input on pressing problems facing the region, and had the opportunity to view restoration projects that have already been accomplished in Duluth’s harbor.

The Commission’s most critical accomplishment was agreeing on an action plan to tackle the water infrastructure problems facing Great Lakes communities today. States around the basin are in need of drinking- and wastewater infrastructure upgrades that meet the needs of this century and prevent further pollution of these critical waters. These are issues that no city or state can address alone: the Commission will have to work with local stakeholders, federal agencies, and programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to move these projects forward.

Fortunately, Duluth provided an excellent opportunity for policymakers to learn. Native American leaders from the Fond du Lac Band and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission spoke about tribal sovereignty, engaging with indigenous communities, and the importance of wild rice as a critical resource for Great Lakes tribes. By listening to tribal, state, and local concerns in tackling the environmental challenges that face the Great Lakes, the GLC has an opportunity to build a cleaner and more equitable future for all of us who depend on these precious waters.

For more information on the GLC and Great Lakes issues, check out the 2017 Annual Meeting Briefing Book – the critical Joint Action Plan on clean water infrastructure can be found starting on page 38.



photo credit: NASA

Our View: Keep up pressure for good of Great Lakes

(From Duluth News Tribune) – Just two months after the future brightened for a federal program actually making real progress in cleaning up the St. Louis River and other heavily polluted “areas of concern,” public and political pressure turned up even more this week for the future of the Great Lakes. First, about that federal program, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative: In March, it was listed among potential federal budget cuts under then-new President Donald Trump. The initiative’s $300 million annual appropriation faced a slash to just $10 million, a whopping 97 percent reduction. Then it got worse. In late May, the Trump administration’s budget blueprint to Congress eliminated the initiative’s funding altogether. >>Read More.

White Bear Lake homeowners won their lawsuit over water levels. Now what?

(From Pioneer Press) — White Bear Lake-area officials and residents are struggling to comprehend the implications of a lawsuit concerning the lake’s water levels. The August ruling by a Ramsey County judge ordered restrictions on local water use. City officials from White Bear Lake and other municipalities are concerned the ruling, which includes a potential residential watering ban, could burden area residents. Meanwhile, homeowners say the decision raises the question of whether communities should look beyond wells for their water. “We need to find out more information about, if the ruling stands, what impact it will have on our overall community,” said Tom Snell, executive director of the White Bear Area Chamber of Commerce. >>Read More.

Dayton’s 25 by 25 meetings head to the Twin Cities

Governor Dayton has so far hosted five of his ten planned town hall meetings on his proposed “25 by 25” Water Quality Goal throughout Minnesota. The Governor is seeking input on how to improve the health of our state’s waters by 25% by the year 2025, and wants to hear Minnesotans’ ideas. The next several meetings will be coming to Minneapolis, Burnsville, and Stillwater. To find out how you can give your own input at a town hall, visit www.eqb.state.mn.us/25by25


                

image credit: MN350

Hold the Line to Stop Line 3 on September 28

On the afternoon Thursday, September 28, Minnesotans from around the state will gather at the State Capitol to speak out against the proposed Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline. The group will hold a protest rally there at 4:00 PM, featuring jingle dress dancers and speakers, including Honor the Earth’s National Campaign Director Tara Houska.

At 5:00, the coalition will march to the Intercontinental Hotel downtown to attend a public hearing on Line 3 held by the Public Utilities Commission. The PUC is gathering testimony on whether Line 3 should be granted a certificate of need, and this is a critical time for Minnesotans to speak up!

This event will be hosted by a collaboration of groups allied to protect water and tribal resources and combat climate change in Minnesota. To find out how to get involved, visit the Action Network page or the Facebook event.

Almanac Debate: Enbridge Oil Pipeline Controversy

On Friday, September 15, MEP Executive Director Steve Morse was featured on the TPT (Twin Cities PBS) program Almanac, where he debated Cam Winton of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce on whether the state has a need for the Line 3 pipeline. Morse explained how the PUC came to the conclusion that neither the aging, current Line 3 nor its proposed replacement is needed by Minnesotans. He went on to say that, while it will take time to transition away from fossil fuels, this pipeline would be a step in the wrong direction, and its benefits would not be worth the costs. Watch the full video here. 

   


          

photo credit: NASA

Northern Minnesota leaders don’t want the answers a Forest Service mining study might yield

(From MinnPost) — Political backers of the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine near Ely have made progress in seeking to undermine federal funding for an ongoing study of the potential effects of sulfide mining within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) watershed. It’s all part of a push by Eighth District Rep. Rick Nolan and many local politicians to re-establish mineral leases for Twin Metals which the Obama administration canceled back in December and to head off any examination of some of the economic downsides of copper-nickel mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters. Sadly, such battles are too often simply about the fight, and the politics of the fight, rather than part of an overall strategic vision that has the potential to move the region’s economy forward. >>Read More.

           

photo credit: The Land Institute

Greenspace: Chatfield tests new cover crop that protects groundwater

(From Rochester Post Bulletin) — Chatfield officials are planting an uncommon crop in hopes of protecting the town’s drinking water supply. The City of Chatfield is working with the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Rural Water Association to determine the viability of Kernza, an intermediate wheatgrass. Officials planted Kernza on 3 acres of city-owned land last week as part of an effort to protect the local water supply. Chatfield is the first city in Southeast Minnesota to plant Kernza — a perennial crop sporting a dense root structure. >>Read More.

           

Southwest light-rail wall draws the ire of Minneapolis, state officials

(From Star Tribune) — A proposed concrete wall along a portion of the proposed $1.9 billion Southwest light-rail route in Minneapolis has drawn the ire of elected officials who want an additional environmental study done before the partition is built. The $20 million wall was requested by BNSF Railway while it was in right-of-way negotiations with the Metropolitan Council, which will build and operate the 14½-mile line between downtown Minneapolis and Eden Prairie. The regional planning body approved the construction of the mile-long wall between the Royalston Avenue/Farmers Market and Bryn Mawr stations last month, part of a broader agreement with BNSF. >>Read More.


                

Want to attract Amazon? Try winning the wind race

(From MinnPost) — Last week, Minneapolis-St. Paul signaled its intention to join the race to entice Amazon to locate its new headquarters in the Twin Cities. While local officials pull together a package they hope will win the day, it’s worth considering how our friendly neighbors to the south have managed to persuade so many companies to set up shop in Iowa. Iowa, it turns out, can offer one thing more and more major corporations want: easy access to low-cost, renewable energy. In a recently published national opinion piece, “The red state with an energy blueprint,” Iowa’s Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds extolled Iowa’s burgeoning wind industry and the 37 percent of Iowa’s electricity provided by homegrown wind power. >>Read More.

 


Weekly Outdoor Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!            

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

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

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

Upcoming Environmental Events

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Minnesota Organizer | Pesticide Action Network

Public Engagement Fellow | Sierra Club North Star Chapter

Conservation Director | Friends of the Mississippi River

Director of Public Affairs | Northeast Minnesotans for Wilderness

State Policy Community Organizer | Land Stewardship Project

State Director | Environment Minnesota

See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Norway Pine 2) Rum River 3) Alaska


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Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Copyright © 2017
546 Rice Street, Suite 100, Saint Paul, MN 55103
www.mepartnership.org
 

The Minnesota Environmental Partnership (MEP) is a coalition of more than 70 environmental and conservation organizations working together for clean water, clean energy, and protection of our Great Outdoors.

Insider: September 16, 2017

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MEP Welcomes Commerce Testimony on Line 3

On Monday, September 11, the Minnesota Department of Commerce released an analysis arguing that the proposed Enbridge Line 3 replacement pipeline, which would carry Alberta tar sands oil across Northern Minnesota, was not needed by the state, based on independent analysis of oil consumption projections. The Department further testifed that the pipeline’s environmental and social impacts on Minnesotans would outweigh the benefits, and that the previous Line 3, which is aging and running at low-capacity, should be removed and cleaned up. This analysis came as a surprise to many observers, especially considering that Enbridge has already begun construction on segments of the pipeline in Wisconsin in Canada.

Steve Morse, the Minnesota Environmental Partnership’s Executive Director, welcomed the Commerce conclusions in a press release. “The age of growth in fossil fuel demand is over,” Morse said. “We don’t need increased fossil fuel capacity.” Instead, “We need to get about the business of abandoning and cleaning up the existing Line 3.”

Though this report represents a significant blow against this hazardous pipeline, the Department of Commerce does not have the authority to prevent Line 3. The politically independent Public Utilities Commission will consider these and other arguments in hearings next spring, when it determines whether to grant Line 3 a certificate of need. But it is clear that sustained pressure from advocates on the pipeline’s harmful effects is not going unheard.

The Public Utilities Commission should take into account the harmful effects that this oil pipeline would have on water, climate change, and the health and livelihoods of Minnesota’s indigenous communities. And it should carefully consider the Department of Commerce conclusion that this new fossil fuel infrastructure is not needed. It will take continued, vocal advocacy from Minnesotans to make sure that these concerns are heard. We invite residents from across our state to educate their neighbors and speak up on Line 3’s threats to our water and climate. Visit mepartnership.org to learn more find out how to take action!

Department of Commerce News Release on Line 3
MEP press statement on Department of Commerce testimony
WCCO coverage of Commerce testimony, featuring interview with Steve Morse



photo credit: NASA

Great Lakes Commission to work on water solutions in Duluth

Next week, the city of Duluth will host the annual meeting of the Great Lakes Commission (GLC), an interstate compact dedicated to discussing and implementing good public policy for water, land, and economic prosperity in the Great Lakes region. MEP staff will be in attendance to join in discussing solutions to some of the most pressing water issues, such as invasive species and pollution, that face the Great Lakes today. Click here for more information about the Great Lakes Commission’s important work on protecting and improving these waters for future generations.

’25 by 25′: Town hall on water quality held in Bemidji

(From Bemidji Pioneer) — Local and state officials talked about ways to improve water quality in Minnesota on Wednesday before turning the question to residents for more ideas. The event was the seventh of 10 water quality town hall events held across the state. Starting in July, the series of meetings are part of an initiative launched by Gov. Mark Dayton dubbed “25 by 25,” meaning a goal of improving the state’s water quality 25 percent by 2025.  Dayton, who was initially scheduled to appear at the event, was unable to attend. However, his water advisor Anna Henderson was on hand to address the crowd of about 250 people at Bemidji High School. “We’re here to listen and learn from all of you about the water quality improvements that you want to see and how we can increase the pace of progress,” Henderson said. >>Read More.

Dayton’s 25 by 25 meetings head to the Twin Cities

Governor Dayton has so far hosted five of his ten planned town hall meetings on his proposed “25 by 25” Water Quality Goal throughout Minnesota. The Governor is seeking input on how to improve the health of our state’s waters by 25% by the year 2025, and wants to hear Minnesotans’ ideas. The next several meetings will be coming to Minneapolis, Burnsville, and Stillwater. To find out how you can give your own input at a town hall, visit www.eqb.state.mn.us/25by25


                

photo credit: Midwest Energy News

New study: green energy a major job creator in state

(From The Timberjay) —  The clean energy industry has become a significant bright spot in Minnesota’s overall economy in recent years, creating nearly 3,000 new jobs in just the past 12 months. That’s according to a new report from Clean Energy Trust and Environmental Entrepreneurs, which is being highlighted by state officials, including Lt. Gov. Tina Smith. With the latest growth in employment, the clean energy industry— which includes businesses and workers advancing renewable sources of energy production and energy efficiency improvements—now employs just over 57,000 Minnesotans according to the study. Of those jobs, just over 17,000 are located outside the Twin Cities metro area, making the sector a major employer in outstate Minnesota. >>Read More.

Chippewa County wind farm likely to go up in early 2018

(From West Central Tribune) — Equipment began arriving this week for the construction of an 18-turbine wind farm in Chippewa County, but work is not likely to get underway until spring. Company officials with Palmer’s Creek Wind Farm outlined plans for the 44.6-megawatt wind farm to Administrative Law Judge Barbara Case at a public hearing Monday evening in Montevideo. The Public Utilities Commission has developed a draft permit for the project, and is expected to act on the permit by year’s end. Judge Case said public comments on the project will be accepted by the PUC through Sept. 21. It’s an opportunity to point out what could be improved, or issues regulators might not be aware of, she said. Company officials had hoped to begin work this fall, but the permit process is not complete. >>Read More.

   


          

photo credit: EPA

Families clash over proposed hog farm in Zumbrota Township

(From MPR News) —  A family proposing a large hog operation near Zumbrota Township on Thursday showed up at a press conference held by neighbors who oppose the facility. Backed by the Land Stewardship Project, Zumbrota Township retired farmer Dale Post and about a dozen others held signs such as “No Factory Farms” and “Family Farms NOT Factory Farms” as they spoke in a downtown Lakeville park about their concerns about odors and hydrogen sulfide gas, which results from animal waste and can be harmful to health at certain levels. >>Read More.

           

 

Air Quality alert issued for Minneapolis-St. Paul area

(From Pioneer Press) — Unusually warm temperatures, sunny skies and high levels of ozone coming in from the south and central United States are creating unhealthy air quality for some people in the metro and southern Minnesota. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency released an air quality alert Thursday that’ll be in effect from noon to 8 p.m. Friday. Air quality index levels are expected to climb through the afternoon and settle after sunset. People with respiratory problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart conditions could be affected by the higher levels of ozone. Those who have asthma or COPD, make sure to have your inhaler with you and take other necessary precautions, the MPCA said in the statement. >>Read More.


           

A new bee “sky rise” in Como Park offers home for pollinators

(From Star Tribune) —  A new custom-built high-rise featuring a sleek wood and metal design and breathtaking views of Como Lake hit the market Wednesday morning. Best of all? The list price is free — to bees and butterflies. The pollinator “sky-rise” is the work of Public Art St. Paul and the Bee Lab at the University of Minnesota. The purpose of the striking yellow tower is more than artistic, however. Researchers hope to learn what kind of man-made housing will attract, protect and nurture pollinators at a time when natural habitat is disappearing. At the same time, officials hope the tower and its nearby bins of free flower seeds — milkweed, purple prairie clover and black-eyed Susan — will elicit support for developing even more pollinator habitat. >>Read More.


                

photo credit: Pioneer Press

Where things stand with the effort to allow mining near the Boundary Waters

(From MinnPost) — For those who don’t want mining — or even the whiff of mining — to come anywhere near northern Minnesota’s protected Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, the last weeks of the Barack Obama administration were good ones. Just as Donald Trump was preparing to take office, the Obama administration declined to renew mineral leases held by the company Twin Metals, and began the process of blocking off nearly a quarter-million acres of Superior National Forest from mining projects for up to 20 years. Fourth District DFL Rep. Betty McCollum, one of Congress’ staunchest opponents of mining near the Boundary Waters, said back then that Minnesotans should celebrate the victories, but cautioned that “we have more work to do.” >>Read More.

 


Weekly Outdoor Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!            

1. What peak in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is Minnesota’s highest point?

2. What Minnesota county is named for a Dakota word meaning “where the buffalo fish come”?

3. Minnesota’s state park system is the second-oldest in the United States. Which state’s is the oldest?

Upcoming Environmental Events

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Minnesota Organizer | Pesticide Action Network

Public Engagement Fellow | Sierra Club North Star Chapter

Conservation Director | Friends of the Mississippi River

Director of Public Affairs | Northeast Minnesotans for Wilderness

State Policy Community Organizer | Land Stewardship Project

State Director | Environment Minnesota

See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Eagle Mountain. 2) Kandiyohi. 3) New York


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.