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Environment

Kurt DaudtThe majority party in the state House of Representatives gets to decide committee assignments, even for minority members. Junior members don’t get all the committee assignments they prefer, but by longstanding practice, the minority gets to choose its lead member on a committee. Apparently, incoming speaker Kurt Daudt thinks kicking DFLers is more important. Or maybe he’s the obeisant servant of corporate special interests. I don’t pretend to being a mind reader.
 
Whatever the motive, Daudt has started his speakership with a childish act. Committee assignments were announced today, and Daudt removed Rep. Jean Wagenius from the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee, despite her designation as minority lead on the committee by House Minority Leader Paul Thissen.
 
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Lima climate talks were a dud

by Dan Burns on December 16, 2014 · 1 comment

Amargosa_desertEven many serious environmentalists were happy with the recent U.S.-China emissions agreement. (Though some beg to differ.) So there was hopefulness, going into the recent round of world climate talks. Which turned out to be pretty much of a fizzle.

 

After two weeks huddled in sweaty, sweltering tents (yes, many a “greenhouse effect” joke was made), the various negotiating blocs found themselves unable to agree on a handful of major issues. So in overtime sessions over the weekend, the stickiest of the sticking points were stripped out from one draft text after the next, until very little remained.
 
Green groups and citizens from vulnerable, developing nations bemoaned the lack of commitment and urgency.
 
“The text went from weak to weaker to weakest, and it’s very weak indeed,” said Samantha Smith, WWF’s chief of climate policy.
 
“Make no mistake: Lima delivered a pathetically weak outcome, because developed countries like the U.S. are failing to meet their obligations,” said Brandon Wu, a senior policy analyst at ActionAid USA. “A tiny bit of progress does not make up for decades of inaction on both emissions cuts and providing finance for poor countries.”
 
Others complained that the U.N. process lags woefully behind public momentum for ambitious climate policy. “There is still a vast and growing gulf between the approach of some climate negotiators and the public demand for action,” said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International.
(Grist)

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Minnesota pipelines face opposition, delay

by Dan Burns on December 10, 2014 · 0 comments

1098432_644541492223499_1490753966_nThere’s a lot of steel pipe laying around in northern Minnesota. It can sit there indefinitely, someday rusting away into hematite deposits, as far as I’m concerned.
 

The pipe field is not for a new Walmart. It’s a staging area for an Enbridge pipeline project. The Canadian company’s Sandpiper pipeline is designed to run 610 miles through Minnesota and North Dakota to transport oil.
 
Last month, long sections of pipe started rolling in by the semi load. The pipes look a bit like culverts, but longer and made of much thicker steel. For a while, semi trucks hauling three or four pipes were a common sight along highways 200 and 71.
 
The pipe is ready, but the project is not. Enbridge is still in the permitting process with the state and in September the project was delayed another year as regulators consider alternate routes for the new pipeline.
(MPR)

Righteous efforts are being made to deal with corporate vileness.
 

The Sierra Club, the White Earth Nation and several other groups filed a federal lawsuit (Nov. 6) against the U.S. State Department. The suit alleges that the department approved an Enbridge plan to construct and operate a crude oil pipeline that crosses the U.S.-Canada border without first reviewing the environmental impacts of the project as required by federal law.
 
Such a review would include an assessment of whether the project would increase greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change.
 
The groups said the case shows President Obama’s administration is contradicting itself on policies involving Alberta’s oil sands crude, which critics say produces more emissions than conventional crude. While the president has said his administration won’t approve a permit for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline if it increases emissions, the State Department already is allowing Calgary-based Enbridge to pump more oil into the country, the advocates said.
(MPR)

 
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MN House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Committee?

by Dan Burns on November 26, 2014 · 1 comment

Grasslands-mengguWell, that is an odd looking combination.
 

With the advent of the Mining and Outdoor Recreation Committee, (Rep. David) Dill (DFL-Crane Lake) may finally have the empathy he claims to have never found from those unnamed “metro-centric DFLers,” who maybe shouldn’t have gone fishing on lakes and rivers in their own districts.
 
Range-based blogger Aaron Brown reacted to news of the Dill-appreciating committee name on our editor’s Facebook page:
 

Ha. Now THAT’S a committee. Almost perfect, if only Mich Golden Light was in the name, too.

(Bluestem Prairie)

According to its enthusiasts, it will “focus on jobs and the economy.”

 
I’m guessing that the real purview of the “outdoor recreation” part will have mostly to do with efforts to loosen restrictions on yahoo rednecks tearing up wetlands, and other ecologically vulnerable areas, with their ATVs and snowmobiles. Like Bluestem’s article notes, it’s purportedly a “lifestyle” thing that haughty metrocentric types just don’t get. But we shall see. (My understanding is that in much of the state, what restrictions exist are not seriously enforced. Which is what a committee like this should be looking to fix. Highly unlikely.)

 
As far as the mining, the supposedly secretly anti-mining Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN) carried the whole Iron Range, and Duluth Metals Ltd. ain’t looking real healthy. Just a couple of indicators that sulfide mining is far from a done deal, no matter what kinds of committees giddy House GOPers invent.
 
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Was it political cowardice or bad strategy?

by Eric Ferguson on November 21, 2014 · 6 comments

announcement of Donald Rumsfeld's resignation
UPDATE: Heard from the Speaker of the Minnesota House, sadly shortly to be minority leader (replaced by this guy), and looks like some state-specific comments of mine might not hold up. Details here.
 
When Pres. Obama announced his support for net neutrality right after the election, I thought I understood how Republicans felt when Bush Jr. forced out Defense Sec. Don Rumsfeld right after the 2006 election. Well, that was nice, but couldn’t you have done that before we got toasted in the midterm election?! Of course my first response to Obama’s announcement was to be glad he came out so strongly on the side of the angels, but my next thought was to recall an image of Rumsfeld’s resignation being announced. Why not do this before the election, and maybe save some seats?
 
The silver lining of an election loss is it makes us more likely to consider our assumptions. We may not even realize we’re making assumptions. The assumption in this case is the spinelessness of Democratic candidates and elected officials. We in the Democratic base have pleaded for more spine for I don’t recall how long. Back to the 80’s maybe? The 70’s? The 90’s at least. Election after election, but especially during midterms when there’s a Democratic president, we see one self-defeating move after another. The seeming political cowardice wasn’t just on the part of Obama, despite my reaction to the timing of his net neutrality announcement, and despite his failure to do anything on immigration until last night, which I blame for the lower than expected (lower than expected by me anyway) turnout among Latinos. I’m inclined give him a pass on the timing of his strong stances on global warming since those likely had to wait for summits in China and Australia, though that doesn’t explain other Democrats not running on it.
 
Nor do Obama’s decisions excuse Democratic candidates who avoided him during their own reelections, and the many who avoided other Democrats at all, as if they weren’t running on a ticket. There were exceptions: Minnesota’s statewide candidates very much ran as a ticket, campaigning on the Democratic successes most Democrats rarely mentioned, for example; but in general, Democrats ran every-candidate-for-themselves with campaigns focused on appeasing, if not conservatives, then those mysterious centrists.
 
But was it really cowardice? I’m asking the base to question our assumption of gutlessness. Maybe this was strategy; lousy, awful strategy. If that’s the case, if spine isn’t the problem, then no wonder our appeals for political courage seem to achieve so little. We’re making the wrong demand.
 

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MN-08: About the election

by Dan Burns on November 6, 2014 · 3 comments

nolanI grant that it was close. Uncomfortably – indeed, distressingly – so, though the (entirely legitimate) presence of a Green Party candidate was partly the reason for that. Distressing that so many are still politically foolish and gullible enough to have fallen for Stewart Mills III’s repugnant, failed plutocratic drivel. Turnout was 68.5% of registered voters (not of all eligible voters) in this race, compared to 63% for governor (those numbers are based on registered voter totals on the linked pages, and don’t include at-the-polls signups). So, not awful, but far from great, by Minnesota standards. (Update: It turns out that total turnout was awful, at 50.31% of eligible voters statewide. Which partly explains the closeness of this race, too.)

 

I’m obviously very relieved that we won’t have to put up with Minnesota’s corporate media deifying Mills as the Unstoppable Future of the Republican Party. And you know that they were pumped with eagerness, to do that. Probably not the reporters themselves, for the most part, but those who tell them what to write.
 
Contrary to what some concern trolls claimed, taking particular note of Mills’s unearned privilege worked. Probably made the difference. Well, that, and The Hair. I saw somewhere that Nolan has the most progressive voting record overall of any Democrat who faced a really tough challenge. I’m not sure about that – I haven’t seen the data, myself – but it’s likely at least close to accurate, and makes his win something to feel all that much better about.

 

This seat probably won’t have to be worried about much in 2016, even if Rep. Nolan hands it off, but the longer term remains to be seen. Tuesday’s result, given the overall climate, shows that the district is blue, but not dark blue. (And that any candidate who is perceived as not red-hot enough for sulfide mining is not automatically doomed. I’ll write more about that. A lot of people will.) Demographic movement (as in greater diversity and better-educated) will push things left, but that’s a slow process.
 
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Actually, no. The PolyMet project is the one that’s getting most of the attention now. Substantially less far along is the plan by Twin Metals Minnesota to put a sulfide mine right next to where the South Kawishiwi River connects with the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Twin Metals’s parent company is Duluth Metals Ltd.
 
duluth
 

I’ll be liveblogging election results tomorrow night.
 

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HD49B Barb Sutter has unique definition of independent

by Eric Ferguson on November 3, 2014 · 1 comment

HD49B Barb Sutter lit

Barb Sutter lit in HD 49B


HD49B GOP candidate Barb Sutter says at the top of her campaign lit “Barb Sutter is an independent voice for our community” (click the image to enlarge). I suppose “independent” sounds good in a swing district, if appealing to voters inclined to split tickets. It sounds like someone who isn’t beholden to a party or any big donors or special interests. Yep, sounds good. And sounds funny, given that before becoming the candidate, Sutter was, no kidding, the SD49 GOP chair. Independent enough to make up a new definition of independent I guess.
 

She mentioned being the chair before becoming the candidate in an interview a few months ago on Republican Roundtable, a local public access program. This wasn’t the only instance where she’d showed interesting understandings of things. In that same interview, she agreed that schools increase the number of students labeled “special needs” just to get more money. The interviewer was the one who said it, and she replied, “There’s truth to that”. Embedding is disabled on this video, so you’ll have to follow the link. Scroll ahead in the video to 14:30.

 

“There’s truth to that”. So you know this, do you? It’s fraud, so you’ve reported the schools doing this, right? No? Are you countenancing fraud, or just making up what you’re saying? Basically, the whole interview is some variation of:
 
INTERVIEWER: Government sucks and everyone is dishonest.
Sutter: Yep.
 
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Audit of BP claims facility results in $64 million in additional payments – from the New Orleans Tribune http://www.tribunetalk.com/?p=3343

The ever-corrupt Tom Coburn, who lives his life amid the lint of the deep pockets of big oil, big pharm and other big money spent on PAID-triots. It’s no secret who buys members of the House and Senate to do their bidding.

 

And it’s no secret that Coburn, leaving this year due to ill health, has NEVER really been against waste. He’s just a hatchet man for his buyers, a long term buy-to-lie guy.

 

 

On his way out the door, he’s done his donor’s bidding one last time, this time via the right wing propaganda machine over at Fox (not really)News. It’s good to use Fox to lie to the gullible conservatives; neither Fox, nor the Conservatives who consume their drivel, will ever fact check anything. They tend to be science illiterates on both sides of the television – the sending and the receiving, and they are consistently wilfully ignorant.

Let’s look at the recent Fox dishonest headline:

$10G to watch grass grow: Coburn report details worst examples of gov’t waste

As American taxpayers worried about the terror threat from the Islamic State, the crisis at the border and the economy, the U.S. government spent their money to give rabbits massages, to teach sea monkeys to synchronize swim and to literally watch grass grow.

These and other examples of wasteful government spending were detailed by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn in his annual “Wastebook,” his final edition since he is retiring early next year.

…Other examples vary from the serious, to the aggravating, to just plain bizarre. One that takes the cake is the $10,000 the government spent to watch grass grow — seriously.

That project is the brainchild of the Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is paying for the growth of the smooth cordgrass to be observed on a Florida reserve. The money covers “the cost to monitor grasses, restore two acres as a demonstration and publish a guide on best practices for cultivating the cordgrass, known formally as Spartina alterniflora.”

So…….IS the government wasting money on Spartina alterniflora, just ‘watching grass grow’? OR is there a connection to Coburn trying to discourage funding something useful on behalf of big oil, again?

Guess.

Here is the actual study, INCLUDING the actual purpose, which is completely and totally different from the description of the research in Coburn’s ‘wastebook’. The biggest waste here is the wastebook itself.

Here is the link to the study and the information about this very special kind of grass, with some excerpts below of the pertinent parts:

Smooth cordgrass provides cover for waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds,
and muskrats; and habitat for commercially important fish and shellfish.
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Smooth cordgrass was direct-seeded successfully on damaged marshes found
on dredge spoils from Connecticut to Virginia. Lower littoral zones
were seeded in locations where heavy wave action caused by storms did
not erode away the often top-heavy plants before their root systems
developed sufficiently. Smooth cordgrass seeds and seedlings were also
planted successfully on dredge spoils produced in the maintenance of
navigational channels within sounds and estuaries

Smooth cordgrass is an important component of Gulf Coast salt marshes
which stabilize shorelines against erosion and filter heavy metals and
toxic materials from the water column [13].

The presence of smooth cordgrass indicates sites with high salinity,
which can be managed for shrimp ponds [20].

OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Gulf Coast marshes, because they provide soil stabilization and enhance
water quality, receive the highest priority for protection in
comprehensive oil spill response plans for coastal areas [13]. Effects
of oil spills on salt marshes vary depending on oil type, plant
coverage, season, and marsh elevation [24]. Flushing with seas water is
the most effective clean-up method for oil-contaminated salt marshes at
present. However, once oil penetrates the sediment, not even flushing
will remove it. Flushing is also ineffective at reducing damage to
cordgrass and enhancing long-term plant recovery. If natural tidal
flushing occurs, no other clean-up measures are recommended because
impacts on the community cause more harm than good. Overall, clean-up
responses have limited effectiveness; therefore, primary emphasis should
be placed on contingency planning and protection of salt marsh habitat
from oil spills.

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HD2B Steve Green dislikes both science and law

by Eric Ferguson on October 20, 2014 · 2 comments

State Rep. Steve Green, HD2B
State Rep. Steve Green, R-2B, has authored some interesting bills. By “authored”, I suspect I mean “stuck his name on some special interest’s bill, and who knows if he even read it”. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume he really believes this stuff. Wait, that’s sort of worse. Anyway…
 
Let’s start with a bit of tentherism. Green is one of those who buys into that doctrine birthed in John C. Calhoun’s black-enslaving heart that states can ignore whatever federal laws they disagree with. That doctrine, originally intended for the defense of slavery, has never entirely died out on the extreme right, which extremity apparently includes Green, trying to apply it to modern issues with just as little understanding of how the law works.
 
Green coauthored a bill that calls for the arrest of federal officials enforcing federal gun laws. He seems to be fond of arresting federal officials for implementing laws he disagrees with. Green was one of the Republicans who said they would support arresting federal officials implementing Obamacare in Minnesota. No shock I suppose that there is considerable overlap between the Republicans who want to arrest federal officials for one and the other. Each list is like a handy guide to nutjobbery.
 
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