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MN-08: Some healthy DFL competition

by Dan Burns on June 12, 2017 · 0 comments

bwcaTwo DFL challenges to Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN) are being considered, by Sue Hakes and Leah Phifer.
 

Sue Hakes, who previously served as Cook County Commissioner and Mayor of Grand Marais, will test the field as Nolan considers his future.
 
“When I think about Minnesota’s Eighth District, I think people first,” Hakes said in a press release. “I want to fight the current administration’s budgetary goals which chip away at — or gut entirely — the very institutions that make rural life possible and the amenities that make rural America a desirable place to live”.
(Minnesota Brown)

So, as I watched politicians and pundits race to understand us after the 2016 election, I couldn’t help but laugh. If they really wanted to understand us, to help us, they would stop trying to fit us into neat little narratives. My family and friends are scattered from Isanti to International Falls. In MN CD08, we’re hard-working, opinionated, and unpredictable. If you want to understand us, I thought, start by acknowledging that no two towns, counties or people in this large district are the same. So when I began to think about my role in future of this district, I knew where I had to start.
 
On June 16th, 2017, I will be setting out on a 80 day listening tour, to take the pulse of our varied district. Let’s talk about what makes us so unique, what we have in common and where we can start to re-build the politics that govern us, but don’t define us. Please check out my event calendar or show me around your corner of our great district. Share your story, share your thoughts, share your recommendations for the best pasties and pastries in your town! Wherever you lie on the political spectrum, let’s talk about how we move our district into the future together.
(Around the 8th in 80 days)

Phifer’s website has nothing at this time about her policy positions. I couldn’t find Hakes’s press release online; here’s her Facebook page if you want to peruse that for indicators. I will certainly withhold judgment until I know a lot more about where these candidates’ heads are at on the issues of the day.
 
Except for sulfide mining, Rep. Nolan has been a strong progressive in Congress. I would need to see a very impressive candidate, starting with great, strong, downright relentless opposition to such mining in the district, to even think of voting for anyone else in a primary.
 

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Setbacks for the MN sulfide mining crowd

by Dan Burns on June 8, 2017 · 0 comments

sulfideI did not expect this first one. Maybe Trump has some kind of personal beef with Twin Metals’s owner, the ecological disaster-monger Antofagasta. Whatever the motivation is, here, it looks good to me.

 

The U.S. Department of Justice late Monday filed a motion asking a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit by Twin Metals that seeks renewal of federal mining leases that had been withdrawn by the Obama administration.
 
The move is a blow for copper mining supporters who had hoped the Trump administration would drop opposition to the lawsuit and re-issue the permits to allow the mine to advance…
 
Twin Metals sued to get the leases back. Now, the Justice Department is fighting that effort, a sign that the Interior Department under Trump may be sticking with the moratorium.
(Duluth News Tribune)

Minnesota’s mining regulators at the Land and Minerals Division of the Department of Natural Resources face a stiff test of fidelity to the citizens of Minnesota as described in an article by Josephine Marcotty in the Strib’s paper edition on May 14th. The issue is: what are the financial reserves that must be set aside to assure the state that PolyMet’s proposed mine will be cleaned up and closed properly, maintenance free, with no losses to the state?
 
Two sets of experts have looked at the cost of pre-planning PolyMet Mining Corp.’s funeral, so to speak, and the numbers are grim. The state’s own retained experts say it’s in the neighborhood of $650 million, while an independent expert, who delivered a presentation at the University of Minnesota recently, said it was more like $934 million, up front. That is just shy of a billion dollars, people. That is three or four times PolyMet’s market capitalization, let alone book value.
(Left.mn)

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oilspillClick here to find a map with meeting dates and locations.
 

June is your chance to speak out against tar sands in Minnesota!
 
Between June 6 and June 22, the Minnesota Department of Commerce is hosting 22 public meetings across the state about Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 tar sands pipeline expansion.

The website from which I got the following is packed with info on the issue.
 

Line 3 is a disaster waiting to happen. This Enbridge oil pipeline was built in 1961 and despite having hundreds of thousands of structural anomalies, Line 3 continues to ship crude oil from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin. This aging pipe as ten times as many corrosion anomalies per mile than any other Enbridge pipeline in the same corridor. Enbridge wants to abandon this legacy of contamination in the ground, walk away, and build an entirely new corridor, through the heart of Minnesota’s best lakes and wild rice beds, and through Anishinaabeg treaty territories.
(Stop Line 3)

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minnesota_state_capitolWith the end of the regular legislative session at the end of today, some things have been getting through. So far, while nothing’s perfect, the Party of Trump is for the most part not getting its way.
 

Higher fees for hunting and fishing licenses are in and major changes to the buffer law are out as the House voted 83-51 to pass the omnibus environment and natural resources finance conference committee report late Sunday night.
(Session Daily)

 
The reworked Legacy bill got bipartisan support.

 
The Higher Ed “compromise” may not yet be up to snuff, to get Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature.
 

The Omnibus Elections bill does not include the vote-suppression measures that had been sought by Republicans, led by Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake).
 

Also, no “backdoor vouchers.”
 

But Republicans were forced to give on a big priority: a plan for tax credits to people and companies who donate to private school scholarships for low-income children.
(MPR)

I’ll keep you posted.
 

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An Erupting Prominence. Prominences are huge clouds of relatively cool, dense plasma suspended in the Sun’s hot, thin corona. Like this large, twirling prominence, they can sometimes erupt and escape the Sun’s atmosphere. SOHO, January 18, 2000I’m not yet ready to entirely buy that renewables have so much momentum, these days, that nothing that “President” Trump, and his witless acolytes in places like the Minnesota legislature, can do would really slow them down. I think wrongheaded people in power can still manage a lot of harm. That being said:
 

At a press conference Friday morning, department officials said the program shows how much solar energy has expanded in recent years. In fact, new data showed Minnesota added 203 megawatts of solar electric capacity in the first quarter of 2017 compared to 207 in all of last year.
 
“Solar jobs in Minnesota increased 44 percent in 2016, with nearly 4,000 Minnesotans now employed in the industry. Solar presents our state with a tremendous opportunity for growth, clean energy, sustainable energy and a lot of future jobs for our children and the generations to come,” Commissioner Mike Rothman said.
(WCCO)

…READ MORE

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oilspillA couple of recent developments.
 

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Sierra Club, MN350, and Center for Biological Diversity filed comments (April 17) opposing reauthorization of a permit that could allow Enbridge’s existing Line 3 pipeline to operate in the Chippewa National Forest for up to thirty years. Substandard welding and extensive corrosion on thousands of joints risk an immediate tar sands oil spill from the pipeline. The permit being sought by Enbridge would allow a six pipeline corridor, including Line 3, to continue to operate across Chippewa National Forest land. The existing permit expires at the end of 2017. Because of the threat to the Chippewa National Forest, the conservation groups argue Enbridge’s special use permit application should be denied, or at a minimum, that environmental review of the application is required.
(Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy)

In 1990, a helicopter patrol spotted a patch of oil on the ground about a mile south of Millecoquins Lake near Engadine. The oil was from Enbridge Line 5, which had spilled 630 gallons through a pinhole leak.
 
That spill is among almost 30 spills along the pipeline — many of them previously unknown or largely forgotten incidents — unearthed in federal records by National Wildlife Federation (NWF) pipeline safety specialist and researcher Beth Wallace.
 
The organization released the results of Wallace’s research this week, estimating that Line 5, which runs from Superior, Wis., to Sarnia, Ontario by way of Michigan, has spilled at least 1.13 million gallons of oil in 29 incidents since 1968.
(MLive)

Comment below fold.
 
…READ MORE

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minnesota_state_capitolAt least, that seems the readily apparent interpretation, to me.
 

Minnesota Management and Budget commissioner Myron Frans held a state Capitol news conference Wednesday to say the budget proposal Dayton released in January and updated last month is fiscally responsible, while the House and Senate GOP plans are not.
 
“The Legislature’s math just does not add up,” Frans said.
 
Frans accused Republican leaders of using “fuzzy math,” as well as “phony savings” and delayed payments to pay for a large tax cut bill. He suggested many of the bills could be headed for vetoes if not altered.
 
Frans highlighted several examples in the finance bills for Health and Human Services and State Government.
 
“The legislative budget bills we have seen are not serious attempts to govern Minnesota,” Frans said. The bills are designed to be talking points to start negotiations with the governor from an imaginary position, a made up starting point if you will.”
(MPR)

And here’s an example of that “starting point.” Legislators in the Party of Trump actually have the gall to call it the “Minnesota Way.” They should be saying the “ALEC Way.”
 

The Minnesota budget blueprint produced (March 20) by majority House Republicans seeks hefty tax cuts and aims to pare down expected costs in publicly subsidized health and welfare programs.
 
GOP leaders said their framework would deliver long-overdue tax relief given a sizable state budget surplus. The plan would make $1.35 billion in tax cuts the next two years with the details to come later.
(MPR)

 
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smokestacksThere will be a rally at the Minnesota Capitol today, scheduled to start at 11AM, opposing pro-oil pipeline policies included in the Omnibus Jobs and Energy Bill.
 

When: (Today), Thursday April 6th at 11:00am
Where: MN State Capitol (basement level) Room B971
 
What’s happening: The proposed Jobs and Energy Omnibus Bill has a lot of terrible things in it, including 2 changes to state law that would fast track pipelines (including Enbridge’s Line 3) and eliminate some of our most important tools for environmental and social protection. The bill has been approved by the Senate and the relevant committee in the House and is now moving to the House floor for review.
 
The bill would:
1) Exempt oil and gas pipelines from the “Certificate of Need” part of the permit process. This means Enbridge would no longer have to prove that Line 3 (or other proposed pipelines) are actually needed. The CON process is the state’s only mechanism for rejecting a project.
2) Prevent regulators from considering alternative routes that don’t start and end where Enbridge wants them to. This means that Enbridge would get to define the project based on what’s best for their profits, and the State of MN would no longer be able to consider other routes that could get oil to market with less impact on our land, water, health, and human rights.

 
The Omnibus Legacy Bill is similarly odious. And potentially disastrous.
 

Minnesota’s Party of Trump in the legislature is full-on on removing public protections through any means possible. That has little to do with what Minnesota’s residents want (more here), but they don’t care about that.
 

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Buffers and mowing in Minnesota farm country

by Dan Burns on March 31, 2017 · 0 comments

Farming_near_Klingerstown,_PennsylvaniaA couple of items. You might call them examples of the (fairly) good and the bad.
 

With eight months before the first buffer deadline for public waters, the Department of Natural Resources has released its final maps. These maps were finalized after reviewing more than 4,200 public comments and making 2,800 changes. Your collaboration in this process resulted in more accurate maps ready for use.
 
Most notably, 74 percent of Minnesota’s counties are 60-100 percent in compliance with the buffer law. While this might surprise some, it doesn’t surprise us, as we know Minnesota farmers and landowners are great stewards of our lands. In fact, many farmers and landowners already had buffers in place when the requirement became law. And others have responded to the governor’s call asking them to be part of the solution to clean up our valuable water resources.
(AgWeek)

A friend’s observation about farmers over-mowing conservation plantings along Highway 169 in Blue Earth County had us looking again at the issue of farmers’ demands to mow state-owned right of ways on state highways. Are some landowners not only making hay off public land–but damaging plantings on state highways for which the public dime has paid?
 
Our source noted that the forbs (flowering plants) and prairie grasses planted after some work on 169 had been mowed early and often until other grasses took over…
 
When landowners alongside state-owned road ditches mow early and swipe the bales on land that’s been planted with native seeding, they’re not just taking hay they’re not paying for. They’re also damaging an investment made at public expense.
(Bluestem Prairie)

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sulfideFrom this week.
 

The Campaign to Defend Lake Superior, represented by Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA), joined the Center for Biological Diversity and the W.J. McCabe Chapter of the Izaak Walton League in a lawsuit filed in federal court today. The suit asks the court to overturn the U.S. Forest Service decision to approve the largest land exchange in its history, planned with PolyMet Mining. The land exchange would give PolyMet thousands of acres of critically important wetlands in Superior National Forest, where mining operations would forever destroy the wetlands that form the headwaters of the St. Louis River…
 
Federal law requires appraisals to reflect the “highest and best use” of public land when determining fair market value. The failure to do so has caused the public to receive less land in exchange and will result in taxpayers being forced to pay PolyMet $425,000 in cash unless the decision is overturned.
(Campaign to Defend Lake Superior)

From early February. The two actions may be consolidated as they make their way through the courts.
 

WaterLegacy, a Minnesota nonprofit founded to protect the state’s wetlands and wildlife from sulfide mining, filed a complaint (in late January) claiming that the Forest Service violated federal land management laws by selling parts of the forest for way less than what they’re worth.
 
The Forest Service’s final agreement with PolyMet valued the federal lands at $550 an acre. That is based on a consultant’s study of five Wisconsin and Michigan properties that were sold for timber — not copper-nickel mining.
(City Pages)

I of course wish the plaintiffs very, very well, in every way. Actually, that goes for all of us, since we all have a stake in not seeing northern Minnesota’s land and water poisoned.
 

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