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LegacyWebHorizontalI’ve long held forth to anyone I could buttonhole, whom I thought I had a reasonable chance of educating, that Minnesota and the Twin Cities are not some frozen hinterland of the continental upper Midwest, but instead offer some of the best arts, dance, theater and music in the country.

 

Usually I’ve had these conversations in airport bars or at trade shows and business seminars. Few people have been inclined to listen much, but that hasn’t dampened my spiritual calling to civic boosterism. I love Minnesota and the Twin Cities, always have, and if you love something you want to let others know.

 

Minnesota is known for a lot of things — our lakes, our sports teams, our universities, our liberal politics — but it’s not generally known as a center of the arts and a major supporter of the arts community. It should be.

 

While not generally known even to native Minnesotans, our state is home to more than 1,500 arts and cultural organizations. Each year, these organizations pump more than $830 million into the local economy. Of that, the creative sector produces some $700 million in revenues with $430 million in consumer retail sales — equal to about 70% of all sports sector revenues combined. The creative sector employs some 20,000 residents in Minneapolis alone, amounting to about 5% of all jobs in the city. The Playwrights’ Center is recognized across the country as unrivaled in the cultivation of new playwrights and their works. There are nearly 100 theater companies in the state with more theater seats per capita than anywhere in the country except New York City. Per capita revenues for theater companies and dinner theaters is 14 times the national average. Overall, the Twin Cities metro area is rated 6th highest in the Creative Vitality Index nationwide.

 

A lot of that artistic energy, innovation and economic vitality is the legacy of the Legacy Amendment, which I consider one of the greatest collective acts of civic philanthropy in our nation’s history and one which will serve as a model to other states once they begin to realize the astounding social, cultural and economic benefits it produces.

 

For those who need some background, in 2008 Minnesotans passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment Act (Legacy Act) to the Minnesota State Constitution. The objectives of that legislation were to protect, enhance, and restore lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater; to preserve clean drinking water sources; to protect, enhance and restore wetlands, prairies and forests and renew wildlife habitat; to support parks and trails; and to preserve Minnesota’s arts and cultural heritage. To accomplish those objectives, the Legacy Act called for an increase to the state sales tax of three-eighths of one percent (0.00375%) beginning on July 1, 2009 and continuing through 2034, to be divided into four funds: 33% for a Clean Water Fund; 33% for an Outdoor Heritage Fund; 19.75% for an Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund; and 14.25% for a Parks and Trails Fund. Note that this self-imposed tax was in addition to the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) established in 1988. The Legacy Act passed with a 56% majority, even though a blank ballot counted as a “No” vote, proving to the many doubters that Minnesotan’s ongoing love affair with our state’s astonishing natural beauty and priceless water resources meant far more to them than a handful of pocket change.

 

To date, here’s how the Legacy Act funding breaks down (diagram includes ENRTF funding):

 

Legacy Act Funding

 

http://www.legacy.leg.mn/funding-overview

 

Looking just at the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, you can see why Minnesota enjoys such a lively, thriving arts community and creative sector economy: by this year’s end, for just the first five years of the Act, Minnesotans will have invested more than a quarter-billion dollars in our arts community. An investment of that kind of capital in any area of human endeavor is bound to have an enormous impact. In fact, that’s just what we are seeing.

 

In time, Minnesota will become known for more than bone-chilling winters and sky blue waters. We’ll become known as the center of arts and culture in the center of the continent and a magnet for the best and brightest. At the rate things are going, it won’t take long …

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Rep. Nolan opposes Enbridge Sandpiper route

by Dan Burns on August 18, 2014 · 0 comments

1098432_644541492223499_1490753966_nWith so much attention focused on the Keystone XL proposal, it can slip one’s mind that there are proposals from Big Filthy Fossil Fuels for pipelines everywhere.
 

Citing both environmental and economic concerns, Minnesota’s Eighth District Congressman Rick Nolan has expressed his opposition to the proposed route for the Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline.
 
In a letter to the Environmental Manager of the Minnesota Department of Commerce, who is evaluating the project’s application, Rep. Nolan spoke of his ongoing concerns, as well as those of local residents, regarding the proposed route’s threat to environmentally sensitive areas of Minnesota. The current route requires the pipeline to cut through vulnerable northern wetlands, porous sandy soil and water tables used for drinking water, and some of the clearest lakes in the state.
 
“There’s no compelling reason why the Sandpiper pipeline can’t be rerouted to avoid environmentally fragile areas,” said Nolan. “From my meetings and communication with agencies and local advocacy groups, it’s clear there are several alternative routes out there that would take the pipeline south of this region, and thereby prevent a devastating ecological disaster in the event of a pipeline spill.”
(Rep. Nolan press release)

Here’s an overview of the Sandpiper project. Opposition to the proposed route is in fact not a brand new phenomenon.
 
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DirtyDenier$ Day 9: Congressman John Kline

by afrank on August 15, 2014 · 2 comments

John Kline

Today’s featured Dirty Denier is Rep. John Kline from Minnesota. While his denialism is more mild-mannered than the brash, outspoken style of some of his #DirtyDenier$ compatriots, it’s no less dangerous.
 
After more than a decade in Congress, Kline has racked up an appalling 4 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters. In the previous two years (2013 and 2012), Kline voted in favor of the environment just once. At every possible opportunity, he has voted against clean energy investment and against action to address climate change. He has also supported the dirty energy agenda by trying to roll back bedrock environmental laws like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.
 
Kline’s opposition to action on climate change is particularly disappointing. Kline has been pretty silent about the causes of climate change or the costs of inaction. He doesn’t talk about the way Minnesota’s anglers and lakes will be affected by climate change. He doesn’t talk about the way homeowners’ insurance premiums are already rising in the face of more extreme weather.
 
Who might be happy with Kline’s votes and his silence? Well, take a look at the list of his top campaign contributors. Two of his top five are Boich Companies and Murray Energy, both coal mining companies. They are certainly thankful that Kline voted to allow both existing and new coal fired power plants to continue emitting unlimited amounts of climate-changing carbon pollution.
 
Kline can no longer hide behind his silence on climate change. Kline’s record speaks for itself and there’s no denying that he’s a Dirty Denier.
 
Our Advice: Climate change is a serious challenge and your country needs your voice and your vote, Rep. Kline. It’s time to start speaking the truth and helping your constituents in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
 

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(Just gotta throw in a blurb that tonight I will be liveblogging primary election results.)
 
I recently posted an item that had a reference to a major disaster at a mine in Canada. Specifically, it’s at Mount Polley in British Columbia, and here’s video.
 

 
Aaron Brown asked PolyMet about this.
 

That was the very question I posed to LaTisha Gietzen, PolyMet spokesperson, yesterday. How would PolyMet prevent what happened at Mount Polley from happing at a nonferrous mine in the Lake Superior watershed?
 
Though the specific details of what happened at Mount Polley aren’t yet known, Gietzen pointed out several differences between what’s known about the Mount Polley mine and PolyMet’s proposal in Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota.
 
“We have a high level of confidence that our tailings impoundment is and will remain safe based on the size, design, location, construction and general nature of the structure,” said Gietzen.
 
Among the observable differences between Mount Polley and PolyMet, Gietzen said the Mount Polley Mine taps into a porphyry deposit in a much hillier location — two factors that influence the toxicity and water pressure in the pond.
 
“Porphyry deposits often contain higher sulfide levels and clay,” said Gietzen. “The clay tends to keep material in suspension and hamper drainage in tailings. PolyMet plans to mine a low sulfide deposit that does not have appreciable amounts of clay minerals. Therefore the geochemistry of our tailings will be different and the water in our tailings basin will be in the pH neutral range.”
(Star Tribune)

Uh-huh. It is of course not my business to try to dictate to anybody whether or not she should put more stock into what PolyMet has to say, rather than in the clear example of what can very well go wrong when these kinds of mining projects are allowed to happen. I will note that there are many examples of tailings pond failures that had nothing to do with sulfide levels and pH. They were just inadequately designed and maintained from the beginning, because that’s what mining companies do, far too often.
 

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Big McFadden blunder on steel imports

by Dan Burns on August 11, 2014 · 1 comment

The article’s mostly about the public debate at Farmfest. But this found its way in.
 

(Sen. Al) Franken said, though, that he has supported measures to guarantee the pipeline is built with American-made steel. After the debate, (Mike) McFadden said he wouldn’t be a stickler for that requirement, just that any steel, even if it comes from overseas, would need to be acquired through “free and fair trade.”
 
“What I’d love to see is us to use American products where we can, but we’ve got to be cost-competitive where we can. I am a supporter of free and fair trade,” he said. “But I think we’re going off on a tangent right now. What’s real is, we’ve got to get this pipeline built.”
(MinnPost)

The real fun starts at 2:00, though it’s preceded by a rather bizarre little fantasy from Nutshot about a pro-fossil fuels mega-majority in the Senate. This video is from The Uptake.
 

 
Labor leaders in particular are absolutely pounding him.
 

It’s hard to nail down what the plan for the pipe really is. This 2012 report from the National Resources Defense Council noted (on page 3) that a good deal of pipe has already been shipped in from Asia. TransCanada claims that nonetheless most of it would end up being made “in North America.” Me, I always trust what the corporations say. Because I’m as gullible as they make ‘em.
 

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amd_300You know, this is accurately indicative of what this whole sulfide mining misadventure has really been all about, so far.
 

The company that designed, engineered, and oversaw the construction of the (collapsed) Mount Polley tailings dam, Knight Piesold, also provided the Department of Natural Resources and PolyMet with technical advice on the current proposal for the PolyMet project. In fact, Knight Piesold Vice President Bryan Ulrich is listed as a Geotechnical Engineer on the DNR’s Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the PolyMet project.
 
A few miles up the road, the Twin Metals mining project has employed the engineering firm URS. Many Minnesotans remember them as the contractor hired to evaluate the fatigue of the 35W bridge before it collapsed, and the designer of the Martin Olav Sabo Bridge over Hiawatha Avenue, which was forced to close after a design malfunction a year and a half after it opened.
(Mining Truth)

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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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