Clean Water Council Funding Letter

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March 1, 2018

Clean Water Council Budget and Outcomes Committee

Dear Members,

We are very pleased to see that as a result of the most recent state budget forecast, the $22 million in Clean Water Funds that were inappropriately directed to local government programs last year have been restored to the Clean Water Fund. This presents an excellent opportunity for some strategic investments of these funds into some program areas that will provide long term, durable solutions to our water quality challenges in the state. We ask the Clean Water Council to recommend the following strategic investments.

We urge the Council to increase the funding recommendation for the Forever Green Initiative at the University of Minnesota by $4.25 million for FY 2019. We appreciate the Clean Water Council’s past support for this important work and this will effectively build on that past commitment.

As you are all aware the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency report “Nitrogen in Minnesota Surface Waters” found that the development of more cover crops and perennial crops are critical to cleaning up our water. As we have seen in subsequent research, it is only by incorporating more perennial and cover crops into our current crop rotations that we will be able to reach our water quality goals in much of our state.

The Forever Green Initiative was established to address just this issue. Its focus is on research and outreach to develop and improve cover crops and perennial crops that are profitable for farmers to grow and necessary to improve water quality. These crops also help build healthy soil and provide improved wildlife habitat. The Forever Green Initiative has a competitive, peer review process for allocating resources that is open to all research and outreach faculty.

The University of Minnesota has the staff with the skills and interest in this work and is uniquely positioned to advance it. The Forever Green Initiative provides a mechanism to direct this talent. What has been missing is a commitment of ongoing funding to direct work that needs to take place over several growing seasons. For the Clean Water Council to include this funding in their recommendations would be an important step in achieving this. We feel that this funding is critical as Forever Green is a necessary key to unlock the dramatic potential for positive change in water quality this effort will yield over the long term.

We urge the Council to recommend $250,000 in FY 2019 for The Working Lands Watershed Restoration Program (WLWRP) which facilitates the creation of incentives,
products, and markets that will make it advantageous for landowners to plant perennial and cover crops to improve water quality and provide other ecological benefits. The initial 2016 program funded an active two-year Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) effort to research and develop the program. A project report was submitted to the legislature on February 1, 2018. This funding will continue this work for one year and position the project to be ready for implementation in advance of the 2019 session.

Lastly, we are excited about these requests because they are proposals where environmental organizations and farm organizations find common ground on nonregulatory, market based approaches to address some of our most difficult challenges. Farm organizations and conservation and environmental groups have joined forces to advocate for these programs at the legislature.

Sincerely,
Steve Morse
Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Environment Minnesota

Friends of the Mississippi River

Land Stewardship Project

Minnesota Trout Unlimited

Insider: February 23, 2018

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photo credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Invasive Shrimp Appears in Lake Superior

Bill In Congress Would Worsen Problem

This week, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced that a single specimen of the bloody red shrimp species had been discovered in water samples collected from the Duluth-Superior harbor area in the summer of 2017. This tiny freshwater shrimp, native to areas near Russia and Ukraine, has begun to infest the Great Lakes, carried to North America in the ballast water of ships. Previously, it had only been found in watersheds as far west as Lake Michigan – the dead specimen in the Twin Ports is the first in Lake Superior, and it’s not yet clear whether this lone shrimp represents an infestation.

It’s also unclear what effect the current population of bloody red shrimp is having on the Great Lakes since its discovery here in 2006, but the impact of other invasive species on the native ecosystems has often been strikingly negative. Species like the quagga mussel and blood-sucking lampreys have greatly harmed existing species of fish and invertebrates, creating real problems for the Great Lakes economy and ecology.

Fortunately, U.S. and Canadian regulators have worked to slow the spread of these invasive species by requiring ships to change their ballast water before entering the Great Lakes waterway, thus flushing out invasive stowaway species from foreign waters. Current federal rules also mandate that by 2021, any oceangoing ships entering U.S. ports must have ballast water treatment systems.

Unfortunately, a bill in the U.S. Senate would roll back these critical protections. The Commercial Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (also known as VIDA or CVIDA) would transfer regulatory authority for ballast water to the Coast Guard, watering down its enforcement in the process. It would also delay improvements to the current ballast discharge standard and introduce exceptions that would create openings for invasive species to infest previously safe watersheds. 

For instance, this legislation would roll back protections aimed at keeping invasives that have already become established in other Great Lakes, such as Lack Michigan, from being transferred to our clearer Lake Superior. Such as in the case with the bloody red shrimp. And it would remove state authority to act to protect Lake Superior and eliminate the rules on water treatment technology, increasing the chances of invasive species slipping through the cracks in the future.

The VIDA legislation would undo significant progress in protecting the Great Lakes from invasive species. As tiny as the bloody red shrimp is, it’s representative of a much greater danger to our lakes and the millions of people who make their livelihoods around them. If you’re concerned about invasive species threatening our shores, call your federal lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives, and tell them to reject VIDA and keep our Great Lakes healthy!


Thanks to 3M settlement, water in east metro to get an $850 million boost

(From Star Tribune) — The east metro communities that sit above 100 square miles of contaminated groundwater are about to get $850 million from the state’s settlement with the 3M Co. that they can devote to clean water — an amount that’s eight times what Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment provides annually for water projects across the entire state. “It will bring real and fairly quick relief to the people,” Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson said at a news conference Wednesday to explain how the settlement will work and how the money can be spent. She was flanked by commissioners from the Pollution Control Agency and the Department of Natural Resources, which were parties to the suit. >>Read More.

Mankato area projects in Dayton’s water bonding plan

(From Mankato Free Press) — As part of his $1.5 billion bonding proposal to this year’s Legislature, Gov. Mark Dayton includes $167 million to fund additional water infrastructure projects — mostly renovations or new construction of sewer and drinking water systems. Among the proposed projects are some in Blue Earth, Brown and Le Sueur counties. Projects in the governor’s newest bonding proposal include extending Mankato city sewer lines to the South View Heights II subdivision at a cost of $1.4 million.  >>Read More.


               

Mount Polley and PolyMet: What happened in Canada must not happen here

(From MinnPost) — Final permit decisions on PolyMet’s proposed NorthMet Mining Project are approaching, and for all the celebration of the process by politicians and company promoters here in Minnesota, we have grave concerns. We bring this message from Duluth, where we live downstream of the proposed PolyMet mine. Last week we welcomed a delegation from Amnesty International to discuss their experience with a British Columbia copper sulfide mine upstream of their own communities. This is a group that has heard it all before: promises of safety from mining companies, claims of new technology that isn’t, guarantees of zero discharge, and assurances from government officials that it will all be fine. >>Read More.


                

photo credit: National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Electric cars have arrived in Duluth

(From Duluth News Tribune) — If Northlanders really wanted to be like Norwegians we’d stow the cross-country skis and stoic love of cold and buy a Tesla. Norway reached a milestone in December when electric vehicles accounted for 52 percent of all new vehicles sold in the country. All-electric Tesla models were the first and second most popular cars sold in Norway. It was the first time more than half of all new vehicles sold in Norway (or any other country) were electric, and that number is expected to only increase in years to come. Lightbulb moment here, Northland: The Norwegian climate is much like ours. Electric cars work in the cold. >>Read More.

 


A potential for protest: Sheriff’s office taking steps in case DAPL-type pipeline protest come to area

(From Bemidji Pioneer) — The potential for pipeline protests here in Bemidji similar to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in North Dakota has led the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies to prepare in advance. On Tuesday, Sheriff Phil Hodapp asked the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners to approve a mutual aid agreement with various northern Minnesota agencies. This new agreement differs from state statute, which requires an emergency before a government unit can request aid from another. >>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. What toxin, a byproduct of power generation, mining, and industry, is especially prevalent in the St. Louis river?

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

3. What state park, known for its namesake lake, is Minnesota’s oldest and second-largest?

Upcoming Environmental Events

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

Electric Vehicles: The Future Is Now, February 27
University Square, University of Minnesota-Rochester
Hosted by Fresh Energy

Rain Garden Pop-up, February 27
Lift Bridge Brewhouse, Stillwater
Hosted by St. Croix River Association

LSP State Policy Organizing Meeting in South Central MN, March 1
St. Mary’s Catholic Church, St. Peter
Hosted by Land Stewardship Project

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 Coordinator | Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters
Administrative Assistant | Friends of the Mississippi River
Executive Director | Cannon River Watershed Partnership
Communications Director | Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness
See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) Mercury. 2) Lake Mille Lacs. 3) Itasca


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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.

 

Invasive Shrimp Appears in Lake Superior – Bill In Congress Would Worsen Problem

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photo credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

 

By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

This week, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced that a single specimen of the bloody red shrimp species had been discovered in water samples collected from the Duluth-Superior harbor area in the summer of 2017. This tiny freshwater shrimp, native to areas near Russia and Ukraine, has begun to infest the Great Lakes, carried to North America in the ballast water of ships. Previously, it had only been found in watersheds as far west as Lake Michigan – the dead specimen in the Twin Ports is the first in Lake Superior, and it’s not yet clear whether this lone shrimp represents an infestation.

It’s also unclear what effect the current population of bloody red shrimp is having on the Great Lakes since its discovery here in 2006, but the impact of other invasive species on the native ecosystems has often been strikingly negative. Species like the quagga mussel and blood-sucking lampreys have greatly harmed existing species of fish and invertebrates, creating real problems for the Great Lakes economy and ecology.

Fortunately, U.S. and Canadian regulators have worked to slow the spread of these invasive species by requiring ships to change their ballast water before entering the Great Lakes waterway, thus flushing out invasive stowaway species from foreign waters. Current federal rules also mandate that by 2021, any oceangoing ships entering U.S. ports must have ballast water treatment systems.

Unfortunately, a bill in the U.S. Senate would roll back these critical protections. The Commercial Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (also known as VIDA or CVIDA) would transfer regulatory authority for ballast water to the Coast Guard, watering down its enforcement in the process. It would also delay improvements to the current ballast discharge standard and introduce exceptions that would create openings for invasive species to infest previously safe watersheds. 

For instance, this legislation would roll back protections aimed at keeping invasives that have already become established in other Great Lakes, such as Lack Michigan, from being transferred to our clearer Lake Superior. Such as in the case with the bloody red shrimp. And it would remove state authority to act to protect Lake Superior and eliminate the rules on water treatment technology, increasing the chances of invasive species slipping through the cracks in the future.

The VIDA legislation would undo significant progress in protecting the Great Lakes from invasive species. As tiny as the bloody red shrimp is, it’s representative of a much greater danger to our lakes and the millions of people who make their livelihoods around them. If you’re concerned about invasive species threatening our shores, call your federal lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives, and tell them to reject VIDA and keep our Great Lakes healthy!

Minnesota Legislative Session Begins on Tuesday

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

February 20 will mark the beginning of the Minnesota Legislature’s 2018 Session, which will run until late May, offering opportunities and risks for Minnesota’s natural resources. Each session carries with it unique challenges, but the MEP coalition also has a chance to change the conversation on our state’s land, air, and water – and support programs that help keep Minnesota clean. Fortunately, with the help of partners and concerned citizens, several strong programs to protect our land and water were funded, and proposals that would have taken our policies backwards were blocked during the last session. This year, we’ll be back at the Capitol, working proactively to advance positive proposals that would benefit all Minnesotans:

  • Clean water investments for rural communities – Bonding funds for wastewater treatment and water infrastructure, which can be an enormous expense for rural communities, would help bring clean water to every Minnesotan. And bonding for the Conservation Reserve Easement Program (CREP) would further help by reducing runoff pollution in Minnesota’s water supply.
  • Increasing perennials and cover crops in agriculture – Recent research has made it clear that perennial and cover crops are critical to boost farming productivity and preserve land and water resources. MEP supports the Working Lands Watershed Restoration Program, which aims to create advantages for landowners to plant these healthy crops, and a boosted state investment in the University of Minnesota’s Forever Green Initiative, which aims to make these crop practices economically viable.
  • Increasing the Renewable Energy Standard to 50% by 2030 – The current Renewable Energy Standard set in 2007 set a goal of 25% renewable energy statewide by 2025. Minnesota is well on track to meet that goal, and now is the time to update and double down on this standard. This will provide enormous benefits for job growth, energy cost savings, and positive impacts on our air and climate. Minnesota has been a strong leader on clean energy, and now is not the time to slow down.

​MEP will continue to push hard for these positive programs, and other sound protections for our natural resources, at the Capitol this session. And we fully anticipate that problematic bills that aim to strip environmental protections and funding will require our best defensive efforts. We’ll continue to make a difference, but our coalition can’t do it without Minnesotans beside us!

In a political environment that threatens many long-standing environmental policies and norms, it’s critical that citizens from all communities stand up for the bedrock protections for our health and livelihoods – and this session is the ideal time to get active! By contacting or visiting your legislators, participating in action events, and testifying in hearings, you can help defend our natural resources and make positive change for Minnesota’s future. We hope to see you at the Capitol!

Find and contact your local Senators and Representatives

Watch the committee schedules for the House and Senate for opportunities to testify on critical legislation

Insider: February 16, 2018

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Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Minnesota Legislative Session Begins on Tuesday

February 20 will mark the beginning of the Minnesota Legislature’s 2018 Session, which will run until late May, offering opportunities and risks for Minnesota’s natural resources. Each session carries with it unique challenges, but the MEP coalition also has a chance to change the conversation on our state’s land, air, and water – and support programs that help keep Minnesota clean. Fortunately, with the help of partners and concerned citizens, several strong programs to protect our land and water were funded, and proposals that would have taken our policies backwards were blocked during the last session. This year, we’ll be back at the Capitol, working proactively to advance positive proposals that would benefit all Minnesotans:

  • Clean water investments for rural communities – Bonding funds for wastewater treatment and water infrastructure, which can be an enormous expense for rural communities, would help bring clean water to every Minnesotan. And bonding for the Conservation Reserve Easement Program (CREP) would further help by reducing runoff pollution in Minnesota’s water supply.
  • Increasing perennials and cover crops in agriculture – Recent research has made it clear that perennial and cover crops are critical to boost farming productivity and preserve land and water resources. MEP supports the Working Lands Watershed Restoration Program, which aims to create advantages for landowners to plant these healthy crops, and a boosted state investment in the University of Minnesota’s Forever Green Initiative, which aims to make these crop practices economically viable.
  • Increasing the Renewable Energy Standard to 50% by 2030 – The current Renewable Energy Standard set in 2007 set a goal of 25% renewable energy statewide by 2025. Minnesota is well on track to meet that goal, and now is the time to update and double down on this standard. This will provide enormous benefits for job growth, energy cost savings, and positive impacts on our air and climate. Minnesota has been a strong leader on clean energy, and now is not the time to slow down.

​MEP will continue to push hard for these positive programs, and other sound protections for our natural resources, at the Capitol this session. And we fully anticipate that problematic bills that aim to strip environmental protections and funding will require our best defensive efforts. We’ll continue to make a difference, but our coalition can’t do it without Minnesotans beside us!

In a political environment that threatens many long-standing environmental policies and norms, it’s critical that citizens from all communities stand up for the bedrock protections for our health and livelihoods – and this session is the ideal time to get active! By contacting or visiting your legislators, participating in action events, and testifying in hearings, you can help defend our natural resources and make positive change for Minnesota’s future. We hope to see you at the Capitol!

Find and contact your local Senators and Representatives

Watch the committee schedules for the House and Senate for opportunities to testify on critical legislation



photo credit: NASA

Trump budget would slash Great Lakes restoration funding

(From Duluth News Tribune) — The federal budget proposal released by the Trump administration this week would slash funding for Great Lakes restoration by 90 percent, from $300 million this year to just $30 million next year, and would cut other programs aimed at keeping lakes and drinking water clean. President Donald Trump’s budget includes no money for so-called Clean Water Act Section 319 programs, which help communities reduce polluted runoff. That’s down from $167 million last year. >>Read More.


               

To help bees, UMN study will analyze habitats

(From Minnesota Daily) —  A new University of Minnesota study will aim to understand what habitats are best for bees by leasing and planting land plots this summer. Researchers are now reviewing landowner applications as part of the five-year study, which received a $1 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture and $1 million from the Minnesota Legislature. The study will span six to 10 counties in southwest Minnesota, said researcher Christina Herron-Sweet. The team is sorting through about 150 applications from landowners who want to participate to decide where they will plant the habitats. >>Read More.


                

photo credit: Metro Transit

Minnesota’s Volkswagen settlement may pay for cleaner vehicles

(From Star Tribune) — Minnesota will spend $11.75 million on cleaner trucks, buses and cars if the state’s proposal for the first funds from a legal settlement with Volkswagen is accepted by the public and the trustee overseeing the massive federal litigation. If adopted, the plan is expected to result in reductions of about 1,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, up to 55 tons of fine particles, and up to 34 tons of greenhouse gases. In October, the German carmaker agreed to pay the U.S. government $15 billion for allowing its diesel vehicles to produce 30 to 40 times the amount of nitrous oxide allowed by U.S. air regulations. >>Read More.


Did 4 activists need to shut down an oil pipeline? Minn. court will decide

(From MPR News) — Nobody’s disputing the facts of this case. Four activists — three from Seattle, one from New York — tried to shut off an Enbridge Energy oil pipeline in northwestern Minnesota’s Clearwater County. They even filmed the action. Then they were arrested.Depending on how you look at it, these four people were either vandals trespassing on private property, or activists who needed to protect people from climate change. >>Read More.


Minnesota vs. 3M: A guide to the $5 billion mega-trial

(From Pioneer Press) — Call it the $5 billion Teflon trial — Minnesota’s biggest environmental lawsuit ever. When the trial of the State of Minnesota vs. 3M Co. starts Feb. 20, it will pit the state against what may be its most-loved company. The state attorney general will be taking on a $145 billion corporate behemoth and charging it with fouling the state’s water. The lawsuit hinges on the alleged damage caused by chemicals found in household items such as nonstick cookware and stain repellent. >>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. Quercus alba is the scientific name for what tree species, found in southeast Minnesota and known for its size and longevity?

2. The DNR estimates that what mammal species has declined by around 65% in Minnesota since 2006?

3. What term does the MPCA use to define waters that are no longer drinkable, swimmable, fishable, or useable in other, designated ways?

Upcoming Environmental Events

Cover Crop 101, February 21
St. Charles City Hall
Hosted by Land Stewardship Project

Hear about Mortensen Construction’s work in renewable energy, February 21
Maple Grove Library
Hosted by NW Metro Climate Action

Pack the Room + Rally: Line 3 Pipeline – Tribal Study Needed, February 22
Public Utilities Commission, St. Paul
Hosted by MN350

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

Electric Vehicles: The Future Is Now, February 27
University Square, University of Minnesota-Rochester
Hosted by Fresh Energy

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

Interim Executive Director | Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center
Development and Membership Director | Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
Loyal Donor Officer | The Nature Conservancy
Recycling Programs Specialist | City of St. Paul
Solid Waste Programs Supervisor | City of St. Paul
Administrative Coordinator | Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters
Administrative Assistant | Friends of the Mississippi River
Executive Director | Cannon River Watershed Partnership
Communications Director | Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness
See all job postings

Trivia Answers: 1) White oak. 2) Moose. 3) Impaired waters.


Did you receive the Environmental Insider from a friend? Subscribe here!

Follow Us:

   

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

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

Insider: February 2, 2018

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Environmental Insider is brought to you by the Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Minnesotans to Caucus February 6

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

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

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

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


Update: Rochester advances net-zero energy goals with benchmarking

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

Tariff on foreign-made solar products could cost Minnesota jobs

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

               

Iowa environmentalists heading to Super Bowl to protest Dakota Access pipeline

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

 


Photo credit: CA Bureau of Land Management

Trump administration tears down regulations to speed drilling on public land

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

                

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

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

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

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

Outdoor events for families celebrate 10th anniversary of Legacy Amendment

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

 


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

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

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

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

Upcoming Environmental Events

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

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

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

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

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

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

See all job postings

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


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

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

Insider: January 19, 2018

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Year in Preview and Minnesota’s Gubernatorial Election

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

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

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

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

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

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

Register here!


Minnesota Sands to appeal case against Winona County frac sand ban

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


photo credit: Pioneer Press

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

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

PCA agrees on PolyMet draft water quality permit

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


               

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

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


                

photo credit: Minneapolis Parks & Recreation Board

Minnesota lake named for pro-slavery Calhoun gets new name

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


UMN study sheds light on plastic sustainability

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

 


Weekly Environmental Trivia – Answers Below Job Postings!  

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

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

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


Upcoming Environmental Events

Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities

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

See all job postings

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


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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.

 

Minnesotans Speak Up on PolyMet Proposal

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photo credit: Pioneer Press

By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

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

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

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

Minnesotans to Caucus February 6

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

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

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

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

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

#ONEGovForum Gets Candidates On the Record

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

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

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

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

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

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