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Environment

Ramming destruction of the BWCA down our throats

by Dan Burns on February 1, 2018 · 0 comments

sulfideThose involved in this latest disgrace are doing something really unconscionable. Hopefully they’re happy with how future generations will see them, in light of the poisoned land and water of what was one of North America’s finest wildernesses, if this project does happen.
 

Less than a year later, it turns out the study (of the Twin Metals proposal) will be cancelled after all, to be replaced by an “abbreviated” environmental assessment, according to the Washington Post, which obtained a draft news release prepared by the Forest Service.
 
An irate (Rep. Betty) McCollum condemned the discovery on Friday, saying, “The Trump administration’s decision to abandon a comprehensive and public Environment Impact Statement appears to demonstrate that an Interior Department hell-bent on advancing toxic mining is calling the shots about the future of this untouched wilderness.”
(City Pages)

People should be aware of the personal relationship between the boss of Antofagasta, and therefore of Twin Metals, and the Trump family.

 
Related items:
 

(On January 5), the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources published a draft permit to mine based on PolyMet Mining’s application and published a draft set of permit conditions. This initiates a public objection period on the draft permit that ends on March 6, 2018. The permit to mine is a central permit required for PolyMet to operate a copper-nickel sulfide mine in Minnesota, and would be the first such permit issued in Minnesota history.
 
Mining Truth released polling today conducted in December 2017 by Public Policy Polling showing a plurality of Minnesota voters oppose PolyMet’s proposed copper-nickel mine.
(Mining Truth)

– Some good news: An effort to relax water quality standards pertaining to wild rice was recently blocked.
 

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sulfideHere’s more background about sulfide mining proposals in Minnesota. Those in the state who won’t let the horrific Twin Metals proposal die an easy death may mean well by their own lights, but are in fact exercising extremely poor judgment.
 

Trump’s Interior Department is reinstating two 1966 leases, written before today’s federal environmental laws, that could allow a Chilean mining company to build a giant copper-and-nickel mine adjacent to the Boundary Waters wilderness area in northern Minnesota.
 
The mining company is controlled by Andrónico Luksic, whose family controls a mining, banking and industrial empire that Forbes estimates is valued at $13.1 billion. Luksic also dabbles in Washington, D.C., residential real estate and has a business relationship with the Trump family. He is First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner’s and First Daughter Ivanka Trump’s landlord…
 
Twin Metals Minnesota, a subsidiary of Antofagasta PLC, sued in federal court over the leases for 4,800 acres on the southwest border of the Boundary Waters even before the Obama administration decided in December 2016 against renewing them.
(DCReport.org)

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China bans import of many recyclable wastes

by Dan Burns on January 4, 2018 · 0 comments

As the article explains, the fallout from this will be complex and substantial. I suspect, though, that for the time being U.S. firms will find other countries to dump on.

 

On New Year’s Day 2018, a new Chinese regulation banning the import of 24 different types of waste (came) into force, sending shock waves through the ­global, multibillion-dollar waste disposal and ­recycling industry.
 
Though the regulation is primarily designed to address major environmental and health issues in China, it will also be a genuine global disrupter. It has the potential to propel many waste-exporting countries – who for far too long have taken an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude to waste disposal – to adopt far more progressive disposal and recycling systems.
(South China Morning Post)

“Mountains of U.S. recycling pile up as China restricts imports” (USA Today)
 

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Green energy and the tax heist

by Dan Burns on December 27, 2017 · 0 comments

SOLAR_ENERGY_IN_ITS_FINEST_FORMCould have been worse. But if we had any kind of even remotely enlightened federal governance, at this point in history, it would be a lot better.
 

While the final tax bill left the Investment Tax Credit and the Production Tax Credit in place, the Base Erosion Anti-Abuse Tax (BEAT) provision made it through the final version. An amendment keeps 80 percent of the value of both the ITC and the PTC.
 
Clean energy organizations and investors are now crunching the numbers to assess just how much the loss of 20 percent will impact tax equity investment. Tax lawyers seem optimistic that the market will bounce back.
 
“It’s possible the investors will become a little bit more conservative on what they pay to juice their returns a little bit,” said Michael Masri, a partner at Norton Rose Fulbright. “But I don’t think it will have any significant impact on deals continuing to flow.”
 
But those representing clean energy companies and entrepreneurs said uncertainty surrounding BEAT still runs high.
(Greentech Media)

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Fracking harms people, period

by Dan Burns on December 15, 2017 · 0 comments

Fracking-infographic_webData confirms what many have long suspected.
 

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, may pose a significant—but very local—harm to human health, a new study finds. Mothers who live very close to a fracking well are more likely to give birth to a less healthy child with a low birth weight—and low birth weight can lead to poorer health throughout a person’s life.
 
The research, published Wednesday in Science Advances, is the largest study ever conducted on fracking’s health effects.
 
“I think this is the most convincing evidence that fracking has a causal effect on local residents,” said Janet Currie, an economist at Princeton University and one of the authors of the study.
(The Atlantic)

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coal2A couple of items.
 

It’s bad enough for the coal industry that large majorities in every country want to be rid of it. What’s worse is that its biggest customer, China, is the most eager to escape.
 
In large part, that’s because China’s big cities are choked with coal smog, a growing health crisis that has the government going after coal with increasing intensity.
 
But it’s also because China is a rising power, increasingly confident in its geopolitical role over the course of the coming century.
(Vox)

A University of Wisconsin-Madison study shows that the shift of more than 7 million acres into cropland led to massive releases of carbon emissions into the atmosphere after a 2007 federal law mandated ethanol in gasoline.
 
The increased carbon emissions is equivalent to 20 million new cars driving down American roadways every year, according to the researchers’ estimates in the study released (November 15).
(Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

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Developments on the tar sands pipeline front

by Dan Burns on November 19, 2017 · 0 comments

oilspillA couple of items.
 

Still, many Native Americans don’t want to see more fossil fuel infrastructure. Period. Not only is it exacerbating the climate crisis by driving up emissions, they argue it’s threatening their lands.
 
The current Line 3 cuts right through the Fond du Lac Reservation and Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota, as well as the Chippewa National Forest. Enbridge wants to place the new Line 3 a bit more south, where it wouldn’t cut right through these lands, but the proposed route would still travel right outside the Fond du Lac’s territories. It’s not far from the White Earth and Red Lake reservations, either.
(Earther)

Nebraska’s Keystone XL decision won’t hinge on Thursday’s 210,000-gallon spill. Oil gushed out of the Keystone pipeline in rural South Dakota on Thursday, 30 miles west of the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation. Cleanup crews raced to the site, and TransCanada temporarily shut down the conduit…
 
Environmental groups said that Nebraska officials should consider the spill a “stark warning.” Just one problem: They can’t. A 2011 Nebraska law prevents state regulators from taking pipeline safety or possible leaks into account in their decisions — a rule that Nebraska’s Public Service Commission plans to abide by.
(Grist)

Update: The Nebraska commission has approved the project.
 
Updatex2: The decision was not cut-and-dried.
 

Nebraska regulators have approved TransCanada’s controversial Keystone XL pipeline, but not its preferred route through this state — raising questions about whether the company will continue to pursue the project.
 
Monday’s decision by the Nebraska Public Service Commission, which came on a 3-2 vote, adds another twist to a debate that has made headlines for nearly a decade.
 
The commission — instead of signing off on TransCanada’s 275-mile preferred route, which was the main focus of a court-style hearing in August — opted for a second, slightly longer route known as the “mainline alternative.”
(Lincoln Journal-Star)

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What is the real deal with Dayton and PolyMet?

by Dan Burns on November 2, 2017 · 0 comments

sulfideOf course I am not a fan, at all, of Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton’s recent decision to get behind the PolyMet sulfide mining proposal. But it is what I’ve been expecting he’d do. He’s been a very good governor, but nobody’s perfect.
 
I do want to parse a bit of what he said, specifically:
 

Dayton also said he’s working with officials to pin down the final financial assurances plan so that taxpayers won’t have to pay the environmental cleanup and monitoring costs if PolyMet goes bankrupt. Dayton said he had a meeting last week on some of those details. He said they’re building in sufficient environmental and financial protections.
(MPR)

I haven’t been able to find any more detail on that. Words like “surety” and “damage deposit” were not used. A legitimate deposit (as in the equivalent of hard cash, not fulsome promises from weasels), in the range of something like $400-700 million, is what I’ve seen suggested as the minimum that should be required. PolyMet’s for all practical purposes parent company, Glencore, may well consider that a deal-breaker. (To be clear, I’m not suggesting that there’s any multi-dimensional chess game here, by Dayton, to actually tank the proposal. He does seem to be a believer, and optimistic about getting legitimate “assurances.”)
 
Copper and nickel prices are off their lows in recent years, but nowhere near the highs that got people all excited about sulfide mining on the Range in the first place. I haven’t been able to find where anyone has tried to calculate what those prices would have to be, long-term, for PolyMet to work financially.
 

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Pipeline protesters get a win in court

by Dan Burns on October 18, 2017 · 0 comments

oilspillThis isn’t a verdict, just a procedural ruling. And it certainly looks to me (though I’m not a lawyer) like the chances of acquittal are not high. But, nonetheless, cool.
 

A judge in Minnesota has cleared the way for an unusual and potentially groundbreaking defense, allowing climate activists to use the “necessity” of confronting the climate crisis as justification for temporarily shutting down two crude oil pipelines last year.
 
Robert Tiffany, a district court judge in Clearwater County, Minnesota, ruled on Oct. 11 that three activists who were arrested and charged with felonies last year can argue that they violated the law in order to protect citizens from the impacts of global warming and that they had no legal alternative.
 
“It is extremely unusual for a court to allow presentation of the necessity defense by environmental protesters,” said Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. “It will be fascinating to see how this trial goes and how much evidence the court allows.”
(Inside Climate News)

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Thursday rally vs. Enbridge Line 3 in Minnesota

by Dan Burns on September 26, 2017 · 0 comments

enbridgeIt starts at the Capitol, in St. Paul.
 

We will hold a rally at the Capitol and then march to the public hearing at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown St. Paul to make our voices heard. This hearing is the FINAL chance in St. Paul to show up and make a public comment on Line 3, and our decision makers need to know we will not let this black-snake pipeline poison Minnesota!
(MN350)

I happened to see this ridiculous commercial on TV, on Sunday. Build Line 3 or the adorable baby calf will starve to death! Apparently it’s not supposed to occur to us that Line 3 is mostly about moving “energy” (specifically, filthy, corrosive, and most of all unneeded tar sands oil) across, not into, Minnesota.
 

 

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