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Environment

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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oilspillGreat, great news.
 

Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 project — an effort to replace and expand an oil sands pipeline through Minnesota — hit a roadblock Monday when the state’s Department of Commerce said that the project is environmentally and economically risky and that the company has failed to show that the pipeline is even needed at all…
 
“The Commerce Department testimony is really damning and really well reasoned,” Aaron Klemz from the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy told ThinkProgress. “They seem to have taken a really hard look at the facts and made a decision on them rather then just taking the company’s word for it.”
 
Enbridge’s application would relocate and expand a pipeline, already known as Line 3, which carries Canadian tar sands oil from the border to refineries in Wisconsin or to other pipelines. Opponents to the project say the new route will carry oil through sensitive wetlands, including some of the only wild rice marshes in the world. They also say that building more fossil fuel infrastructure now — oil sands is one of the dirtiest fuels in the world — is antithetical to efforts to transition to clean energy, reduce climate change, and keep air and water clean.
(Think Progress)

Here is a sort of cover page and article on the Commerce Department website, with links to all the minutiae.
 

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sulfideSulfide mining is extremely water-use intensive, and what PolyMet is looking for is a doozy.
 

The DNR draft permits would allow PolyMet to appropriate 6.175 billion gallons of water every year for its sulfide mine project. The permits would have no end date and could allow appropriations indefinitely without further review.
 
The amount of water that the DNR would allow PolyMet to remove and/or contaminate is equivalent to giving 1,119 gallons of water to every person in Minnesota every year. It is almost as much as the entire volume of water used by Duluth, Proctor and Hermantown every year (7.3 billion gallons of water in the most recent report).
 
PolyMet would pay only $8 for every million gallons of water they use.
 
The draft PolyMet water appropriations permits would take more than 10 times as much water from the upper Partridge River as in the PolyMet final environmental impact statement (EIS). PolyMet hasn’t shown that consumption of nearly 29,000 million gallons per minute from its mine site wouldn’t harm wetlands and water quality in the upper Partridge River and the 100 Mile Swamp.
(WaterLegacy)

A related item.

 

“PolyMet’s own permit application says polluted water from the site will require expensive treatment for decades, if not centuries, after this proposed mine closes” said Kathryn Hoffman, Executive Director of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. “Unless Minnesota insists on a bankruptcy-proof, upfront damage deposit, taxpayers could be left with a huge cleanup bill.”
 
Mining expert Jim Kuipers authored the report on PolyMet’s damage deposit proposal (called “financial assurance.”) His report used the data provided by PolyMet for the cost to close the mine, and applied industry standard calculations for cost contingencies, inflation, and rate of return on investment. His conclusion was that $934 million in financial assurance would be needed to fully protect taxpayers. The Star Tribune and Duluth News Tribune covered his report in May.
(Mining Truth)

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Enbridge pipeline protests continue

by Dan Burns on September 5, 2017 · 0 comments

oilspillThis is about par for the course, for Enbridge and its ilk. Presumably emboldened by certain political events, too.
 

Enbridge hasn’t gotten the permits it needs to replace its aging Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota, but it does have approval to start building the head and tail ends of the project in Canada and Wisconsin.
 
The company isn’t waiting to begin construction. Workers are digging trenches and burying pipe south of Superior, near the Wisconsin-Minnesota border. Construction there is supposed to wrap up by the end of September…
 
Irked by Enbridge’s apparent confidence that its Minnesota permits are sure to come through, protesters have staged a series of small demonstrations on work sites over the past week and a half.
(City Pages)

Incidentally, if you ever wonder just where all the money used by the Koch brothers, among others, to pervert and degrade democracy, comes from:
 

A study was just published in the journal World Development that quantifies the amount of subsidies directed toward fossil fuels globally, and the results are shocking. The authors work at the IMF and are well-skilled to quantify the subsidies discussed in the paper.
 
Let’s give the final numbers and then back up to dig into the details. The subsidies were $4.9 tn in 2013 and they rose to $5.3 tn just two years later. According to the authors, these subsidies are important because first, they promote fossil fuel use which damages the environment. Second, these are fiscally costly. Third, the subsidies discourage investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy that compete with the subsidized fossil fuels. Finally, subsidies are very inefficient means to support low-income households.
 
With these truths made plain, why haven’t subsidies been eliminated? The answer to that is a bit complicated. Part of the answer to this question is that people do not fully appreciate the costs of fossil fuels to the rest of us. Often we think of them as all gain with no pain.
(The Guardian)

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Twin Metals backers skip listening session

by Dan Burns on July 19, 2017 · 0 comments

sulfideThis isn’t about PolyMet. The Twin Metals mine is the one that would be right on the edge of the BWCA. Governor Dayton publicly announced his opposition a while ago. Twin Metals is trying to plow ahead anyway, but undoubtedly to their shock the Trump administration doesn’t seem to be with them. So this proposed atrocity is looking like a long shot, these days, but that doesn’t mean anyone should relax, and as you can tell from the article a lot of righteous people know that.
 

With one side refusing to show up, opponents of copper-nickel mining on the edge of Minnesota’s pristine wilderness packed a hearing Tuesday in the Twin Cities.
 
A group of 17 organizations that support the mining proposal boycotted the event, while speakers from a crowd of about 1,000 were unanimous in opposing copper-nickel mining in a watershed on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park…
 
Those boycotting Tuesday’s event say they’ll continue to make their case for mining “loud and clear” at a hearing next week in Virginia, Minn.
 
“Why must the people with the greatest stake, whose jobs and regional economic viability are at risk, have to keep turning out for these charades?” the group said in a statement. “When was the last time federal agencies held a hearing Up North on projects in the Twin Cities, such as the Green Line or St. Croix River Crossing?”
(Star Tribune)

When people start whining about “charades,” in contexts like this, it’s a good sign that they just don’t have the mojo working.
 

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oilspillIf you’re into this stuff I respectfully suggest that you subscribe to emails from Midwest Energy News, which I believe also get you those from U.S. Energy News. That’s where I saw these.
 

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette on Thursday called for the development of a “specific and definite timetable” to close Enbridge Energy Inc.’s Line 5 dual pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac…
 
“The safety and security of our Great Lakes is etched in the DNA of every Michigan resident, and the final decision on Line 5 needs to include a discussion with those that rely on propane for heating their homes, and depend on the pipeline for employment,” Schuette said in a statement. “One thing is certain: The next steps we take should be for the long-term protection of the Great Lakes.”
(The Detroit News)

Keystone XL is facing a new challenge: The oil producers and refiners the pipeline was originally meant to serve aren’t interested in it anymore.
 
Delayed for nearly a decade by protests and regulatory roadblocks, Keystone XL got the green light from President Donald Trump in March. But the pipeline’s operator, TransCanada Corp., is struggling to line up customers to ship crude from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, say people familiar with the matter.
(Fox Business)

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