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Environment

PolyMet gets its land swap

by Dan Burns on January 11, 2017 · 0 comments

sulfideThis was not a surprise, but it still sucks.
 

Paul Danicic, Executive Director of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, issued the following statement in response:
 

“The transfer of thousands of acres of Superior National Forest land to PolyMet is a bad deal for taxpayers, premature, and not in the public interest. No exchange of land can undo the damage that PolyMet would do to this area. The land that PolyMet seeks to mine contains thousands of acres of high-value wetlands that are irreplaceable.
 
The standard for federal land exchanges is that the exchange must be in the public interest. PolyMet would create polluted water that would require expensive treatment for hundreds of years. PolyMet would be the largest permitted destruction of wetlands in Minnesota history. The risk to the St. Louis River, Lake Superior, and downstream communities from this mine proposal demonstrates why it is not in the public interest…

(Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness)

Meanwhile, copper and nickel prices remain at long-term lows in a glutted market, and the inevitable Trump recession will only drive them further into the depths.
 

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Let’s think about Mars

by Eric Ferguson on December 25, 2016 · 0 comments

Mars? No, Earth didn’t just suddenly become a happy place and the man-child who won the electoral college didn’t just suddenly hand over the presidency to a adult. I just need a break from Trump and trumpers and deplorables thinking they get to lord it over decent people. I’ve written a bunch about Trump and recovering the Democratic Party and salvaging something of our democracy, and I’ll write more of course. Readers, I assume, have read and will read as much as I have, but now it’s late December and I want a break from it. So if you want a moment’s break too, … Mars.
 

What brings this up is the National Geographic mini-series Mars, which combines a drama about the first attempt to build a colony on Mars with a documentary about real-life space flight. It was just six one-hour episodes, so easy to binge watch. I recommend it. Spoiler alert: I’m going to mention plot points, though I’ll put them after the “read more” link in case you’re reading this on the front page or from a search result.
 

The fictional Martian colony was built in the 2030’s, and though NASA is currently working on a Mars lander to send a manned mission, assuming our new anti-science second-place finisher doesn’t kill it — ugh, couldn’t stop thinking about the current catastrophe — the 2030’s seem awfully optimistic for a colony. Wouldn’t it make more sense to build a base on the moon first? It’s the same technological problems to be solved either way, basically. I’m aware Mars and Earth’s moon aren’t the same, but close enough. The key difference is that the moon is about three days away, starting from blast-off, assuming Apollo speeds, whereas Mars is about a year each way. Problems will be inevitable, and not all foreseen, so it seems utterly logical to develop the technology to build an extraterrestrial base where help is three days away instead of year.
 

I’m thinking of how ironic it is that when in the 2012 campaign Newt Gingrich suggested building a moon base, he was laughed at, but it’s the only sensible thing he’s ever said. Well, there was the time as Speaker of the House he said, “I resign”, but otherwise the moon base was the only smart idea he had. Ugh, guess I just ventured into thinking about the anti-science party again.
 

…READ MORE

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Keeping green energy on a roll

by Dan Burns on December 19, 2016 · 0 comments

solar2I may well be naïve, but I’m going to continue to mostly focus in my blogging on things that are not total doom-and-gloom. Like the following.
 

A transformation is happening in global energy markets that’s worth noting as 2016 comes to an end: Solar power, for the first time, is becoming the cheapest form of new electricity.
 
This has happened in isolated projects in the past: an especially competitive auction in the Middle East, for example, resulting in record-cheap solar costs. But now unsubsidized solar is beginning to outcompete coal and natural gas on a larger scale, and notably, new solar projects in emerging markets are costing less to build than wind projects, according to fresh data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
(Bloomberg)

“This election and basically the victory of Trump has raised a lot of uncertainty about what’s going to be the direction of the federal government on issues of climate and energy policy,” said study co-author Devashree Saha, senior policy associate at Brookings.
 
“At the state level, entities have implemented a lot of progressive climate change policies, a lot of creative and innovative experiments. In the new political reality where signs point to the fact the federal government is going to abandon the ship, so to speak, on energy and climate, the state role is going to become even more critical.”
 
She noted that in addition to setting energy policies, states also have much control over land use and transportation plans that relate to power generation and carbon emissions.
 
“States are really crucial actors in the carbon drama, much more than the federal government, which is a good thing,” Saha said.
(Midwest Energy News)

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Twin Metals leases application gets crushed

by Dan Burns on December 16, 2016 · 0 comments

sulfideSweet!
 

The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness applauds the decision by federal agencies to deny Twin Metals Minnesota’s application to extend two federal mineral leases. This decision comes after an extensive public input period where over 70,000 people asked the federal government to deny the lease extension. Hundreds of people showed up to public meetings in Duluth and Ely to express their concerns.
 
The Department of Interior also announced it has received an application from the U.S. Forest Service to withdraw federal mineral rights in the Boundary Waters watershed. This starts a public review process to analyze withdrawing federal mineral rights for a twenty-year period. A public input period on this permanent protection for the Boundary Waters will begin once notice is published in the Federal Register and will last ninety days. This review also creates a two-year “time out” when no new federal mineral leases can be issued.
 
“These actions happened because tens of thousands of people spoke up against locating a sulfide mine on the edge of America’s most popular wilderness area,” stated Executive Director Paul Danicic.
(Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness)

There is more detail in this article from MPR, though I would suggest that it’s too friendly to Twin Metals’ inflated estimates of alleged positive economic impact on the region (start on page 17 of the linked pdf). It notes that Twin Metals says they’re not giving up. If you ask me and a whole lot of other people, it’s high time that they do so. So should PolyMet.

 
And I have to note that I don’t know how much interest Trump & Co. will take in this issue. Obviously efforts could be initiated to reverse the above, and bring about the worst outcomes instead.
 

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fracking-infographic_webWith President-”elect” Donald Trump’s administration clearly preparing not only to allow, but to actively encourage, fracking always and everywhere, this has added significance.
 

U.S. EPA (Dec. 13) abandoned its contentious assertion that hydraulic fracturing hasn’t caused “widespread, systemic” problems with drinking water as it released the final draft of its study on the practice.
 
The agency’s multiyear research instead made the less-sweeping conclusion that “hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources in the United States under some circumstances.”
 
…The change from the draft drew swift condemnation from industry groups this morning. The American Petroleum Institute called the change “beyond absurd” and said the Obama administration had decided to “reverse course” on the way out the door.
 
Environmental groups, which had seethed over the draft conclusion, said the report confirmed their long-standing accusations that oil and gas activity is dangerous.
(E&E News)

Also, this. I won’t venture to guess, at this time, how far Trump & Co. will go to actively try to undermine green energy. Green initiatives are in fact politically popular: in Florida, for example, voters rejected an amendment that would have screwed up efforts to install more solar.
 

And the good news is that NRDC’s Fourth Annual Energy Report reaffirms that, regardless of partisan ideological differences and even the possibility of climate naysayers in prominent federal roles, our clean energy transition is unstoppable for all the right reasons: lower bills, more jobs, and cleaner air.
(National Resources Defense Council)

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Group seeks to righteously crush Twin Metals

by Dan Burns on November 30, 2016 · 0 comments

sulfideGov. Mark Dayton opposes the Twin Metals proposal, and because of that and other factors it is essentially on life support. We hope.
 

The environmental group Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness has asked a federal judge to let them intervene in a lawsuit that could decide mineral leases under the proposed Twin Metals copper mine near Ely.
 
The group filed paperwork Tuesday, Nov. 22, in federal district court in St. Paul in hopes it can intervene in the suit filed by Twin Metals against the U.S. Department of the Interior.
 
Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness also filed notice that it plans to ask that the case be dismissed, although that can’t happen until the first hearing scheduled in the suit on April 28.
(InForum)

If you’re not familiar with the issue, here is a quick primer from Save the Boundary Waters.
 

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prairieThis article may seem a little bizarre if you’re progressive and you remember David Strom‘s “legacy“ in Minnesota politics, but nonetheless it is worthwhile and I’m passing it along on that basis.
 

A new report says proposed renewable energy investments in Minnesota could create more than 5,000 construction jobs and $7 billion in economic activity, largely in conservative, rural parts of the state.
 
“We are clearly seeing a bigger (political) divide in Minnesota and clean energy is a way to bridge that divide,” said Chris Kunkle, Wind on the Wires regional policy manager for Minnesota. “You’re talking about advancing policies and investments from the Twin Cities that benefit rural Minnesota and create new jobs and tax revenue.”
 
And Minnesota is not the only place where wind development is happening in Republican districts.
(Midwest Energy News)

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FYI: A Grand Forks Herald editorial

by JeffStrate on October 30, 2016 · 0 comments

 

 The Unicorn Riot video was posted on YouTube on October 27.

 

The October 28 editorial stand of the Grand Forks Herald about the protestors and law enforcement initiatives at the Dakota Access pipeline should spark some ruminating.

Our opinion: False claims hurt Dakota Access

Pipeline protesters’ credibility

 

They started as protesters. They prefer to be called protectors.

But a better word is pretenders, because the claims being made by the people trying to block the Dakota Access Pipeline’s construction are based more on pretense than in fact.

That ruins the protesters’ credibility, and makes it very unlikely that they’ll gain majority support from the voters they need to convince.

The activists near Cannon Ball, N.D., say they’re peacefully protesting. But that’s not the whole truth, at least not at the key moments over the past few weeks, including Thursday.

When the protesters step onto private property, they’re trespassing. They’re breaking the law—the very law they want everyone else, including law enforcement, to respect.

That’s why the police respond: It’s not the protesting that’s causing the arrests. It’s the trespassing. There’s a difference.

Activists say police are responding “violently.” But that’s not true either. The only reason police are responding at all is that protesters are first, breaking the law, and second, resisting arrest.

In such circumstances in America, police are authorized to use necessary force. That’s what’s been happening at the trespassing sites.

Here’s something else: It wasn’t the police who set fires on Thursday to get what they wanted. It was the protesters, who thereby turned civil disobedience into something looking very much like violent resistance.

Tribal officials say the pipeline will cross sacred ground. But no one raised that claim back in the 1980s, when the route was dug up for an earlier pipeline. No one raised it in the years since then, either.

Moreover, no one has presented any evidence in support of that claim at all. To the contrary, the evidence that’s been presented contradicts the claim. Notably, it comes from professional archaeologists, who’ve walked the route a number of times and not found artifacts or human remains.

And on and on.

On Thursday, something else happened besides police arresting protesters who’d defiantly camped on private property. The governors of the states of North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa wrote the Army Corps of Engineers, asking that the final stretch of pipeline be permitted.

The letter means that in some key sense, the protesters have lost the battle of public opinion.

Clearly, the people of three states that the pipeline will cross have considered the issue. (That includes the people of Des Moines, a city of 200,000 that sits only a few miles downstream from a pipeline crossing.)

They’ve considered it—and accepted it, as declared by their duly elected representatives.

“We strongly support” the pipeline project, say the governors, who also note that “further delay in issuing the easement will negatively impact our states and our citizens.”

If there’s a case for changing the pipeline-approval and tribal-consultation processes, America stands ready to listen. The activists’ energy and commitment can almost certainly influence that outcome.

But on the issue of the Dakota Access Pipeline itself, the facts are much more on the pipeline’s side. The protesters should recognize that reality and stop alienating would-be supporters by making false and exaggerated claims.

— Tom Dennis for the Herald

This sentence is a live link to the Herald’s website with this editorial.

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Big questions about PolyMet and climate change

by Dan Burns on October 11, 2016 · 0 comments

sulfideFrom last week:
 

Environmental groups have asked the federal government to do a more thorough analysis of potential climate change impacts from the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine.
 
While most of the debate has centered on potential water pollution from the mine, new federal guidelines finalized in August instruct agencies to fully account for a project’s greenhouse gas emissions and societal costs associated with those emissions.
 
“We’re talking about the equivalent of putting over 150,000 new vehicles on Minnesota roads,” Aaron Klemz, advocacy director for Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, said of PolyMet’s potential impact.
(MPR)

It’s not very likely that PolyMet’s permits will be denied. But that is only the least of the righteous obstacles yet to be overcome. Court challenges, public pressure, and continued soft markets for copper and nickel will all be more daunting.
 

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paulsen2You can help our candidate, Terri Bonoff, here.
 

Let’s look at the record.
 
Erik Paulsen has been in the pocket of medical device companies throughout his career. He has successfully advocated for a moratorium on the device task that helps fund Obamacare….creating a windfall for companies like Medtronic.
 
Of course, not satisfied with that tax break, Medtronic changes their corporate address to Ireland so that they can avoid more taxes. All the while, building up offshore bank accounts, hiding their profits – and forcing the rest of us to pay their bills.
 
Although Paulsen voted against the Dream Act and voted for many of the Trump like immigration bills that came from this Congress, Paulsen managed to vote in favor of special visas that business wanted so that they can bring in high-tech workers from other countries…at the expense of American workers.
 
And how about energy corporations? Paulsen was right there for them as well. He voted YES on opening Outer Continental Shelf to oil drilling. He voted YES on barring EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. He voted NO on enforcing limits on CO2 global warming pollution. And he voted to bar greenhouse gases from Clean Air Act rules, and to declare that nothing in the Act shall be treated as authorizing or requiring the regulation of climate change or global warming…
 
Paulsen could easily fit into the Trump camp, except for one clear difference. Paulsen’s corporate masters need him to support the TPP.
(mnpACT!)

Paulsen is all over the place on whether he supports Donald Trump for POTUS. And he’s a total NRA stooge. And he’s big on handouts for corrupt war contractors.
 
Voters need to understand that Rep. Paulsen is most definitely not a “moderate.” And that the essential first step to making things better for everyone is getting right-wingers like him out of power.
 

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