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Environment

Citizen activism on PolyMet sulfide mining

by Dan Burns on August 25, 2016 · 0 comments

sulfideThis is a very good idea.
 

A group of Duluth citizens is asking for evidence-based hearings before state regulators decide whether to approve the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine.
 
The so-called “contested case hearing” would take place before an administrative law judge with evidence, testimony and cross-examination.
 
The judge would then issue a recommendation to the Department of Natural Resources, before the DNR commissioner decides whether to grant PolyMet its Permit to Mine.
 
“As Duluthians we have significant concerns about the PolyMet proposal and its likely impacts on our watershed,” said Duluth resident John Dobertstein, “And believe the DNR and citizens of this state should hear all evidence before making a decision.”
(MPR)

The article goes on to note that PolyMet has begun applying for permits. The most likely scenario at this time seems to be that they will get those and then sit on things until there is evidence of a sustained recovery in copper and nickel prices. Which are still down, down, down.
 

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desertThis article is about a month old, but certainly nothing has changed. Plenty can change, though, if the DFL controls the legislature by comfortable margins, beginning next year. If you know what I’m saying.
 

Officials in Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration say Minnesota should look at strengthening its renewable energy law. The state is on track to meet a requirement of 25 percent renewable electricity generation by 2025. But that has not been enough to help reach another state goal: a major reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change.
 
Republicans and Democrats came together in 2007 to act on climate change. The Minnesota Legislature passed goals that — at the time — were among the most ambitious in the country, and then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed them into law.
 
The Next Generation Energy Act set goals of a 15 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2015, 30 percent by 2025 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050.
 
But the state missed its 2015 target and is not on track to meet the other goals. Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said that has to change.
 
“We not only want to be making progress on this, I think Minnesota wants to be leading on this issue again, and we have lost that leadership,” she said.
(MPR)

July 2016 was the hottest month on record. Here’s a lot more about all that.
 

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Enbridge Sandpiper oil line may be dead

by Dan Burns on August 5, 2016 · 0 comments

Tar Sands by Garth Lenz_0May be. Per the latest forecast they weren’t going to start until 2019 anyway, and that leaves plenty of time for more changes to go down. But this is undeniably very good news. Background information here.
 

The long-planned and oft-delayed Sandpiper pipeline through the U.S. Midwest may not be dead, but it appears to be on life support, a likely casualty of the oil-and-gas industry’s infrastructure overbuild amid a two-year global oil rout.
 
After years of delays, refiner Marathon Petroleum Corp and midstream giant Enbridge Inc on Tuesday announced they would scrap their joint venture agreements and transportation services for the 450,000 barrels per day Sandpiper project, instead agreeing to acquire a portion of the rival Dakota Access Pipeline.
 
That $1.5 billion deal, if successful, will leave Sandpiper without Marathon as its main anchor, even though an Enbridge spokesman said plans for the line are still being evaluated. The project involves two pipeline legs stretching from North Dakota through Minnesota to Wisconsin.
(Reuters)

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sulfideTwin Metals has a plan in the works to get into some serious sulfide mining, right next to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. If that seems like a really awful, horrible idea to you, first of all, it is, and second, you have plenty of company.
 

Much of that pressure has come from the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, which says it has gathered 55,000 petitions urging the Forest Service to deny the leases.
 
The campaign’s Becky Rom says federal agencies should decide now whether the area is appropriate for copper mining, before specific mine plans are submitted…
 
Daryl Spencer of Duluth summed up the views of the majority of speakers at Wednesday’s event when he told the Forest Service he’s not against mining; he just doesn’t support it in the same watershed as the Boundary Waters.
 
“I want jobs for Iron Range families,” Spencer said. “This is just a bad place for this type of mine, and it’s not worth the risk.”
(MPR)

Here’s a MinnPost article suggesting that this potentially disastrous travesty probably will meet the fate it deserves. I’m not wholly on board with that – that is, I’m not ready to proclaim triumph, yet – but the author does make a strong case.
 

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The early summer edition of Democratic Visions features mostly segments that we had recorded in April and May but just couldn’t fit into our spring line-ups.  Each program must come in a bit south of 30 minutes for airing on various cable systems.

 

30 minutes is an eternity in the tweet and text world and the issues considered on this particular edition have been ruminated about hundreds of times by others in our increasingly fractured universe of new and old media. But proposed copper pit mining in Northern Minnesota, high student loan debts, Trump, Ventura, Reagan and the under informed are here being considered by our ruminators:   DFL elders Tim O’Brien and blogger Steve Timmer and The Theater of Public Policy’s chief  interrogator Tane Danger and political analyst Bob Meek.   These are local guys here provided with a Charlie Rose type TV venue, albeit just a public access studio nested alongside an art gallery within the Bloomington Civic Center  – that is tended to by non-paid volunteers.

 

Tucked in at the 8’/30″ mark of the program is an initiative of our ongoing mission to restore political humor to Minnesota television.  Our good friend Doug Lind has re-purposed some dusty political jokes.  We recorded him testing his musty slap shots out on a group of Eden Prairie High School millenials at the the “DFL Comedy Club.” We think the joint is located somewhere in Hopkins (a safe zone for progressives) but it could also be out in Carver County which is not a safe zone for the informed or liberal. Enjoy.

Seven years of Democtratic Visions programs and segments are archived on its YouTube Channel.

 

Democratic Visions On cableTV

 

Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Edina, Hopkins, Richfield, Comcast Channel 15 —
Sundays at 9 p.m., Mondays at 10:00 p.m., Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m.

 

Bloomington – BCAT Channel 16 — Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. & 10:00 p.m.; Fridays at 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m.

 

Minneapolis – MTN Channel 16 — Sundays at 8:30 p.m., Mondays 3:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. Program is streamed at the MTN website during cablecasts.
Program is lived streamed during airings

http://www.mtn.org/on_air/channel-16-webstream

 

Champlin, Anoka, Ramsey, Andover – QCTV Community Channel 15 — Thursdays 2 p.m. For other times see schedule http://qctv.org/program-guide/

 

Democratic  Visions is hand made by unpaid volunteers from Edina, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Hopkins and Bloomington.  Our program is not financially supported or endorsed by any political party, political action committee or special interest group.

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MN Auditor lawsuit gets to court

by Dan Burns on June 27, 2016 · 0 comments

ottoAnd I for one wish the plaintiff very well.
 

Ramsey County Judge Lezlie Marek will decide in the coming weeks whether Minnesota lawmakers overstepped their authority by allowing counties to bypass the state auditor and hire private accounting firms to conduct financial audits.
 
State Auditor Rebecca Otto filed a lawsuit earlier this year challenging the 2015 law. Lawyers for Otto and the three counties she’s suing presented arguments during a court hearing Wednesday in St. Paul.
 
Otto contends the law is unconstitutional and will undermine the core function of her office. Her lawyer, Joe Dixon, described it as an “attack by the Legislature” and a “serious affront to the balance of power.”
(MPR)

If you don’t know the sordid background, here’s a primer. Judge Marek is a Pawlenty appointee, though I saw no indication during my admittedly brief and casual research that she’s notorious for partisanship from the bench. In his analysis, Prof. David Schultz seems to think it fairly likely that Ms. Otto will prevail.
 

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Minnesota water projects in limbo at best

by Dan Burns on June 24, 2016 · 0 comments

bwcaFMR is a cool and righteous organization. Click the link for specifics.
 

Our top special session priority is to secure full funding for clean water bonding projects. When Gov. Mark Dayton proposed a bonding package prior to the 2016 legislative session, it included robust funding for a variety of high-priority clean water programs and projects across the state.
 
Funding for many of these items was included in the final bonding bill, though not necessarily at the full amounts requested by the governor. We urge legislators to fund these priorities at the Governor’s original recommended levels in a special session bonding package.
(Friends of the Mississippi River)

Legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton resumed their special session talks Tuesday after a week’s hiatus but somehow moved further from a deal to bring lawmakers back for a special session on transportation, taxes and construction borrowing.
 
But no one is ready to bail out of the negotiations or give in just yet, but at this point, it’s become a zombie session, neither dead nor alive.
 
“I don’t have a deadline. I’m not setting a deadline. But at some point we’ll have to see whether we’re making any progress or getting farther and farther apart, which is what the result is today,” Dayton said after about an hour of closed-door discussions. “We don’t need to get even still farther apart.”
(MPR)

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Big Polluters target state attorneys general

by Dan Burns on June 22, 2016 · 0 comments

desertAnd in some cases they’re using sorry red state AG’s to do it. Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is part of a coalition looking to hold Big Filthy Fossil Fuels accountable on climate change. She is not among those being directly targeted in this petty, vindictive fashion, yet. But it’s presumably just a matter of time.
 

ExxonMobil has sued to derail a second attorney general’s investigation of the oil giant’s climate record.
 
The company filed a complaint in federal district court in Fort Worth on (June 15) against Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Her office subpoenaed Exxon records going back 40 years in an investigation of whether the company committed consumer or securities fraud by misrepresenting its knowledge of climate change.
 
In the same court, Exxon has a similar suit pending against Claude Walker, the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands, who has launched a similar probe. Healey and Walker are part of a coalition of Democratic attorneys general trying to hold fossil fuel companies legally accountable for their conduct on climate change. The group was organized by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whose office initiated an Exxon inquiry last year.
(Inside Climate News)

You could call it the battle of the attorneys general: one side representing the public interest, exactly what attorneys general are supposed to do; the other side representing the special interests, exactly what they are not supposed to do.
 
In late March, 17 attorneys general held a press conference to announce they will defend the new federal rule curbing power plant carbon emissions and investigate energy companies that may have misled investors and the public about climate risks. They call themselves AGs United for Clean Power, and so far attorneys general from California, Massachusetts, New York and the Virgin Islands have launched investigations of ExxonMobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, for fraud.
 
In response, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange decided to push back. On May 16, they intervened on behalf of ExxonMobil to quash one of the investigations of the Irving, Texas-based company, accusing AGs United for Clean Power of trying to stifle the “debate” over climate science.
(Huffington Post)

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sulfideThis is not the PolyMet project. It is the one proposed for right next to the BWCA. Governor Dayton, among many others, already publicly opposes it. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) has proposed federal legislation to block it.
 

U.S. Forest Service officials on Monday said they are “deeply concerned” about potential impacts of the proposed Twin Metals copper mine on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and announced a public comment period before the agency’s decision on extending mining leases for the project.
(Duluth News Tribune)

More:
 

Antofagasta PLC holds two federal mineral leases that were issued in 1966 as part of their Twin Metals Minnesota proposal. One of these mineral leases includes land within a quarter mile of the wilderness boundary. The Forest Service has been asked by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management whether it “consents” to the extension of these leases for ten more years. If the Forest Service does not give consent to extend these leases, Twin Metals’ sulfide mine proposal on the edge of the Boundary Waters would be prevented from polluting the wilderness…
 
The Forest Service will start a thirty day public input period beginning on June 20th, one week from (Monday). They will also hold a public hearing on whether to deny the Twin Metals leases in Duluth on July 13th. The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness will be there in force, and intends to gather tens of thousands of public comments supporting a decision that protects the BWCA from sulfide mining.
(Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness)

As for PolyMet, it’s still in the process of getting more permits. The world markets for copper and nickel remain ugly. (Click on the link and look at, for example, the five-year copper chart.)
 

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nemnRep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) doesn’t often make headlines. I suspect that that is precisely as she wants. But she does work on some really good ideas, and in those instances deserves public notice and approbation.
 

Fifty years ago (May 31), two federal mineral leases were signed for rights to copper, nickel and precious metals, just south of what would become the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
 
Those leases for the area south of Ely, Minn., are now in the hands of a mining company called Twin Metals — but they expired two and a half years ago. Renewal of the leases has languished in Washington, becoming the latest point of contention in a debate over whether mining should be considered so close to the BWCA.
 
The leases were first obtained by the International Nickel Company, which proposed 1,000-foot-deep open pit copper mine on the edge of the BWCA. But after a state moratorium to study the issue, copper prices tanked, and the project fizzled.
 
The federal Bureau of Land Management renewed the leases twice since then, with little fanfare.
 
But not this time. U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, a St. Paul Democrat, introduced a bill to prevent copper-nickel mining near the BWCA. McCollum says those leases were granted before modern environmental laws were passed.
(MPR)

Governor Dayton has also come out against the Twin Metals plan. The political lines have long since been drawn on this, and despite what some DFL doom-and-gloomers have to say there is no common sense reason to believe that this will somehow turn MN-08 red, now.
 

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