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Environment

clowncarh/t Politics.mn
 
So there’s the underlying issue of frac sand mining, and the issue of who correctly construed who, as Republican gubernatorial campaigns go after each other. For the part of the story about Republicans going after each other, Bill Kuisle, running for lieutenant governor with GOP gubernatorial endorsee Jeff Johnson, said it makes sense to delay frac sand mining so the effects can be studied.
 

I’ve pulled the key quotes from the back and forth between the two campaign[sic]. Below is the quote from Kuisle from the interview, in response to a question about frac sand mining:

 

“‘I’ve followed the issue a little bit in the papers,’ said Kuisle, a farmer of 160 acres between Stewart and Rochester. ‘You can’t be an expert on every issue, but I think you’ve got to look at all sides. That is a tough one.
 
“I think the moratorium, give it six months or a year, to study the issue is a good thing. You need to determine what you hope to protect. Is it air pollution, trout streams, transportation? Source: The Caledonia Argus, “Republican-endorsed candidate for lieutenant governor stops by Argus offices”, July 15, 2014

 
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amd_300This is a very important online article about the mining proposals in Minnesota, that I need to pass along. I really encourage clicking and reading the whole thing. With PolyMet and Twin Metals, we’re talking about financial houses of cards that are deliberately constructed that way.
 

Given the dissolute nature of the thirty-three-year old ne’er-do-well PolyMet, and given the evidence of the faithless nature of the senior mining companies in general, you’d think that the regulators at the DNR would be screaming and demanding a guarantee of the environmental liability obligations of PolyMet by Glencore, wouldn’t you?
 
Well, my friends, you’d be sadly mistaken if you thought that. At the hearing on financial assurances in the Minnesota House last session that I mentioned earlier, representatives from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said they would not seek guarantys of environmental liability obligations from shareholders of PolyMet, even a large shareholder like Glencore, which is in practical control of PolyMet.
 
You can bet your bottom dollar that the moment that Glencore decides, We don’t see the upside, that the State of Minnesota, its citizens, its environment, and even PolyMet, itself, will be holding a potentially very large bag. That is an especial concern when the mine closes, in say twenty years, and there is no more revenue coming from it.
(Left.MN)

And this one has valuable debunking:
 

If you take U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden’s words literally, he’s making a lofty promise.
 
On at least a couple of occasions, when discussing regulations on mining jobs, McFadden has pointed to the copper and nickel reserves in northern Minnesota.
 
“It has Bakken-type economic impact on our state,” he said on conservative talk radio in May. He repeated the line when talking with MinnPost’s Eric Black a few weeks ago. “It’s a game-changer for the region.”
 
“Bakken” refers to the oil- and gas-producing region in North Dakota, an economic engine that has completely transformed the western half of the state in under a decade.
 
And there’s where the analogy falls apart. If industry-favored projections are correct, copper and nickel mining would, right away, provide a modest boost for Minnesota’s economy, while potentially leading to bigger gains in later years. But those estimates, rosy as they might be, produce not even one-tenth the jobs Bakken has created in North Dakota.
(MinnPost)

To buy into “industry-favored projections” is indicative of just jaw-dropping naivete. And/or, of course, personal agendas.
 

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Fracking makes bad things happen

by Dan Burns on July 8, 2014 · 2 comments

Hydro-Fracking-FieldThe evidence keeps snowballing.
 

After examining the publicly available compliance records of more than 41,000 wells in northeastern Pennsylvania, the Cornell-led researchers have dropped this bombshell:
 

About 40 percent of the oil and gas wells in parts of the Marcellus shale region will probably be leaking methane into the groundwater or into the atmosphere…. This study shows up to a 2.7-fold higher risk for unconventional wells — relative to conventional wells — drilled since 2009.

Study after study has found consistently higher methane leakage rates from natural gas production and distribution than reported by either the industry or EPA (which uses industry self-reported data).
(Think Progress)

In addition to being poisonous to most life, including humans, methane is a super-potent greenhouse gas.
 
At least in some areas, it looks like one reason for seals on wells to fail will be seismic stress. Which it’s obvious will cause a whole lot of other problems, too.
 

A dramatic uptick in earthquakes has been shaking central Oklahoma this year, continuing a recent trend of unusually high earthquake activity in the state and leading scientists to speculate about a possible link to oil and gas production there…
 
Scientists have drawn links between earthquakes and wastewater injection wells used for oil and gas production, including fracking. Researchers say the toxic wastewater, stored thousands of feet underground, reducing friction along fault lines, which can trigger earthquakes. The ongoing fracking boom has led to a growth in national demand for disposal wells, according to Bloomberg.
 
Nicholas van der Elst, a post-doctorate research fellow at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, says the “most reasonable hypothesis” to explain Oklahoma’s spike in earthquakes is they’ve been triggered by injection wells used for oil and gas production. “The burden of proof is on well operators to prove that the earthquakes are not caused by their wells,” van der Elst told The Nation.
(No Fracking Way)

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The Star Tribune headline writer got the story seriously wrong

The Star Tribune headline writer got the story seriously wrong

To be fair to the Star Tribune, they didn’t screw up nearly as much as KSTP. In fact, the egregious mistake was in the headline, “140 voters used single mailbox”. This wasn’t asserted in the article. However, reporters don’t write the headlines, and the Star Tribune did at some point replace that headline on the web version. They’re unfortunately stuck with it in the print edition. It’s a screw up because even Brian Rice and KSTP never asserted 140 people registered using one mailbox. They rented mailboxes from the same mailbox rental business. Yes, quite a bit different.
 
The Star Tribune writers talked to some people who registered using their mailbox instead of a residence — take note KSTP, because that’s what real reporters do — and got statements from more people than just the one guy making the accusation. The Star Tribune debunked — albeit inadvertently it appears since they didn’t point out the contradiction — the crux of the KSTP story, that there was a “coordinated effort” to commit voter fraud. “State records show that 419 Cedar Avenue S. has been used by some of the voters as far back as 2008.” Maybe Brian Rice believes people started registering back in 2008 to help Mohamud Noor run for state representative in 2014?
 
That said, some things were left out. And there was some silliness.
 
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Amargosa_desertThis shouldn’t surprise anyone.
 

In July, the Heartland Institute will host its annual conference railing against the scientific consensus that humans are the main cause of climate change. The conference was nearly ended in 2012, after funders fled the organization for running a short-lived billboard campaign comparing those that accept climate change to the Unabomber. The co-sponsors of the 2014 conference, who pay anywhere from $150 to $10,000 and are asked to “[w]rite at least one story” before and after the event,* are mostly right-wing groups such as the Heritage Foundation, the Media Research Center, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Leadership Institute. However, one group stands out: Hubbard Broadcasting Inc., an American television and radio corporation that owns several ABC and NBC affiliates across the country.
 
Hubbard Broadcasting is run by billionaire Stanley Hubbard, who, according to Rolling Stone, has said that global warming is “the biggest fraud in the history of America.” Hubbard has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to political candidates (most of whom are Republicans) both individually and through his corporation…
 
Hubbard Broadcasting’s flagship station, KSTP-TV, an ABC affiliate broadcasting on Channel 5 in the Twin Cities and surrounding area, has cast doubt on climate change by citing the Heartland Institute.
(Media Matters)

(If you read the article, Hubbard Broadcasting denies that it’s really “co-sponsoring.” I think MM conclusively makes the case that it most certainly is.)
 
This article (it’s from 2013, but there’s no reason to think anything’s changed) details how, of the three local broadcast news entities that have been around for, like, forever, in the Twin Cities, KSTP is facing the most dire long-term outlook – and it’s not really all that “long”-term. Add that Stan’s beloved Minnesota GOP is on the precipice of minor party status in the state, and I suppose he could be what they used to call a “hard-footin’ desperate man” (not that any of his material comforts and luxuries are at risk). And he’s still facing backward as relentlessly as a statue. Sounds good to me.
 

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Democrats need to watch their language

by Eric Ferguson on June 30, 2014 · 3 comments

Don’t be linguistically hoist by your own petard.

No, that title doesn’t mean Democrats need to stop swearing. Ever been to a DFL meeting? You could broadcast those without a seven second delay; not with much audience except the five Republicans hoping something stupid will be said, but certainly without fear of FCC fines. I’m referring to our actual verbiage. The way we communicate.

 
Yes, I know, you’ve heard about messaging and framing, and semantics, and your head just swims as the concepts fade from your brain. You don’t need any theoretical understanding as long as you get it empirically; say X and not Y. So my intention here is to look at specific word choices. I’ve been delaying posting as I give time for examples to accumulate, not that I’m not bound to miss a bunch. Feel free to disagree of course, but also feel free to add. You might well have better ones than I came up with.

 
Let’s just dive in. In order basically as they occurred to me, not alphabetical or topical or ranked by importance:
 
“Photo ID”, not “Voter ID”: They’re not the same. We’re playing into the hands of the voter suppressors every time we say “voter ID”. The problem isn’t getting an ID; the problem is getting an ID with a photo on it. We already have voter ID for registering, when you need something with your address on it; bank statements, rental agreements, or utility bills. If a voter could vote with a utility bill, showing ID to vote would still be a pointless step given the scarcity of impersonation, but at least the requirement wouldn’t be disenfranchising. Getting the photo ID is the hard part for many people, especially when what people have is disallowed, like states that sent confirmation cards to registered voters stopped accepting those cards at the polls because they don’t have photos. Saying “voter ID” grossly understates the difficulty many voters have in getting acceptable ID, and the voter fraud invention industry depends on the majority for whom photo ID is no big deal giving it no thought. At least “photo ID” gets us part way to making the point that people do have ID, but new laws won’t accept it. As we learned in Minnesota when we beat back the photo ID constitutional amendment, public support is broad but shallow, and quite amenable to factual arguments (how rarely that happens unfortunately).
 
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Rebecca Otto: Minnesota nice, not naive

by Eric Ferguson on June 16, 2014 · 8 comments

State Auditor Rebecca OttoI had chance to talk to State Auditor Rebecca Otto after her speech at the DFL state convention. I rather proved my proclaimed volunteer status as a reporter by discovering half the interview was lost, due, I expect, to operator error, meaning I’m guessing I accidentally hit the stop button. In the part I lost, I asked her about the reference in her speech to her predecessor using reports for partisan purposes, which I noted in the live blog. Otto expanded on that, explaining that local governments would come to the auditor’s office for help, but instead of getting help, would be held up for ridicule. The prior auditor, Pat Anderson, whom Otto defeated in 2006 and again in 2010, preferred to use the government’s problems to make herself look like an enemy of government waste. It’s easy to imagine what this did to the trust local governments had in the auditor’s office. Why bring problems forward if you’re going to be attacked for them?

 

So the first challenge Otto had was restoring trust. Given that looking like the enemy of government waste plays well regardless of party, governments might well be as suspicious of an auditor of one party as the other. It took time to get local governments thinking of the state auditor as someone looking to help them get their accounting right rather than looking to jump on them when they made a mistake. That rebuilding of trust is part of why she has won recognition from her peers across the country.

 

Q. Are you getting much pushback on your vote on the sulfide mining?

A. I thin kthe Republicans are trying to make an issue of it, but really, no. Initially, there were some people who made some claims about my vote that were not correct, and that was Republicans, in my opinion, and I’m not pro- or anti- mining. What I’ve been is all about the finances. So that these foreign multi-national corporations that come into our state know that we mean business, and that we’re going to make sure that they have incentive to protect us from any future cleanup costs, or maybe injury to our workers, or anything like that, so that they don’t leave a financial burden behind once they take the non-ferrous minerals and leave.

 

Q. I’ve noticed you using the term “damage deposit”.

A. I’ve been using it so when I talk to people in general, I talk about a “damage deposit” like you would about an apartment. They’ve got a more technical name, “financial assurance”, but people understand what a “damage deposit” is, and it incents you to make sure you get it right, and the mining companies have to put enough down to reclaim the land afterward. And that’s usually more of a known cost. It’s the issue around water treatment that may be required that is the more unknown cost.  And so again, letting any of these foreign multi-national corporations understand that we may be “Minnesota nice”, but we’re not naive, and not to mistake our “nice” for “naivete”. We’re not. And so that we have high standards, and that we expect them, if they’re going to come in, to be good stewards of our natural resources.

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Mother Jones does a great article linking lead and violent crime. Many causes have been put forth as a cause to reduced crime, however exceptions can be found to all those cases. Just correlation is not enough to establish the link. The link of leaded gasoline with violence has no contrary evidence.
 

We now have studies at the international level, the national level, the state level, the city level, and even the individual level. Groups of children have been followed from the womb to adulthood, and higher childhood blood lead levels are consistently associated with higher adult arrest rates for violent crimes. All of these studies tell the same story: Gasoline lead is responsible for a good share of the rise and fall of violent crime over the past half century.

 

 
So the real question is this. Why do always we have to learn the hard way? Why can’t we look at the copper sulfide mining being proposed in this state and see the increase release of toxic elements would be bad for us? What if those effects from the new toxic elements does not dissipate as quickly as lead. Afterall, it is only our health and lives at stake.
 
Funny how we can spend tons of money checking for bombs in shoes for a one time threat that was successfully prevented. Yet we cannot forgo 360 low-paying jobs to stop a proven threat to the quality of water from copper sulfide mining.
 

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So long and thanks for all the fish

by Grace Kelly on June 6, 2014 · 1 comment

CarbonEmissionsWe are facing the destruction of everything so that oil oligarchs can extract more money for another decade or two.  Never mind that there is no happiness left for the oil oligarchs left to buy. If we allow the oil oligarchs to burn the carbon reserves they currently own, total warming in 300 years would lead to 2.75 doublings of CO2, or a global temperature rise of about 12 °C. One more study says 12 °C would cause too much heat stress for humans to survive. Even if we could shelter humans under such conditions, the problem is that our main staples of food will not grow.
 
hot temps not good for corn

I grew up with the threat of nuclear annihilation, but that was expected to be quick. We have so far avoided a nuclear war. Now we face a certain threat of the slow pain of climate change. While President Obama recent moves are encouraging, it is no where close to stopping the climate change. Now that we are in a doom scenario, will conservatives finally admit climate change since they can now justify ignoring it as it is too late anyway. What I want to know is what conservatives will say to their children and grand children when it becomes really obvious. Like “Hey, I sold your future for a gas guzzling car, more oil profits on my 401K and for the pleasure of politically beating up liberals. ”
 
Maybe all that is left is the Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy message:
 

The last ever dolphin message was misinterpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to do a double-backwards-somersault through a hoop whilst whistling the “Star Spangled Banner”, but in fact the message was this: So long and thanks for all the fish.

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Waiting for the Tent Caterpillar Invasion

by Grace Kelly on June 5, 2014 · 1 comment

 On a regular basis, Minnesota has insect plagues. The most famous is the locusts that would look like an incoming snowstorm. This year we may have the tent caterpillar invasion. Our cold spring may have saved us this year, although there is just enough seed population that the tent caterpillar invasion will happen one of these years. Just to give you an idea of the cycles, here is a chart published by the Minnesota DNR.


 
Tent caterpillars flourish until they eat everything. If they eat everything before they mature then there are no seed sacs for future years. Otherwise they form seed sacs that survive very cold winters. The good news is that in any case, they die off half way through the summer. However, trees that are already stressed also die off. A defoliated forest is very ugly.
 
With climate change, I am expecting that trees are more stressed. There are more droughts, more heavy rains, and generally more bad weather. So when this tent caterpillar invasion happens, I think it will have a more significant impact.

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