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Environment

A partial win on PolyMet, for now

by Dan Burns on March 8, 2018 · 0 comments

sulfide2A win as far as the judge refusing to dismiss the lawsuits, that is. There is no question that the proposed land swap is an atrocious giveaway, but whether courts will see that in the long run is another matter. You know how plenty of judges are.
 

A federal judge has put on hold four lawsuits filed by eight environmental groups to block a land swap that the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota needs to move forward.
 
U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen stayed the lawsuits while Congress considers legislation to force completion of the land exchange between PolyMet and the U.S. Forest Service. The bill passed the House last November and is pending in a Senate committee…
 
In her order Tuesday, Ericksen denied PolyMet’s motion to dismiss the lawsuits.
(MPR)

Groups have filed for a contested case hearing on PolyMet with the Minnesota DNR.
 

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To say the least.
 

Final permit decisions on PolyMet’s proposed NorthMet Mining Project are approaching, and for all the celebration of the process by politicians and company promoters here in Minnesota, we have grave concerns. We bring this message from Duluth, where we live downstream of the proposed PolyMet mine.
 
Last week we welcomed a delegation from Amnesty International to discuss their experience with a British Columbia copper sulfide mine upstream of their own communities. This is a group that has heard it all before: promises of safety from mining companies, claims of new technology that isn’t, guarantees of zero discharge, and assurances from government officials that it will all be fine.
 
Unfortunately, in 2014, the dam upstream of them collapsed, sending toxic water and tailings into nearby Quesnel Lake, effectively turning the pristine lake into a waste pit. The Mount Polley dam breach is the worst environmental disaster in Canadian history, and it is ongoing.
(MinnPost)

A related and similarly enlightening item:
 

The outdoor recreational industry contributed toward two percent of the U.S. GDP in 2016, according to a preliminary report the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released (on February 14). It’s the bureau’s first attempt to analyze this economic sector, and it points to the surprisingly large contribution of hunting, festivals, and countless other outdoor activities to the American economy.
 
Indeed, 2 percent amounted to nearly $374 billion in 2016. That’s enough money to fund the Department of Interior 27 times over. And this economy is growing at a faster rate than the general U.S. economy. It grew 3.8 percent in 2016 whereas the overall economy saw just a 2.8 percent rise…
 
With data on this industry available, lawmakers should have no excuse for not measuring the impacts of extraction and other land use on public lands, said Matt Lee-Ashley, senior director of environmental strategy and communications at the Center for American Progress, to Earther. After all, as he pointed out, the mining industry (which includes oil and gas) amounted to just $260 billion in 2016. Outdoor recreation wins in that aspect.
(Earther)

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Public hearing on PolyMet tonight in Duluth

by Dan Burns on February 8, 2018 · 0 comments

sulfide2If so inclined, you can view the proceedings via a livestream at The Uptake. A good many viewpoints will likely be presented, in at least some cases quite vigorously.
 

It is never my intent to caricature supporters of sulfide mining in the general public. They have their reasons, and many are knowledgeable, well-intentioned, and no fools.
 
Some information on a purported “damage deposit:”
 

A draft permit to mine issued by the Minnesota DNR last month calls for PolyMet to make available $544 million in financial assurance the first year of mining, which acts as a sort of damage deposit if PolyMet couldn’t pay for the proposed mine’s cleanup.
 
However, state officials estimated that more than $1 billion would be necessary to cover the potential environmental liability Minnesota could be left with from the mine.
 
The DNR is taking comments through March 6; the PCA through March 16.
 
Correction (Feb. 8, 2018): A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that PolyMet has put up money for financial assurance. A draft permit calls for that, but PolyMet would not begin to make financial assurance available unless and until it receives permits and begins construction.
(MPR)

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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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