Annie Humphrey’s We the People has been a favorite for a long time.
Really feeling it’s urgency now.
Looking forward to seeing her again…
You can too…
Let’s not get caught doin’ nothin’.
Following the 9/9/20 Minnesota Environmental Quality Board meeting, I decided I needed to speak out about the travesty I witnessed.
Here’s what I have to say.
I find the MEQB’s lack of public engagement disturbing and sickening.
Where was the accountability of the MEQB Citizen Board Members in assuring a public voice was heard on the 2020 Water Plan? As public appointees are they not beholden to assure the PUBLIC has a chance to share our concerns before a vote is made? Did they not see the raised hands in the WebEx? Did they feel no urgency to stop the vote so the public concerns could be addressed? In the end, only Ben Yawakie seemed to hear and heed the public outcry that day.
I have provided time stamps [h:mm:ss format] for referenced happenings in the partial MEQB recording of the meeting.
I will grant that the MEQB allowed public comment on the 2020 Water Plan. However, the meeting’s disabled Chat function allowed no interaction from the public. In fact, after my Raised Hand was ignored for some time, I emailed their tech guy – who I know – to ask for help with being able to comment. The derailing of the MEQB process during the meeting gave clear evidence to how little time and consideration was truly being offered by the MEQB for public input.
I’d like to highlight two speakers in particular from the day as they each raise issues pertinent to the way the process derailed in not allowing for true public engagement.
In the 2020 State Water Plan, you recognize treaties with the Anishinaabe people, stating ‘the ability to exercise those treaty rights depends on clean water and healthy ecosystems.’ What is omitted is how you are going to ensure the health of ecosystems and clean water.
As you acknowledge in the Water Plan, the Ojibwe word, ‘nibi’, means life-giving force. You follow that with, ‘This worldview contrasts with economic and political systems that value private property and often view land and water as commodities to buy, sell, and use.’ That is exactly what Enbridge is doing with Line 3–a climate change and water disaster that falls disproportionately on Indiginous people. How is it possible that this Water Plan talks about climate change but makes no mention of fossil fuel infrastructure, a major contributor to climate change and a threat to our water?
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, it is our time of awakening to the trifecta of race, pandemic and climate injustice. There is no denying the privilege that is represented in the, primarily white, EQB staff, appointees and agency leaders. No one gets a pass–we are all responsible for upholding treaties.
Have white courage, use your privilege! Take this opportunity to put treaties at the forefront and create a State Water Plan that is, like our water, a life-giving force to ensure healthy ecosystems and clean water for all!”Jaci Christenson (18:30)
Jaci was followed by Joe.
Commend all of your work on a bold vision… yet I feel the cognitive dissonance I think we all feel in this plan where we address half of the problem, where we want to prepare MN waters for climate change but not prevent Climate Change or interrupt the fossil fuel infrastructure that is causing climate change that means the end of wild rice as we know it.” [This is critical when it comes to later concerns raised.]
Joe couldn’t help but feel “…in writing this aspirational plan that we’re running out of time to defend the waters that we claim to protect. … With decisions like Line 3, Commissioner Bishop, I’d just just ask the simple question of, “What is your plan in Fall 2020 with the 401 permit for Line 3 to stand up with these aspirations, particularly as we just held a Contested Case Hearing that refused to look at climate change or Treaty rights, which are both so important to this Water Plan?”Joe Meinholz (21:54)
Chair Bishop: “Thank you.” [Note: To this point in the meeting, each speaker received a simple “thank you” from Chair Bishop after they spoke. No dialogue and certainly no response to the questions asked.]
Nine (9) additional speakers were to follow (mind you, some of us had still not been recognized for our wish to speak at that time). However, following the next speaker, Keegan Robinson, Commissioner Bishop noted:
We should stick to the Water Plan and not the individual actions and projects. But I appreciate the comments from everybody here, certainly understand and hear your concerns about protection of water and certainly that is the intention with the Water Plan is to outline ways to protect our waters and how we go forwards. So I appreciate all of you raising this but I do think that specific right now to a specific project and outlining that in the Water Report as well as the comments that we’re receiving on Line 3 seem to be a bit beyond the Water Plan itself as it is pertaining to a specific project.”MEQB Chair Laura Bishop (25:53)
She then asked Katie how to move forward noting, “With any of the public comments, I would like to keep it on the Water Plan itself.” Katie Pratt (MEQB Executive Director) noted “several other agenda items” and that “we have a clear message” (as her phone rings in the background – someone calling to get their voice heard?) and she finishes saying, “I think we could consider moving on to our next agenda items and leaving time at the end for additional public comment.” [Remember this promise…] (27:25) Chair Bishop agreed, noting the Board would do that “unless there is a comment beyond Line 3 that we’ve missed. I appreciate this is an opportunity to talk about water protection and certainly that is the intention of any permits that are reviewed by the agency, it is with the intention to protect water as well. I’d suggest that we move on to the next agenda item.”
[At this point we still have multiple people remaining to speak. I was unable to get access to speak because the Chat in the Webex was disabled. My Raised Hand in the WebEx went ignored, as did the Raised Hands of others online.]
Nookomis joins from the phone (27:57) asking to say a few words. Chair Bishop eventually (28:18) recognizes Nookomis for comment asking for a restatement of name for the record.
Before I go on, let’s be clear: Comments from the public recognized valid concerns ~ concerns that went unanswered, over and over, as Chair Bishop was asked about where the mitigation for the causes of climate change were captured, specifically with regard to fossil fuel infrastructure, in the 2020 Water Plan.
Minnesotans care deeply about their water as evidenced by the recent Statewide Resident Survey Report from the University of Minnesota. While that report focused on agricultural concerns, the strong opposition to major infrastructure projects like mining and pipelines has been expressed at the MEQB for many, many months now. Even later in this meeting, similar concerns were raised on the Silica Sand Mine in Fillmore County.
Many Minnesotans also value wild rice. And many of those Indigenous to this land rely on it, some for their very survival. Yet by mid-2018 the MPCA had “withdrawn its proposal to change the water quality standard designed to protect wild rice from adverse impacts due to sulfate pollution. The Timberjay reported 18 months ago that the Minnesota Legislature was taking back steps on protecting wild rice.
As Willis Mattison noted during the meeting, public comment is not engagement. Engagement entails dialogue. As was reported in previous work, public engagement is CRITICAL to reaching to effective solutions that protect environmental and human health.
Our asks continue to go unheeded. Year after year. As water quality continues to deteriorate. In fact, as the recent PUC Public Engagement Report from the Office of Legislative Auditor clarified, the agencies are not following the law in their work.
As Nookomis began (28:25), she introduced herself in Ojibwemowin first and then translated to English. Nookomis Debra Topping – an enrolled and recognized Fond du Lac Band Member ~ Fog Woman from Eagle Clan – called to hold the Board responsible for and accountable to their Treaty obligations. She first asked about the Winter’s Doctrine and if there is any Indigenous membership on the Board.
In Winters, the Supreme Court examined tribal rights to water associated with the Fort Belknap Reservation located in what would later become Montana. The Fort Belknap Reservation was created by an agreement in 1888 between tribal parties and the U.S. government. At the time, the government had a policy seeking to transform Native Americans from “a nomadic and uncivilized people … to become a pastoral and civilized people” by providing them lands to develop for such purposes.
By 1905, the area experienced water shortages that ultimately resulted in the Winters lawsuit being filed to enforce tribal rights to water against non-Indian water users who had been diverting water from the region. In announcing its decision, the Court explained that the lands provided under the agreement for the purpose of developing an agrarian society “were arid and, without irrigation, were practically valueless.” The Court also noted that ambiguities in the agreement, such as the status of the water rights related to the land, are to be “resolved from the standpoint of the Indians,” as a rule of interpretation. The Court held that:
The power of the Government to reserve the waters and exempt them from appropriation under the state laws is not denied, and could not be. That the Government did reserve them we have decided, and for a use which would be necessarily continued through the years.
The Court has continued to recognize the principle derived from Winters in both Indian and nonIndian contexts. In 1976, the Court noted that it “has long held that when the Federal Government withdraws its land from the public domain and reserves it for a federal purpose, the Government, by implication, reserves appurtenant water then unappropriated to the extent needed to accomplish the purpose of the reservation.”The Winters Doctrine of Reserved Water Rights
(29:58) Ben Yawakie, 3rd Congressional District Citizen Board Member, noted he is an enrolled citizen of the Pueblo Zuni and also a descendant of Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and he later clarified that he was not familiar with the Winter’s Doctrine.
Nookomis continued, inquiring if there had been any Tribal consultation, noting both MN Statutes 103B.151 Coordinating Water Resource Planning and 103A.43 as making no specific mention of Tribal Consultation. She asked if that meant it will not happen, even if it’s in the Plan. She said, “When you’re asking for the resolution to be approved, it does not say anywhere that you have to have Tribal consultation.” The third statute she noted – 103A.204 Groundwater Policy – gave her hope for Tribal consultation as it included a list of those specifically responsible for Groundwater Policy.
Maybe this is it! Maybe this is where we come in… number 4 is the Board of Water and Soil Resources, in there it says ‘local government officials’ so… maybe there’s where I come in at? … Nowhere does it say … that you have to do Tribal consultation. I understand that you have done it… it’s in the 2020 Water Plan. I do not see… anything in there about the Winter’s Doctrine.”Nookomis (31:30)
Nookomis ended asking if Mr. Yawakie knew about the Winter’s Doctrine. (33:35) Citizen Board Member Ben Yawakie, answered: “Nookomis… I personally do not.”
Commissioner Bishop mentioned Erik Cedarleaf Dahl, an Indigenous MEQB staff member, as well, though he did not respond. Nookomis then asked if anyone on the Board knew of the Winter’s Doctrine, as knowing it would help them understand where they stand with her water on her reservation. She spoke also of the smell and taste of gas and oil in the rice from Sandy Lake. (34:50) At this point, Commissioner Bishop talked over Nookomis for a full twenty seconds, expressing thanks as Nookomis continued speaking in the background. Then Nookomis finished with thanks. [I was astonished at how humble Nookomis remained, after being so summarily and disrespectfully dismissed.]
There ensued a back and forth between Ms. Bishop and Ms. Pratt regarding the concerns Nookomis brought forth. Ms. Pratt mentioned both that the Water Plan is a “starting point, not ending point” and that Executive Order 19-24 directs state agencies to recognize and properly interact with the Sovereign Nations in MN. [However, this document makes no mention of the MEQB.] She also noted that the Water Plan actions are recommendations which will be implemented and that will include appropriate tribal engagement. [Recommendations implies no requirements for action? This is not making me feel confident at all…]
(37:00) Chair Bishop then noted some necessary minor adoptions on Goals 5 & 3 to wrap up the work on adopting the plan. … Fisheries mgmt clarification and inclusion of insurance in the role of risk mitigation for climate change, with staff discretion to make these corrections. Then (37:50) she asked for a motion to adopt with these changes, which was moved by Thom Peterson and seconded by Al Forsberg.
This is the point (38:38) at which Willis Mattison objected to the proceedings, asking to file a formal objection, pointing out the Staff and Board had obviously not allocated sufficient time for public participation during the last MEQB meeting or this meeting regarding the Plan and its deficiencies. He said he “understands expediency… nevertheless, the public is important.” He noted this appears to be a railroad job, disrespectful to the engagement policy when dialogue is not allowed. He filed a major objection. (40:08) Ms. Bishop allowed him to speak once he assured her his comments were not for Line 3 but the Plan.
NOTE: The fact that a formal public objection – to the Water Plan vote being taken – was simply dismissed by MEQB Chair Bishop – with NO Board discussion – was perhaps our second best indicator during the meeting that the public voice was not truly wanted.
The best indicator was when Chair Bishop entertained a motion to adjourn (2:35:47) at the end of the meeting, giving NO ALLOWANCE for those in the public who, earlier in the meeting, were promised a chance to speak at the end. [I was one of many who remained online awaiting a chance to be heard.]The MEQB is Badly Broken
Mr. Mattison, a retired ecologist from the MPCA, made an excellent point that the 2020 Water Plan, while it “had much to compliment in its ecological wisdom”, was clearly and simply another example, similar to previously passed aspirational plans, that lack metrics for true accountability, and which have gotten us to where we are today. Today, where we face a continued loss of quality waters and wetlands and where an insect apocalypse portends humanity’s own fragile state on the planet. These are things we citizens have discussed many times with the MEQB in recent years. Mr. Mattison notes that, without incorporation of these concerns, the Water Plan is “flawed and useless”. A strategic plan is worthless unless there are metrics for accountability to the achievements. He asked if the MEQB had willingness to expand plans where citizens can hold agencies accountable.
(45:40) Chair Bishop responded but allowed no dialogue, saying to Mr. Mattison, “Your three minutes is up.”
I was stunned by this dismissal of a retiree from Commissioner Bishop’s own department, the MPCA, a department that itself is under great scrutiny, including consideration for investigation this very year by the Office for Legislative Auditor. This was the detail on that suggested investigation:
While the Chair did allow for two additional comments (41:20) on the Water Plan after this additional urging that citizens be heard, I still awaited even recognition of my desire to speak. [I began to re-write my comments… which eventually led to this blog.]
(46:05) Lori Cox explained that the Water Plan’s words “ensure and manage mean something is going to be done. In agriculture we have a tough time saying that those things are going to be managed or ensured.” “We continually see the words “voluntary” in agriculture. And that has been used repeatedly… the stakeholders have been loud about that, however we still… with MPCA numbers and very great coordination and statistics by state agencies, have shown that we’re not really moving the line there.” She asked, noting these are almost promises using the words “manage and ensure about water quality”, that the Board take a look at the wording in Agriculture, and expressed concern that, if approved today, the plan would not bring change.
I’m not positive that there would be much more change, with all of the great recommendations, suggestions, programs that are already there and have been for years, that we’re really gonna move the needle.”Lori Cox (48:16)
(49:06) Gearhardt Robinson, recent U of MN grad with a BS in sustainable systems management with an emphasis on energy systems, expressed that there was very comprehensive information in the Plan. However, for the Plan to be meaningful, it must not only mitigate the effects of climate change, but target the root causes of it… something well within our capabilities and authorities to do. (51:28) He congratulated the work of Commissioner Kelley of the DOC in re-filing the Appeal for Line 3 and urged ALL Commissioners to do what they could to file suits, deny permits, and do all the things in their power to protect Minnesotans and our water quality.
“To me it seems this plan isn’t really much of a plan, it’s kind of just abstract goals that really don’t have tangible ways to achieve them.”Gearhardt Robinson (50:41)
(51:40) Gearhardt also noted that the use of the word “attack” [by Margaret Anderson Kelliher] in regard to the commenters asking for MPCA Commissioner Bishop to uphold her accountability to the public, was an interesting choice of words – one that implied some sort of violence. He noted that what the citizens speaking up today are doing is not “violent”, but simply “help you make the right decision that will prevent violence against Indigenous Peoples, against land, and against all future generations.”
52:05/52:12) Chair Bishop then cut him off saying, “Thank you. Mr. Robinson, I appreciate that and … you talk about climate resilience and we do have another inter-agency group, the Climate Subcabinet that is working on larger plans that address climate.” [To my knowledge, that Climate Subcabinet has yet to be populated with membership or take any actions. I’ve never been contacted on my own submission… though it looks like there are 231 applications now, so perhaps I’m on the list yet to be contacted?]
Each agenda item in the meeting – not only the 2020 Water Plan, but also the Minnesota Sands, LLC project and the 2020 State Agency Pollinator Report – showed that the MEQB and its agencies are NOT fulfilling their missions. This brought me deja vu to the May 1st, 2019 MEQB where Chuck Dayton, co-founder of this work, remonstrated that the original intentions for the MEQB were not being upheld these many decades later. He indicated that the MEQB needed to re-evaluate their work to figure out why they were failing. He noted a lack of effective Environmental Review, with very few EIS, and an apparent inability to connect scientific dots to make decisions to prevent water quality deterioration.
As we watch water quality deteriorate and agencies make decisions based on checksheets that do not represent the complexity of the decisions being made, we see our young people standing up more and more – screaming for those in power to heed their cries to save the planet. They are watching as groups like the MEQB make decisions that wipe away their futures.
So, rather than push the vote to the end of the meeting, when ALL Water Plan commenters could be heard, Chair Bishop pushed through the vote before hearing the full public voice, making no response to the questions asked, and then closing the meeting asking for a motion to adjourn before she returned to those still awaiting their chance to speak on the Water Plan. [Note: (2:36:10) Gerald Van Amberg, Board of Water and Soil Resources Chair, moved to adjourn and Kristen Eide-Tollefson seconded.]
The only Board member to speak to Nookomis’ concerns was Kristen Eide-Tollefson, 2nd Congressional District Citizen Board Member. She asked (53:11) if an addition could be made for Tribal consultation to the necessary discrete section. Erik Cedarleaf Dahl noted the section on Page 23 of the Plan which explained how the Tribal Consultation would occur. The fact that this Board is working on Minnesota issues but IGNORING their obligations to Federal Law, as explained by Nookomis in her questions on the Winter’s Doctrine, seemed a good reason to stop the vote… though it did not.
And how disturbing was that vote? Unanimous… save ONE LONE vote of NAY from Ben Yawakie, an Indigenous Member of the Board. The only response from the Board was to ask him to re-state his vote. [As if in disbelief that he’d voted “nay”?] A short silence followed as no one asked for more clarity from Ben on his vote and then… business moved on to the next agenda item. There has not been a more CLEAR example in all my MEQB experience of the Native voice being summarily ignored as I bore witness to in the 9/9/20 meeting.
The MEQB might want to ask themselves what the ramifications are for ignoring a US Supreme Court decision. I’ve often thought, this Line 3 fight ~ and perhaps Polymet too, could end up being quite costly for the state of Minnesota, as its agencies collude with foreign corporations to push unnecessary pipeline and mining projects throughout Northern Minnesota Indian Country, all in violation of Federal Law.
Perhaps Commissioner Kelley could have saved Minnesota taxpayers a lot of money in winning the case in State Court that there is No Need for Line 3… before the project goes on to Federal Court? Senate Republicans may end up regretting “executing” him – to use the Republican House Leader Daudt’s word – by not confirming him to his Commission at the Department of Commerce. I am hopeful the Department is strong enough to continue their good work, though they’ve experienced an unconscionable dismissal of their wonderfully effective and caring leader, something harder and harder to find these days.
As I indicated in my last note to MEQB Project Coordinator Giuseppe Tumminello, on their Environmental Review Data Mgmt Program, it seems that agencies and governments move too slow to keep pace with the changing planet. Gardhardt’s testimony at the meeting – that more of California was on fire than EVER in our recorded history – was alarming. And we’re only now at the start of the fire season. We have almost contiguous fire along the West Coast of our country from Canada to Mexico, but the MEQB, MPCA & MDNR seemed geared to go full steam ahead on their failing programs and plans that will dramatically increase climate effects in our state and for our planet as a whole.
If we are to have a hope to save our natural environment for continued human support, the MQEB and ALL Minnesota agencies, politicians, and citizens are gonna have to get a lot more serious about solutions.
And, as I have assured Giuseppe in recent emails, it may well be that, in the end, we resolve this with pitchforks. It seems to be the only way in America these days.
Interviewing Nookomis subsequent to the meetings about her testimony allowed me to better understand her points:
What she said while Laura spoke over her was this:
What I wanted to say is that I’m done being invisible. I don’t care if you try to over talk me, I’m done being invisible! You can come here any time. You will hear me and you will see me for as long as I live. And you need to be able to say what I’m doing, seeing. Yes. I appreciate you listening. Thank you. Thank you very much.”
When asked of the discussion on personal “attack” during the meeting, Nookomis shared that these words resonated with her. These agencies and boards are responsible to protect the water. NOT protecting her WATER is a PERSONAL ATTACK! It is also a violation of Treaty Law, the highest law of the land. Nookomis said, “My legal rights are not dependent on your personal feelings. You are personally attacking me by poisoning my water.”
She wondered aloud how the schooling of these Commissioners had failed them as they seemed to not be able to comprehend simple concepts like water, soil, and food being connected to human health… let alone the larger connections to the climate of the planet as a whole.
Nookomis further expressed that “Commissioner Bishop is in over her head and does not understand all she needs to know, in order to do her job to PROTECT MINNESOTA’S WATER. THAT is her only job. Water quality indicates she is derelict in her duties. This is not just on the reservation but affects every single Minnesotan. 5.6 Million people. The 15 people on the call represented that concern. 300 written comments seemed acceptable to the MPCA. “That’s how many people I have in my immediate family!”, she said.
She also noted that there was no explanation of the 1837, 1854, & 1855 ceded territories in the Plan. She offered to walk the line (proposed route) with anyone, any time, any day. She said you might want to pack a big lunch!
She noted as well that there was no mention of Tribal Fisheries in the discussion of modifications needed. The list of things left unsaid was long, she lamented.
We have a long way to go to solutions, indeed. But Let’s Get to BETTER!*
* “Met” Chrysta Casteneda today at a talk that could help that MEQB comprehend what major issues they are not seeing… as the landscape on oil and gas becomes very fluid.
I try to live by this motto:
The Universe is constantly conspiring for my good.
I’m working these days to live into each moment, trusting that i am exactly where I’m supposed to be, exactly when I’m supposed to be, because… here i am.
I’m trusting that i will know when and where to go, based on all I’ve learned, done, and met thus far.
It’s a strange way of life, so new that it still feels uncomfortable, as i try new and different things to make my way, creating the me i will be next, among all the other detritus of the Universe. As strange as it seems, it is also peaceful (except when it’s not… a sign to change? Or that change is coming?).
It’s also… I’m realizing, the place I’ve always been.
Well, it has been quite a week here at the HARN. There is so much to cover I don’t hardly know where to start.
I’ll start with the overthrow of the Democratic Governor in Minnesota.
It seems the Republicans have decided that they are gonna fire a Commissioner every 30 days as they bring them up for “confirmation”. Yes, in normal proceedings, where politicians are mature and not working corrupt control mechanisms, confirmations are a standard part of everyday government. But in Minnesota, where there is no time frame for these “confirmations” to be completed (our Governor assumed office Jan.7th, 2019) and NOW the Republicans are basically hostage-taking in order to push Governor Walz to their will – REOPEN it ALL with No Masks and Let’s Build Line 3!
Now, I’m all for them taking out players who are not performing for Minnesota but when they try to take out a guy like Steve Kelley? FFS.
So this is what went down. Republicans already executed their removal of the Commissioner of Labor and Industry.
Like nearly everyone involved in the third special session of the Minnesota Legislature — other than the 35 members of the Senate GOP caucus — Walz learned that Nancy Leppink would be removed as commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry by text message just minutes before it happened Wednesday.
The sender was Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka. The time was 3:29 p.m. And the recipients of the message were Walz and Senate DFL leadership. Gazelka told the group he had the votes to oust Leppink.
House GOP Leader Kurt Daudt put it more bluntly: “Looks like the Senate is executing a prisoner today,” he tweeted during the debate on Leppink.MinnPost 8/14/20
Now, I’m not so involved with Labor & Industry to know what is what with this plan, but it seems that labor groups, from SEIU to the building trades, opposed her removal. But Republicans don’t GAF about what the PEOPLE want, they only want to push through their agenda for power? Here’s what Walz had to say:
In a media briefing Wednesday night, Walz rejected Senate criticism that Leppink had been too inflexible when enforcing regulations for business owners and operators in the state.
“To have Nancy Leppink get caught in the middle of a petty, political move puts Minnesotans at danger and highlights the fact that I’m so disappointed that Senate Republicans are not taking COVID seriously and they’re not taking the safety of Minnesotans seriously.”Walz on the Senate rejection of his acting Commissioner of Labor and Industry
That said, I am heavily involved with the Line 3 fight and what I saw with the Department of Commerce Commissioner Kelley confirmation hearing was pretty disturbing. It began with the Commerce and Consumer Protection Finance and Policy Committee where Commissioner Kelley gave his background and defended his department’s work, noting specific people who have been instrumental in his opening statement. Chair Dahms and Chair Osmek presided.
Kelley’s background is unquestionable in its preparation for his current role. His work in the MN Legislature showed a bipartisan history of collaboration for good. Representative Rhodes wrote a letter on his behalf. Kelley had, over the years, invited many Legislators to speak in his classes, including Senator Pratt (who questioned Kelley in this session). Kelley’s history of working for Minnesotans clearly showed him to be competent and effective.
Kelley also walks us through the work done during the pandemic which worked closely with the industry. He mentions the things he’s done ALONGSIDE Republicans to help Minnesotans and Minnesota businesses, including a “model example” from March, developed with Chair Dahms, for flexibility to help Minnesotans in the crisis. His list of good works was inclusive of both parties and citizens as stakeholders and developers. He mentions the regular session bipartisan Renewable Development Account Bill, passed with help from Senators Osmek and Wagenius. He worked with resolving the high level of utility shutoffs on Tribal Lands along with Chair Dahms. And the work with consumer protections wrapped up his presentation, including a new Fraud Ombudsman who helps assure investigations are effective for our Seniors. He leads with collaboration and consultation. [He finishes at 16 minutes into the recording.]
The case against him? The “recent” concerns brought by this hearing? Chair Dahms mentions rule making in pharmacy benefit managers legislation, insurance legislation in the data call system, and workers compensation for the first hour will be followed by Energy at 10 until 10:15 and then other questions to wrap around 10:30.
Rulemaking for PBM concerns are limited for public postings to the rulemaking documents precluding participation, including “unanswered questions from your staff”. Kelley explains the advisory panel to create transparency and assure an open process. This is the first he’s heard of phamacists inability to access the system. However, they have dealt with complaints from them which are outside the jurisdiction of the state and perhaps those are the complaints you reference? Also, have worked on paying claims… [Now he’s interrupted… insurance claims for riots are not related to PBM.] Bobby Jo Champion interrupts to ask about ground rules – if the Commissioner is offering information to explain his department’s work, it is not fair to cut him off. In addition, seems this is pre-scripted with some who have things to put forward and with little room left for those who have questions to ask as well. [And Kelley is given some leeway to expound? NOPE, back to the Senator questioning him!]
Senator Koran Asking about access to the rulemaking – by login only? Make it more transparent? Kelley explains the process of communicating concerns without use of the online forms, though they are used for efficiency purposes – a good data mgmt tool. [Slight scuffle as Senator Champion is reminded to raise his hand. (Note: this is nothing compared to the patronizing tone Dahms gives him later).]
Senator Pratt comes on board with the workers comp concerns. This is a thorough discussion where Kelley stands for citizens to assure payments are received and the decisions, made in scurry to the COVID Pandemic, were made with consultation. [It seems that this is a nitpicking about not deciding this in the way the Senators wanted.] Referencing the CARES Act, Pratt says it was a source. Kelley mentions the ongoing disagreement from the MMB decision that says this was not the case. Not something that can be resolved today… but being guided by MMB, DOC made the decisions they did.
Pratt relinquishes his time to Senator Utke on the data calls. [OMFG! You have to go look at this guy’s backdrop! Bet he’s having wet dreams about Trump’s face on Mt. Rushmore.] Senator Pratt hosted the meeting, Rosen, Champion, Haden also there, along with Dahms! Attempt to ID solutions for losses due to civil unrest. Important to know what was covered by insurance and Kelley noted this was one of the things that DOC could do! The department looked at the data call referenced and it seems the Republicans are asking about how LONG this will take – are we creating a paperwork mandate? do they need to report out EVERY 2 week? – but in truth, they are ONLY CONCERNED about the ask on RACE (it’s coming). WHY does this matter??? [Well, for those of you unfamiliar yet with the systemic racism, it’s likely the only way to find out if there are discriminatory practices!] Utke was also concerned about the small insurers – ARE WE HASSLING THEM FOR THESE DATA CALLS? Kelley assures that the DOC made clear that those without filings were not required to respond with bi-weekly updates.
Utke’s last follow-up was on complaints from insurers to the department. Kelley counters with stories of complaints about payment from Minnesota businesses. [WHO is standing for the People?] And here’s where Dahms comes in with the Race questions… [48:10] which Kelley, along with support from Senator Champion, fully shows why this is required and how it is done with regard to assuring citizen protection. [Dahms gives a flip response at 52:22 requiring Bobby Joe to take a stand. This is where he gives Bobby Joe a BIG BUNCH OF PATRONIZING!]
Senator Dibble jumps in [56:10] to make clear that this dismissing Commissioner Kelley’s explanations is not based in reason. He asks Kelley to expand on what the agency has done for proactive outreach on businesses in his district affected by civil unrest. Kelley mentions his Director of Outreach and Public Engagement Leah Wilkes and her fine work. He also mentions the full collaboration of the work, including aspects being implemented based on industry recommendations.
Now, the transition to Energy with Senator Osmek… Here’s the Line 3 issue.
DOC Appeal to PUC was “disappointing”… with Osmek first asking about why Line 3 is running at half capacity. FFS. Kelley acknowledges the policy disagreements between Senators and Commissioners noting its impossible for all to be in agreement on all issues. Kelley notes that the USACE has advised Enbridge to operate at less than full capacity. [This is based on their HORRIBLE TRACK RECORD FOR SPILLS – no one mentioned that.]
From Brainard coverage in June, the case is clear. Note the use of the word SUPPLY, NOT DEMAND, from Enbridge’s spokeswoman:
In May, the (DOC) said the PUC did not consider a long-range demand forecast because Enbridge instead submitted a pipeline utilization forecast that assumed demand would continue at 2016 refinery capacity.
“To the contrary, and as the (PUC) has always recognized, supply forecasts are critical to the evaluation of need for a crude oil pipeline. By definition, crude oil pipelines transport crude oil from a given starting point to one or several endpoints. If insufficient supply exists at the starting point, all of the downstream analysis in the world is pointless,” Enbridge attorney Christina Brusven wrote. “Therefore, the (PUC) properly considered supply forecasts in its order.”Brainard Dispatch 6/2/2020
[So, basically, as long as there is oil to sell, Enbridge will ship it! And Minnesotans will pay for their infrastructure, even though the crude will NOT supply Minnesota refineries. I think it’s pretty clear from the financial collapse in Big Oil at present that their assumptions about oil use were QUITE optimistic. More on that below…]
Now Osmek moves to tech of current FF industry… safer option can certainly put in, compared to 60 years ago… Kelley notes the STATUTE directs attention to a different issue, the question of whether the proponent of a pipeline has produced a long range demand forecast and whether the PUC has evaluated that forecast. Since taxpayers are FOOTING THE BILL for the infrastructure development, the DOC must assure that this project is NECESSARY before asking the taxpayers for their hard-earned dollars.
While Osmek goes on and on about how the DOC never mentioned this – referencing historical decisions of the service of the DOC – ALL PRIOR TO STEVE KELLEY’S TENURE! Kelley puts him away soundly with facts, noting that when he joined in January 2019, after Dayton Administration had already appealed on basis of no long-range demand forecast. “In the end the record will reflect which one of us is correct.” Indeed.
While Osmek goes on to attach the “expert” the DOC referenced… noting this person has never testified on oil markets… [uh, there’s a first time for everything? FFS, these guys are so silly in their pickings!] He then notes the 4-1 vote recently by the PUC ruling AGAIN to move forward – moving ahead without the demand forecast and they are the “objective, non-biased, regulatory authority that has jurisdiction”. Kelley explains [1:09:30] how things work. [Govt 101 for the Senators who are so confused…] He notes the expertise provided by both PUC and DOC and that DOC is working for the public interest. The statutory law requires that the commission shall evaluate a long-range demand forecast.
Osmek then notes AGAIN INCORRECTLY – that the PUC can CHOOSE TO IGNORE THEIR OWN RULES! Aren’t you getting it, Commissioner Kelley??? THEY CAN DO WHAT THEY WANT!!! The DOC is a wing of the Walz Administration – political!! [FFS. Wow. Again, this is just another instance of the accuser showing his hand…] “Boggles my mind… PUC in their august opinion… determined it is completely and wholely unnecessary. Same old worn-out answer that it’s in the statutes when the PUC says it is unnecessary.” [You decide who is being “political”…] Kelley shows clearly which of them is in this discussion is acting maturely and with responsibility to the law [Kelley is legally trained!].
Senator Rarick then jumps on – his constituents are ready for this to go and he’s a member of the building trades. [He too appears to have missed the recent Jen McEwen landslide in Duluth, unseating the Good ol’ Boy candidate Simonson.] Kelley assures him the Department is looking for jobs that can easily be implemented, including providing the PUC with information on job potentials to potentially create jobs in Minnesota. [Uh, “I threw in jobs just because…” uh, Kelley derailed you?] Rarick switches to WHY DID DOC PICK ONE SIDE? Kelley disagrees with this characterization. What DOC has chosen to do is carry out their responsibility to the law as directed by this body!! The false argument is that this is a fight between environment and jobs but the statute we are evaluating is whether there is a need for an energy facility of this kind. [1:21:20]
“I think you’d understand with me why this is not just a technical issue, it’s important because the costs of these facilities are ultimately paid by consumers. Another kind of facility that’s included in the statute is transmission lines. And if there’s not a long-range demand forecast that supports the need for a transmission line, then we wouldn’t want consumers or rate payers to pay for the costs of that transmission line in the same way that if there’s not a need for um this um for the pipeline, uh if the company has not met the standards in the statute for demonstrating that need, we wouldn’t want consumers to have to pay for it.”Steve Kelley, Department of Commerce Commissioner, testifying on the DOC Appeal for Need on Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline project proposal 8/21/20.
Rarick believes this role lies with the PUC but he is mistaken. “I don’t understand this decision.” Yes, that is clear. Then Senator Rosen pushes on WHO’S DECISION THIS WAS. [Again, showing that this is really an attack on Walz, not Kelley. He is collateral damage that may result from the Senate’s short-sighted political games.] She notes the rules of engagement change all the time… has questions about this expert – would like to know more about that decision, how much that expert cost and how much litigation will cost the taxpayers. Kelley notes that she asked this question last year, and that Deputy Commissioner Sulivan answered that the costs lie with the AG’s office, not the DOC. He disagreed that rules of engagement have changed noting the Department has been consistent on this. Rosen says the rules of engagement has changed with the demand forecast requirement suddenly just “popping up”. [Rather than comment, he let’s her own idiocy speak for her. I mean, for FUCK’S SAKE, it’s the LEGISLATURE’s OWN MOTHERFUCKING REQUIREMENT!!]
Utke returns to pile on about discussions in 2019 on the “ill advised appeals” when you were “new on the job”. Driven by Governor’s office… but your office not standing up for what’s right or what’s wrong… [Uh, yeah, here’s your chance to NOT fall on the sword as we try to execute Walz via “executing” his Commissioners.] Utke notes the whole state is suffering from the Exec Orders that have shut down our businesses – “lot of small places will not survive… this would be a tremendous economic boost”. Seriously? Workers, temporarily coming through and “buying food, lodging,… supplies”. REALLY??? A month of extra shoppers for food and lodging does NOT AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PLAN make. Kelley again reiterates his service in the Legislature with many members in these committees, denoting that even when at odds, he was always trying to do what was right and he will stand on his history. He remembers visiting with Utke on this topic as he introduced himself and doesn’t disregard how he and the people in his district [NOT ALL OF US] feel about this pipeline though he does have a requirement to carry out the statute.
Senator Dibble comes on to express the views of Senator Latz [1:30:00](currently without ability to testify due to signal as he’s on vacation with family) – noting his support for Commissioner Kelley. “Normal tensions… but no complaints or concerns, views Kelley as affirmatively reaching out… to regulated industries, and to his credit he has not lobbied GOP or Gazelka on his behalf and in the past many in the (Republican) party have credited the Commissioner with being responsive and working collaboratively as well.” Dibble then goes on to note [1:30:57 and I do love his chuckle at 1:31:10]:
“I just want to say, with respect to these comments on the PUC and Line 3, these issues around demand forecast have been around for a number of years and the nature of the comments and the speech we just heard from Senator Utke and others are actually asking the Commissioner to PICK A SIDE and to make a decision based on politics and not the law. He is entrusted with upholding the law and the public’s interest, as we authorized in the law, and the PUC and its view is not sacrosanct and I’ve heard on many occasions members of the majority party complaining about PUC decisions, … and all the dynamics around the decision that the PUC has made. The process is set forth so that the PUC is NOT a court of law and in fact the decisions that the PUC make are appealable to the Courts. That’s the PROCESS. And I’ll just say that, with respect to myself, I have strenuously disagreed with decisions that Commerce has made, as well as other state agencies, and in fact challenging laws that we have passed and have been on the losing side of those. It never causes me to question the integrity of and the competency and the capacity of the Agency nor the Commissioner. It motivates me to do MY JOB, which is to move and shape public opinion and such that laws can be changed.”
Note how he talks about HIS wheelhouse NOT being to DICTATE over other parts of the government but to do his job to HEAR THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE in order to shape law to what will serve THEM. THIS is a politician for the People, not for Enbridge. He goes on to say [1:33:01]:
Line 3 raises a LOT of questions that concern the environment and the public’s interest and those need to be vetted and tested out against the laws that we set forth around decisions on these matters. We all have our views and whether or not they’re supported by the law is really up to us to figure out those dictates and those parameters. So I think with these closing minutes I just want to say that I thought Commissioner Kelley’s opening comments and his responses to how he has been proactively reaching out, particularly to disaffected and marginalized communities in the aftermath of this civil unrest as well as those who maybe get the short end of the stick vis-a-vis the very very powerful insurance lobby speaks very very well to principles and the values and the competence and capacity he brings to this job. I thank you for having this hearing because it really shows what an amazing incredibly qualified Commissioner he is. That being said, I have to say I believe this has been a kangaroo hearing. You had a list of people you wanted to ask specific curated questions and you jumped right to them, didn’t give really any of us the opportunity and you’re cutting this hearing short. So clearly sounds like decisions have already been made and you know no matter what Commissioner Kelley has said, a decision has been made somewhere else about what’s ultimately going to become of this confirmation. So I just want the public to know that Commissioner Kelley has clearly shown himself to be highly qualified. Governor Walz is to be commended for putting him in this place and if his confirmation doesn’t stand, we’ll know that this decision was made somewhere else for other reasons.”
Senator Pratt then takes over to reiterate the questions from Senator Rosen. Looking at May 1st, page 13, the commission says it carefully reviewed the record… later in the record on page 16… Commission continues to conclude consequences” for denial are bigger than the consequences of approval. SO! They think they are PHMSA?? The PUC has NO AUTHORITY regarding the safety of the pipelines in Minnesota!! Again asking about the decision source for the Appeal. Kelley again says the Department is responsible and it is his decision but that he works to assure support of the Governor and Lt. Governor. Pratt reiterates, and is confirmed by Kelley, that the Governor “concurs” with the decision.
Kelley’s concludes with a closing statement at 1:37:33, finding himself near tears as he speaks of his people. Surely it is clear that the Republicans are playing political games that adversely affect the citizens of Minnesota.
Related to the government takeover is the continued evidence of failing Big Oil, which continues to be propped up by subsidies while it is promoted by the Right. But things aren’t making sense financially for us to ever see a “return to normal”.
Between 2010 and 2014 the average price of a barrel of oil was between $85 a barrel and $110 a barrel. This fell to $65 in 2016, and to $56 in 2017. Since 10 March, prices are below $30 a barrel. This is catastrophic for producers of oil. For example, in the U.S. the break-even point for oil production is between $48 and $54 a barrel. Many producers in other parts of the world have a higher break-even point. Oil production has been structured on prices in the range of $85 to $110 a barrel. …
The US oil industry is reeling, with the slashing of production resulting in massive lay-offs. Experts say that any price below $40 a barrel is devastating to US oil producers. But the oil crisis will also send new shock waves through the rest of the economy. …
Bankruptcies in the oil industry will spread to financial markets, which issued junk bonds on the expectation of huge payoffs from the oil industry. The oil industry in the US directly and indirectly employs close to 10 million people. This will be a further shock and drag on the financial system and the whole economy which is already collapsing into a depression. …
Monetary policy, i.e. shoveling money into the banks and financial system, will not overcome a crisis rooted in deflation and lack of demand. It will only just prop up the banks. Only creating real demand will work. Even policies like Roosevelt’s New Deal policies in the mid-1930s only gave a temporary boost to the economy, which collapsed again in 1937. It was only the ramping up of military production in preparation for the US’s entry into World War II that ended the Great Depression.China Worker blog
We’re not going backwards… Not with the current price of oil at about $40/barrel, which takes most ventures out of business. And the Fed’s response to save oil and gas will also not help us.
By propping up an industry that is intensifying climate change, which poses serious risks to financial institutions and markets, the Fed is refusing to align its emergency lending actions with its statutory mandate to promote the stability of the financial system.2 Moreover, the programs’ downside risk to public funds and financial stability is not mitigated in any way by strong benefits to workers, as these programs have either weak or nonexistent payroll maintenance requirements.The Fed’s Oil and Gas Bailout Is a Mistake 7/31/2020
The LTEs of support were already coming and I especially liked the one from Ken Pearson in the Strib.
ENBRIDGE LINE 3 Northerners’ attitudes are changing
Gov. Tim Walz is right that a project with major environmental impacts like Enbridge Line 3 requires a “social permit” as well as a building permit (“Walz’s Enbridge appeal irritates unions,” Aug. 20). His decision to allow the Commerce Department’s appeal on Line 3 also honors two new developments. First, it takes a step toward restoring balance to a Public Utilities Commission process that the legislative auditor’s office recently found was unfairly tilted to Enbridge’s advantage. Second, it acknowledges the winds of change blowing through northern Minnesota.
Just this month, clean-energy advocate Jen McEwen defeated pro-pipeline incumbent Erik Simonson in Duluth’s state Senate DFL primary. McEwen earned 73% of the vote even though Simonson was endorsed by organized labor and Walz. That result would have been unthinkable five years ago, but projects like Line 3 aren’t nearly as popular as they used to be. It’s no secret that many people north of the metro have become increasingly resentful of foreign corporations telling them environmentally destructive projects in their communities are a “good idea,” and then seeing those projects relentlessly promoted by a small group intent on breaking ground for short-term profit, no matter what the long-term cost. The DOC appeal is a nod to those changing sentiments as well.
KEN PEARSON, GOLDEN VALLEYA+ for Ken Pearson! 8/20/2020
So, why this Blog title today? Well, you can thank Hank Green! His hope comes from the light shining on the “dangers of all out individualism”, though I don’t know that I’m so hopeful as Hank. I will agree that, living the way we are… is long-term affecting our ability to “live in the world”. Again, the costs of doing nothing are clear. And, yes, we’ve seen that “people do make sacrifices when we see what’s really on the line”. I just don’t know that people are really “seeing”… until the flood waters are on their own toes… which is way too late to take action.
If there is one true thing about humans, it’s that we’re hyper-adaptable, problem-solving machines. I think, long term, we’ve got this. But there’s going to be a lot of bad along the way, and it hurts a lot to see the bad getting worse in real time.
Sometimes sacrifices are forced, and sometimes they are given. Let’s try to make a world where the former alleviates the latter.Hank’s take on Climate Change – the costs and the solution?
It’s been 686 days since the IPCC report came out giving us about a decade… and still… Greta waits.
Greetings from the Timber District.
Welcome to the Hunger Games.
So in case it hasn’t become clear to you yet, the end will not be Logan’s Run or Mad Max or even Threads (my personal prediction). It’s more like the book of the same name for the year Threads came out… 1984.
The doublespeak is insane. The arrogance with which they are acting is more blatant each year. They seemed to really kick it in to high gear with the Kavanagh debacle and I’ll be dammed if that shit didn’t stick!
They’ve escalated the antics, right through an impeachment “trial” with no witnesses or evidence. We’re living in a recession, eight months in to a global pandemic, and Congress left for recess! [Well, of course, they’re people of means… why wouldn’t they head out for vacation, while millions of Americans suffer? It seems the way of the wealthy – their Cancer of Greed has gotten to Stage 4.]
People are being evicted from their homes, finding themselves without enough money to buy food and medicine, largely due to severe unemployment, levels we haven’t seen since when? 1958? [Many of us experienced this in 2008… and many since have struggled for employment, or worked multiple shitty paying jobs to make ends meet in the “new economy” of the last decade. I will say the 2008 Recession was Dan and my clear sign to GTFO.] And yet the Stock Market is soaring! [You know, as the Federal Reserve pumps 15 Trillion of our tax dollars in, like so many little blue pills, to prop it up…
And NOW! They’re taking out the fucking mailboxes for Christ’s sake!!
So, yes, it’s the hunger games. For realz now.
Got a text this morning from a friend:
Is Mother Earth trying to give us another wake up call??? I’ve had some really dark meditations and it’s focused on the earth. Maybe it’s as simple as my mind working through all the data points.
Have you or any of your more spiritual friends sensed that something really bad is going to happen?
I don’t watch the news, don’t have any subscriptions online but the number of natural disasters I’m aware of is increasing exponentially.
You and I talked a few years ago and I ignorantly said, “nothing catastrophic has happened”. You rattled off 3-4 significant natural disasters around the world.
(Stopped) reading because I need to put this out there.
In the last 2 weeks I can think of 8-10 non precedented weather events. …
• Mumbai, India 50% of the slum population has COVID and they are experiencing monsoon rains with more rainfall than ever recorded.
• Ice melts in Serbia and Canada.
• Heat wave in CA.
• Severe thunderstorm, heavy winds, tornadoes from the Midwest to NE.
1. Cedar Rapids, IW had hurricane level 2 force winds, 1M trees down, 300K people without power.
2. IN power outages all over, trees down and damage to structures.
3. Same storm hit the NE… CT lost power for 9 days.
• Earthquake in NC or GA
• Excessive rainfall in MN
Yep. And I sat on the porch last night thinking:
• It’s August and I’m on the porch excited about drinking a WARM beverage…
• We got 8″ of rain in the last week…
• And what’s with all the rocket launches? Is there already a secret war on Mars? Who has a relative or friend in Space Force? Anyone?
I replied to my my friend:
Yeah. Dan had been saying ‘we’ve gone too far’ for a while now. I think because HE senses it based on data. I just thought he was a pessimist, which he can be, but I’m wondering more each day. Yeah. We had 8″ of rain in 6 days this past week. Sunday-Monday 4″+ in 48 hours, then Friday we got 4″+ in 24 hours…
IT is happening. (has been… for decades) again.. water on the toes… some of us have been feeling it for years now but the powers that be aren’t listening. Watch The Power – #1 movie on Netflix this week. Pretty accurate depiction of a metaphor of current situation. Mankind keeps pushing limits until there’s no breathing room. Literally. 🤨
I think it’s gonna be mass migration and starvation this year… even in the US.
Get ready, my friends. It’s seems a train is coming. A big train. It’s begun picking up passengers… thousands by the day. The climate chaos predicted is happening… at an exponentially increasing pace it seems – and the starvation and migration have been happening for years in some places on the globe. Places the humans in power don’t look at or talk about… as much as they can avoid it.
The pace seems to be quickening – or at least bumping up in fits and starts – but I am hopeful many will remain to rebuild – more sustainably, I hope – after the starving times. And there will be some who have enough to share with their communities around them to help them survive.
You’re all pretty enlightened, so you know that the Wiindigo system doesn’t work like ours. Instead of understanding and respecting the natural world or the rights of Mother Earth or the Creator’s laws—the highest laws— we live in a society that writes a bunch of laws based on who’s in power, redistributes pollution, arbitrarily changes recommended daily allowances of radiation and contaminants, and pretends that it’s all right to allocate the water in western basins until there’s no water left there. That’s the arrogance of a system that has no check with reality. And that’s what’s going on. There is no understanding for a cyclical system. We all live in a super-linear world instead of a cyclical world, and perhaps one of the best examples of that, in addition to the pipeline battles, is the fact that we live in a society with something like 13 trillion pounds of waste produced annually in the U.S. That doesn’t include waste water, and I ask myself, what is waste water? There’s no new water being made. In 2010 Americans wasted some 133 billion pounds of food. With a 430 billion pound food supply, that’s more than one-third of the whole being wasted. Economically, it’s $161.6 billion in food wastage.Excerpt: Winona LaDuke Prophecy of the Seventh Fire – late 2017
In an Anishinaabe or other indigenous economy, one’s stature is associated with one’s generosity. That is why we have massive giveaways; that is why we have massive potlatches, which are ceremonial feasts at which possessions are given away or destroyed to display wealth and enhance prestige, because your stature in your community is ensured by how much you give away. In today’s society, people’s stature is ensured by how much they accumulate, and wealth is aggrandized. We don’t ask where they got it, how they got it, and how much they need. We act as if it doesn’t matter, and what I’m saying is that perhaps the time has come to turn that around because it’s not going to work out.
Let me tell you what I think about this. And I won’t go into the consequences because I think you already know about the destruction of so many species of life. For example, fifty million buffalo, the single largest migratory herd in the world, destroyed. General Philip Sheridan, commanding armies of the west, urged destruction of the buffalo herds, foreseeing that when they disappeared, the Indians would disappear along with them; by 1885 the buffalo were virtually extinct, and the Indians were starving.
Winona goes on and I recommend reading her entire piece. [Makes one pretty pissed to realize local lumber company Potlatch is such a salt in the wound brand name…] I told my friend:
I think all this – and it’s in the “Heartbeat of Wounded Knee” and recent stories in movies – talks about this human (male/dominator/white supremacy/colonial culture) tendency to destroy being the main way we eliminate enemies.. by destroying their food sources, their villages and homes, or taking their lives… this becomes the devastation for those that follow… nothing remains when destruction – or even thoughtless overharvest – depletes completely. We’re apparently far too short sighted a species to make much more than a couple thousand years before we annihilate ourselves… and this time we’re taking a bunch of species with us.
But. Keep hope! (And plan…) it may turn out some of us make it. And enough of us may die… or be sacrificed? I imagine Billionaire Bingo… where each of the 26 richest billionaires get to face trial for their gluttony and convince us that they are worth NOT SACRIFICING because they are going to commit to full time problem resolution with their cash going to good causes. (Of course, this vision requires a planet capable of human survival, so it may be a pipe dream at this point. But hey, a girl can dream!)
Let’s hope those billionaires find their hearts soon. 26 people who could remedy it all… if only they’d share. Perhaps we can put them all on a rocket to Mars to discuss it?
There might yet be time for a peace train after all.
While I’d initially considered intervening, I decided to let go of the legal fight against the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Enbridge in the Contested Case Hearing for the proposed Line 3 project.
With everything involved, and with so little to gain – due to the VERY LIMITED SCOPE as defined by the MPCA… which denied a look at either 1) the effects of climate change or 2) the potential for a SPILL [which seem to be two things kinda important in evaluating a Tar Sands pipeline project one would think…], I decided my efforts could be better spent elsewhere. Thankfully, good Intervenors from our local Indigenous Tribes, White Earth & Red Lake, and folks at Friends of the Headwaters, Honor The Earth, and Sierra Club are taking on the challenge. So we’re providing some funding and support for their efforts.
However, still wanting to stay informed, I began reading the MPCA documents this past week.
I found the record incomplete and difficult from the very beginning. I’d already known about the Pre-Hearing miscommunications…
The SCHEDULING ORDER came out 6/26 noting that the Hearing will commence 8/24 (through 8/28, as time is needed) following pre-filing of testimony and rebuttals and expert disclosures and a Final Pre-Hearing Conference 8/19/20 at 10 AM.
6/30 Parties get administrative notice of the files available online, including text searchable files. [Granted, this first letter, “Letter 1”, if you will, was simply about noticing the contacts… so, how could that go wrong? [You know, now that all the folks are being included. Though I note the addition of Mary Rock for Environmental Law & Policy Center on the next one, so maybe she was missed?]
The trouble really started with the 200708 L3 Farrell Production Ltr No. 2, issued 7/8. This letter included an email and prints for a “Sensitive Crossings” table from Melissa Kuskie at MPCA – tech lead for the Line 3 project.
I surely hope others received this document intact because the PDF doc online shows it to be a VERY POORLY PROVIDED PIECE OF INFORMATION. It seems when the MPCA got to the edge of the “paper” in “printing” the pdf, they apparently just printed the remaining columns of data on a bunch of separate pages, making it nearly impossible to connect the last few columns of data to the particular stream or river crossing you are reviewing…
[It really took me back to the 1900’s… surreal that a modern-day government organization can’t provide data in an easily readable form. And if you try zooming in on their docs online? Well, just try it… You’ll find it frustrating until you realize there is also a zoom and expand icon in the lower right hand of the screen.] When data is presented like this… it’s hard to connect rows to columns. If only they’d matched the LAST column header printout rows with the same number of rows printed on the FIRST column header printout, you might be able to page through and connect your stream data. But, as it is, you’ll be counting rows (hopefully without issue as there are a LOT OF THEM) to find the last few columns of data on your Stream or River of interest. THIS SHITTY INFO SHARE is NOT MAKING IT ACCESSIBLE TO THE PUBLIC… For Sure. I kept thinking, “Did they do this on purpose? To keep the public from comprehending the information and finding their stream data of interest?”
OK, to recap, we’re on Ltr No. 2, right? What’s next? 7/10 Farrell issues 200710 Farrell L3 Production Ltr No. 4!! Actually, it was worse than that, administratively. The Actual Next Doc was a pdf of the COPY of Ltr No. 4. Then Ltr No. 4 followed. Just another update on the MPCA providing docs “Bates-labeled MPCA0000001 to MPCA 0031605 in text searchable form”. [Not sure WHAT was in Ltr No. 3…]
Now, to the meat… The next 15 docs are all from 7/24, the deadline for Direct testimony. First up: Enbridge Energy, Limited Partnership – Bobby Hahn Direct testimony. Bobby is an Enbridge employee w/ a BS in Environmental Science from the University of New York – College of Environmental Science and Forestry and MS in Resource Mgmt & Admin from Antioch New England University, along with 16 years in oil and gas industry, including as a consultant and employee for Enbridge, acting as Technical Manager for Project Permitting at present. He oversees federal, Tribal, state and local environmental permits.
His testimony is basically related to Enbridge’s practices and protocols for wetland disturbances and how to assure they adhere to the permit requirements. I was especially interested in his testimony at lines 348-359.
Others also testifying for Enbridge include Barry (aka “Bobby”) Simonson and:
OK, you thought I was gonna skip Bobby… but I’m not! He has a BS Mechanical Eng’g from U of MN-TC and 19 years of experience in oil/gas pipeline engineering and construction management. If you think you don’t know this guy, you do. He’s the one who writes most of the propagandized Letters to the Editor for Enbridge as they try to persuade the public that they are not gonna screw us with their shitty pipeline project. His testimony runs 52 pages.
Ms. Essick (addressing water quality and trench methods) ran 23 pages, while Mr. Tersteeg (Certified Wetland Delineator since 2008 addressing issue #3) gave 19 and Dr. Arndt (Calcareous Fen Doc addressing issues #4 & #5) provided 27.
I’ve only skimmed these and found this interesting from Mr. Tersteeg, in that he doesn’t mention characterizing any sensitive or endangered species… only “noxious and invasive species”. He’s here to testify whether Enbridge has undercounted for the full acreage of impact for the project.
Now to the MPCA testimony. First up is Doug Norris, retired Wetlands Program Coordinator for the MN DNR, another Certified Wetlands Delineator (2005) who will testify as to whether impacted wetlands have been undercounted. He gives us 23 pages.
Next is Kevin Molloy, Project Manager in the MPCA’s Section 401 Water Quality Certification program, who provides 29 pages on “whether the least degrading crossing method that is prudent and feasible has been identified for each stream crossing”. This guy grabbed my attention for lines 65 to 80:
All his testimony appears to assume NEED for the project, which the MPCA failed to determine, simply adhering to the contested decision by the PUC that the project is needed. [FFS. Epic Fail.] Lines 160-165 seemed to indicate the MPCA may require Enbridge to employ additional? independent third party monitors?
Next up is Mark Gernes, Research Scientist focused on quality and conditions of wetlands in Minnesta – primarily based on plant community indicators. I’m gonna read his 32 pages more closely, for sure.
Then we have Melissa Kuskie’s testimony… which initially said it wouldn’t have a preview and made me download it… as a preview appeared! She is the “manager of Certification, Environmental Review, and Rules Section” at the MPCA and will testify to an “overview of the MPCA’s 401 Water Quality Certification program… (and) address … whether the proposed use of trench methods… will have temporary or permanent impacts on water quality parameters of concern”. She does this in 37 pages.
MPCA’s final expert is Thomas Estabrooks, Project Manager in the Watershed Division of MPCA. In 17 pages, he will also “address … whether the proposed use of trench methods… will have temporary or permanent impacts on water quality parameters of concern”.
Now, the Concerned Citizenry. Testimony was combined for all the parties: Sierra Club, Friends of the Headwaters, Honor the Earth, The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, and The White Earth Band of Ojibwe. First up… MY GIRL!!!! CHRISTYYYYYY DOOOLLLPPPHHHH!!!!
Dr. Christy Dolph, research scientist in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the U of MN, holds a BS in Biology from Grinnell College and MS and PhD in Water Resources Science from U of MN. She’s been conducting field and academic research since 2004 and has been published broadly “on the impact of human land use on water quality, biophysical processes, and aquatic life in streams, rivers, lakes, and wetlands”. Her 43 page testimony focuses on the importance of applying biological water quality standards to assess trench construction, identify potential impacts of said construction, summarize spatial analysis methods indicating Enbridge undercounted acreage of impact, and conclude that “1) pipeline construction will have both acute, short-term negative effects, as well as permanent harmful effects on aquatic life and aquatic habitat…, 2) Enbridge has therefore not identified the least degrading method for many stream crossings, and 3) Enbridge and MPCA undercounted the number of wetland acres potentially impacted by the project.” Yeah, Christy!
Dr. Joseph Magner follows. He’s research professor at the U of MN in the Dept of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering with 41 years of regulatory, research, and project management experience specific to environmental assessment, hydrology, earth science, and watershed mgmt. Widely published, he also co-authored the 4th edition of Hydrology and the Management of Watersheds. He also worked for 34 years at MPCA and has consulted widely. His testimony will offer information on water quality standards and stream crossings for the proposed Line 3 project that have been inadequately addressed by the MPCA. 50 pages of tech geek stuff.
Dr. Laura Triplett, associate professor in the Dept of Geology at Gustavus Adolphus College, testifies from a perspective of having spent a career studying how human activities on the landscape influence water quality in streams, rivers and lakes. In 37 pages, she will report that “Enbridge massively under-reported the acreage of wetlands that will be permanently impacted by this project” and that “Enbridge has not chosen the least damaging crossing method for many streams and wetlands.”
Dr. Marinus Otte – still wonder if I’m related to this dude – is next. He’s a Professor of Biological Sciences at NDSU and Editor-in Chief, WETLANDS. He’s studied wetlands around the world for more than 30 years and was recently awarded the title of Fulbright Specialist in water and wetlands. He addresses a full contingent of the issues in 54 pages.
Wrapup batter, Paul Stolen, testifies “on behalf of Friends of the Headwaters (FOH) for whom I have been an unpaid expert, volunteering by choice, because of my expertise; because of my concern and special knowledge of the Enbridge proposed route; and to encourage a scientifically based ecision on the 401 certifications.” Paul has a BS and MS in Wildlife Management from the U of MN. He worked for MT DNR&C as Project Mgr and Special Projects Coordinator responsible for environmental review (ER) for pipelines and other utility projects. He also consulted privately preparing ER docs and permit applications. He then worked for MN DNR (1990-2009) working on impact assessments, advising on approval/denial of permits, and coordinated with state, federal, and local agencies on issues of regulatory complexity. Paul’s testimony runs to 105 pages so I will be working on another blog to do into the details of his and other’s testimony. [Goddess willing.]
The last doc up until now is an OAH Order dated 7-13-20, granting the appearances of Moneen Nasmith and Sophia Jayanty, representing from New York, for Sierra Club.
OK, you’re as up to speed as I am for the moment. I’ll be reporting more here soon as I get news!
So, a friend posted on FB about an upcoming hysterectomy and how she’d like art on the theme of the Uterus, which she would soon be without, as part of that process. Always up for a challenge – especially an art challenge – I gave it some consideration.
I’d recently had my own uterine adventure… a bit of a scary one – but nothing serious in the end. [Mostly just another reminder that I seem these days to sometimes be losing my mind.] So I felt some kinship with wanting to give a little love to my uterus as well.
I decided a pendant project might be just the thing. If I could find rocks that were “uterine”… or at least could artistically be imagined into uterine-like artworks, I’d give it a go. I had just been out berry picking a few days earlier and found a cute little black rock (that I thought might be representative of a uterus no longer in use). When I initially spotted the rock, I thought, “Ah, a heart rock!” When I pulled it from the earth into my hand, it was more square. But… flipping it over, I discovered a sweet heart on it’s bottom! [Unfortunately, this was simply mud and would wash off as I further prepared the stones. 😦 ]
Alongside a couple others I’d selected from my stash, I moved forward with my project plan. I found a THICK heartish shaped stone that felt “healthy” to me. Then I found a bit larger and less vibrant, yellow tinged, stone for my “menopausal” uterine representation. But I felt something was missing. I felt like, if this was a healing project, it needed some additional focus on healing.
So I found another stone that depicted a troubled uterus, a uterus in despair. I made this pendant first, praying for all those who deal with these concerns. I used black wire to reflect the toxic world in which humans now live, a world that is likely resulting in our broken uteri and failing reproductive systems… ecosystem wide. This pendant has a very simple back with almost no adornment and simple features on front with a center glimmer heart and colorful blessing seed beads around the jasper head bead of health and passion, a stone that brings the courage to face unpleasant tasks and to rectify unjust situations.
I next moved to the healthy uterus pendant wrapping it in golden wire and including an abundance of glimmering seed/seed beads surrounding the head bead – a shell, representing water, a requirement for life. Two prominent rose colored beads give a nod to femininity and the interior of the top beading hides a precious pearl at its center. The entire piece is pink with life.
I moved on to my menopausal uterus stone, wrapped in silver wire, and with a skull head bead indicating the ending of life-bringing work. She retains a slight pinkness of life and wears a crown of pearl, again for water, though her seed beads are white and clear, no longer filled with the blood of life. Still a Queen, nonetheless.
Finally, I wrapped the stone that began it all. Purple wire, for her royal years of service. Dark beads of mystery and fluorite for a link to universal consciousness… Spirit. The bead choices resulted in some fun – a face appeared as I worked to add femininity with wire wraps. Though seriousness remains with the darkness hiding the fun until you look more closely. The deep glossy black head stone is crowned with and supported by deep purple iridescent seed beads.
The little “mouth” bead actually flips out from the pendant like a little blue claw. [I hope it lasts. Kind of a risk though I like it for several reasons.]
I’ve kept the Menopausal pendant but sent the other three to my friend to do with as she sees fit. I was thrilled to read about her idea, challenged to ponder it, healed by working the pendants to life, and honored to be a part of a bigger healing work. This woman, so rarely encountered in real life these three years I’ve known her now… but ever present in so many ways, has brought such love and light and blessing to my life. I am grateful for the gift of her friendship and the paths I’ve found with, and because of, her.
I’d thought the news was coming almost a week earlier. Mom had texted saying to call my brother “ASAP” and, hearing his answer and… then his story, I was like, “Well, Dad’s dead.” But it wasn’t until Sunday afternoon when I found out he’d passed. It was a rather quiet and peaceful acknowledgement, considering our past.
The more I look around, the more I see so many ways in which I’d been preparing. There were many physical, emotional, and spiritual transitions through the years but in the last few days, some really weird coincidences? Here’s a couple:
So what did I do?
I notified family… I called my uncle – his brother-in-law – and had a good chat with him that was very comforting. I tried getting in touch with my brother and, having had a week of really good conversations with him, decided to give him a day to grieve after I’d assured him he could call…
He’d tried to call me when Dad passed but my phone has been working through issues and I discovered it was disconnected from the web overnight. Anyway, I ended up waking today and turning the phone back online and getting a wave of notifications. I finally got the kinks worked out of it… then decided to make a playlist of some of Dad’s faves and listen to music on the porch. I picked Stevie Nicks (of course), Heavy Metal Movie Soundtrack tracks, Adele, and some childhood faves like American Pie and hit Shuffle Play… By the third track, this little white spider shows up and hangs out all afternoon with us – disappearing for a while and then showing up again for Adele’s Hello. We had a very nice day, though I don’t know where he went now so hopefully he’s watching out for us. Got some cool shots of the little dude.
Later in the evening, I had a SUPER FUN Zoom session with friends that was just the cheering I needed. After, we watched a movie and then Dan took me for an early morning drive to see the comet… no luck on that but we saw a BUNCH of shooting stars, satellites, meteors, owls, and a cat. It was a thrilling day reminiscing and remembering and hearing messages in songs.
I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.
Got a last minute notice of the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board’s Environmental Review Improvement Subcommittee meeting, so decided to attend. Here’s my take.
Katie Pratt – Still have OPEN CD4 & CD5 positions for Citizen Board membership.
Giuseppe Tumminello presented the ER Data Mgmt Plan & 2019 Performance Report with Thanks to the Tech Reps and MEQB staff.
His Questions: Framework and Metrics – are they meaningful info to make ER better? What would you like to see?
MN Rule 4410.0400 Subpart 1 says MEQB role is monitoring effectiveness of parts 4410.0200 (definitions) to 4410.6500 (paying EIS costs) and taking appropriate measures to modify and improve their effectiveness. (Water Quality is in pretty shit shape so… kinda failing.)
My ideas: Citizens have a BUNCH of usable information that your agencies are ignoring… systematic access to decision makers is not really a thing, nor is accountability… Delegating authority needs to be pulled back when RGUs demonstrate regulatory capture… There is no need to reduce delay if it means we will ignore the need to be thorough. And we need to start to reduce uncertainty with the use of REAL SCIENTISTS to review the projects!
My questions: What evaluation was made of WHAT IS WORKING? HOW ARE YOU understanding the effectiveness?
Guiseppe’s Data Management Plan Framework and Metrics were reviewed… looking at frequency checks (for ER types, processes by category and RGU, and completeness of citizen petitions), efficiency checks (cost and time for ER and EQB Staff performance) and Transparency (for usable info and citizen participation). [Makes one want to throat punch someone… this last point is just laughable.] But he went on to present some highlights:
Data Mgmt Plan – adaptable each year!! We’ll keep doing nothing… and making sure we talk about how we can keep doing nothing… [Yeah. Great.]
Questions: [I got what I could. You can listen to the whole presentation and such here.]
Bryan – what info is available in the map – project info? G: Monitor info included. B: Some include links, some don’t. G: RGU prerogative to share that. We share if provided. No link? Pop-up will have responsible RGU name and contact for more info. B: RGUs should have capability to provide that. Denise: Further explanation… Rule is current – would like more discussion on ERIS to see how we look at expanding how notification requirements are included.
Bryan: EAW world – citizen members want to understand… Along with current, could there be an available cell with a running record of EAWs that can be sorted/searched based on categories – for reference. [GOOD SUGGESTION!] G: Exploring ways to do that.
Alan Forsberg Q… G: Accountability section performance report – pie chart on RGUs doing ER – maybe a majority – are from local govts. MEQB staff should be reaching out to staff at local RGUs for their experience.
Alan: MEQB measures its performance – what about MPCA, DNR, etc? Measuring effectiveness of their permits? Denise: Don’t engage with other agencies on their effectiveness but some monitor their programs. A: Drawing on many DNR – times when process is counter-productive to what environment is trying to achieve. SS: ER vs. permitting – often related and intersecting. Specific to Permitting? Not ER? Alan: Unrelated question… I apologize. They relate… overlap – info for ER and permits – there is a relationship.
Ben: Maps and access. Getting info from EQB monitor – notice methodology between 2015 and 2020… evidence based to improve it? As much info to public as possible? G: Since 2015, a pilot process (CI) to improve data collected and shared. DMP will be adaptive… will change as this is the first we’re proposing. Frequency of ER… objective data – won’t change much. Recommendation in current performance report not yet incorporated. These are just proposed. 2022 data will be available to share on this…Denise: Data sets gathering… data from subcommittee…
Kristin: Note the language – I appreciate the language – Public Members – ALL of us as practitioners. Better framing of inclusive language. Earlier Q on survey for RGUs … did ER make a difference for environmental quality? Are we still asking this question? G: Don’t recall where… one question we are proposing to ask is tied specifically to… going back to objectives – providing usable information. Not covered today but ID’d in report. Asking if the process gave usable info not otherwise being collected. Is value provided? K: Found it interesting we included it in previous surveys – applies to effectiveness of system. Consideration I’d appreciate is keeping in mind integrity of the information. Been in several ER that were delayed, created uncertainty, issues of transparency/accountability as the info was so inaccurate. Getting accurate info to public is key. Looking fwd to next steps. G: Consideration is noted. Did the ER process make a difference for outcome for Env Quality? is the question to include.
My question: How is the data mgmt plan looking at the actual results in the field? Like how poor our water quality is now in MN? I’m seeing a check of how the system works as designed, but NOT how the system accurately determines effectiveness in the field. How are you determining how the ER is actually affecting the environment on the ground here in MN? Denise: When ER doc is prepared, a lot of potential ER are ID’d and how to mitigate. Fwd looking at projects as proposed and into permitting and other approvals. Where do you see opportunities for field experience as most of where we touch a project is before construction or implementation? ME: It really speaks to the question that Kristin was just asking. How are we evaluating how our ER process is working? Your mission is to determine if the ER process is actually DOING SOMETHING, rather than just filling out paperwork and checking off boxes. Specifically I look at – and she spoke to the inaccuracy of data – and we can look at the Line 3 project – huge and very controversial. We’ve asked over and over to be involved in agency meetings – we know that meetings are happening with Enbridge – we have scientists and retired MEQB (I meant MPCA)/DNR people, health professionals, and citizens like me, abutters to the line, who’d really like to have our voices heard. I’d really like you to come up to the LaSalle Valley and look at where they want to install this pipeline. Look at the land and the water levels on the ground. Trying to understand how the MEQB is finding that THAT SYSTEM is actually working to protect the environment. Especially when we’re seeing many many people living with tainted water quality in MN now. D: Thinking about opps I’m aware of to make connections. Think about it further given that perspective. Come back to the Guiding principles. What is the Purpose and objective and tying it back to the relationship to procedures in 4410 – meant to implement mandates from MEPA… I’d love to talk more on ideas for metrics and where you think that might provide us with meaningful information.
ME: I’m very interested to hear how you plan to engage the public because I do think that has been a real fall down. We’ve tried going to the MEQB, speaking to the concerns we have about the fact that these decisions are being made potentially by RGUs who don’t have the scientific comprehension to understand the environmental review process and how it affects the environment outside of the project they want to implement and rather than what those real affects are to the environment. I’d be very interested, esp as the OLA was looking at the MPCA for engagement this year. That project didn’t get selected but there’s definitely a breakdown between people feeling like they are being heard, who live here, and agencies who are making decisions about things they don’t seem to truly understand. That’s my biggest concern. We need some scientific accountability to what’s happening, rather than agencies just meeting ONLY with applicants, who are VERY gung ho about their projects and aren’t going to tell you anything about not wanting to implement them… versus listening to people in the field who are SEEING these changes happening in our state, seeing our water quality degrade, seeing this tremendous ignoring of citizens, including our Indigenous citizens who have spoken very loudly about this project and that gets into federal law. It’s great that MN has these laws and rules and these ideas but if they are not effective, we need to look at why and how to make them effective. And this isn’t truly doing that. It’s looking at the projects we have and looking at the ER we have and it seems another kicking down the road of we’re going to look at how well we’re doing and see how well we’re doing… instead of looking at WHAT ARE WE DOING, PEOPLE? WHAT ARE WE TRULY DOING? I’d encourage you to start talking with health professionals and scientists in this state… retired agency officials who absolutely understand some of the problems that we’ve seen with regulatory capture, that create a system where applicants continue to get their projects, our water quality and environmental quality continue to degrade, and the people continue to be ignored. D: Thank you for those observations, will take this back to the team. SS: Thanks for the question!
Willis: Ecologist, retired MPCA. Previous commenter made an excellent point by using Line 3 as an example. Not to get into the weeds with that project but let me point out how ER failed miserably. And MEQB can do significant things to change this. EIS was 1000s of pages, revised several times… but… only when MPCA received a permit for 401 was it revealed – for the first time – that the company admitted they could not comply with MN Water Quality standards. If that simple fact was not exposed in the ER documents, of 7000 pages, something was seriously wrong. The public did not know… and (with No F/U in 401 cert process) still does not know, that this project will violate water quality standards all across this state! And now mitigation is being offered as permits are being approved by other agencies. The horse is out of the barn. Hard to correct now… AFTER ER SHOULD HAVE EXPOSED THIS issue and then SERIOUS alternatives could have been considered.
Now to the issue that Kristin raised… over years of participating on MEQB… I’ve consistently suggested that metrics are available that will answer her question. IS ER MAKING A DIFFERENCE ON THE GROUND? Curious and frustrated as no data points here drove to that question. If you don’t, it allows Govt process to proceed bean counting – metaphor of bucket brigade putting out a fire. Counting buckets, polishing them, storing them properly, but buckets are empty (of ER docs themselves)! Let’s look at content and that this is Not measuring what proposers want to measure – reducing delay (serves the project proposer) and duplication (no one wants that). People want process to be effective!
As an ecologist, I can tell you… we’re losing all our birds. Have an avian apocalypse. Losing insects. Apocalyptic outcome – it’s measureable, it’s reportable, and someone is responsible. We’re losing reptiles, amphibians, wild rice. I could go on and on… listing on the ground, in the water criteria that tell us the story of how well humans are NOT LIVING in harmony with their environment as MEPA says. I have offered and I will offer again to sit down with staff and look at meaningful metrics the DNR?MPCA/MDH/MDA accumulates. Metrics that in sum total tell us we have a miserable failure in ER due to no linkage to the ER and our Env losses (plants, insects, wild rice) and losses in human health. 5 connectors in how we: use land, extract resources, distribute invasive species, change the environment, & destroying habitat. If ER CANNOT measure these 5 parameters, why do it??? Those are repeatedly id’d as causes of our apocalyptic conditions in plants, wild life, insects, and human health. We have a Cognitive disconnect between causes of Env deterioration and what we examine in ER. Please accept our offer of a year ago December – in our listening session with SS & LB attending – by group there. Many of these same points were made, OFFERS were MADE AND NONE have been ACCEPTED.. Not called in back to say WHY these methods work. Please stop counting buckets you have in the fire brigade and assure that they are full of water and fire is being put out by some meaningful metric. WILL YOU ACCEPT THE OFFER OF THOSE KINDS OF ASSISTANCE OFFERED by ME AND MY COLLEAGUES REPEATEDLY OVER LAST SEVERAL YEARS? If not, why not? [No REAL Answer… again. Sorry, Willis.] SS: 2 other comments… let’s go to that. WRT Last comment – we’ll respond to that… Kristin have another comment… keep them succinct! Who else do we have?
Lori Cox: Sustainable U-pick fruit farmer (Hubbard?) would love a confirm/deny – handoff for MEQB to allow agencies to monitor or agency’s role to decide? Might bring foresight. DW: Trying to better understand connection for ER doc and how info is used to inform other approval decisions… and the method for other approval decisions… LC: clarified… DW: MEQB role in the rule – responsibility and authority to pass rules and oversight. Delegate implementation to other govt agencies – who interpret how they are applied and how they affect the project decisions. ER gives more look at what Env Impacts are and that informs permitting from other project agencies. Rules require that those approval decisions consider ER docs. No mechanism to give MEQB authority to vette the decisions made by other govt agencies. [So no accountablity for regulatory capture?]
Tim Ahrens: In terms of metric to understand if process is working – rates of permit compliance and non-compliance available? DDW: Regulatory compliance done in framework of agency that oversees permits. MEQB has no authority or oversight of those authorities. [That might be part of the problem…] T: Might be one part of the disconnect. ER informs permit but if permit is not carried out with integrity… SS: Monitoring is agency responsibility.
Kristin: Question on survey was asked retrospectively to parties that participated in ER. Looking for their feeling of if it made a difference. Wanted to clarify that is more process than outcome oriented – different mix. Very valuable convo – wanted to clarify on that being procedural. DW: Asked for perception – data was qualitative and not aimed at whether project resulted in change in the ER but whether they were engaged in the process and the process was better than it would have been without ER. [So they could just think it’s a PITA and respond accordingly…] K: And public input. DW: And public input.
SS: Move to next agenda item… GHG Quantification and Assessment… presented by Denise Wilson. “No inclusion of recommendations today… want to discuss today how to overcome barriers.”
Team consists of Steve Roos (MDA), Louise Miltich [Yep, Anthony’s niece!] (Commerce), David Bell (MDH), Kate Fairman & Cynthia Novak-Krebs (DNR), Melissa Kuskie, Peter Ciborowski & Laura Millberg (PCA), Deb Moynihan, Peter Wasko, Jeff Meeks & Katherine Lind (DOT) and Eric Wojchik (Met Council).
Some of these agencies are project proposers… determine what info is needed and how it will be used. Before implementation of recommendations – we want input to help facilitate convos on this… Not final – tech team will continue to refine. Nothing about adaptation or resiliency or category changes, etc. Much more to be done in the future… Elements we considered:
How Info will be used was reviewed: giving info to proposers/consultants to understand design decisions, RGUs to prepare GHG assessments for all, public can meaningfully participate in approval decisions – knowing climate effects! – and govt decision makers can use info for approval decisions. [Do they ever deny??? All this will only be possible if REAL data is provided…]
Barriers include: different calculations methods/references, broad range of project types, Not all RGUs have expertise, existing calculators/tools don’t meet ER Program needs, and financial and staff resources for GHG calculator tools. [#3 is my favorite!!! What about BS checker from applicant?]
MEQB fix? 2 phases. Phase 1 involves a Qualitative discussion in the EAW form. They’ll even allow voluntary inclusion of QUANTITATIVE GHG emissions! [Voluntary inclusion???]
THEN… once tool is available, a GHG Calculator will expand assessment requirements in the EAW form for projects over 25,000 MT CO2e. [Over what timeframe? Annual?]
Alignment with regulatory requirements reviewed (from EPA website…) [So why do we have to develop our own??? And wait until you see the cost data…]
OMG the cost data!!! $3000 (Excel SS) to $500,000 (App development)!! And, hey, we don’t have 1-3 years for you you figure this thing out! [Noticing that there is no CHAT to all participants… VERY CONTROLLED…] Then Denise asks everyone:
Made hummingbird food… sorry – missed some stuff here… came back to questions from Alan Forsberg.
Alan: reducing transport… Around state different…. Metro – easy but Greater means things are far apart. Commute 70 miles to Redwood Falls… Moving freight… DW: Asking folks to ID alternative mitigation methods considered and why… Maybe those methods make sense in that location but another site would be different. About info sharing. A: Things getting to MN… ethanol plant… lot of moving required for our economy to function.
Margaret Kelliher (DOT): Do believe starting with a calculator could be very beneficial. MNDOT has been working with building up to use a GHG calculator for future projects. Little concern… also have been a Comm very involved in council on technology… when I hear about an App or program development. SS is low risk. Easy way to move fwd quick but benefit for a more complex set of anlysis going with it… 1) Worry about development costs and assuring having resources to do it. 2) are there opps to partner with other orgs across country? Unique with MEQB but not in looking at climate issues Strength in numbers working together or building off existing calculator. 3) Any tech – sustainability and updating going fwd – not only up front costs of scoping and such but also plans for truly utilizing a quanitization of GHG – also a legal element to consider – assure we are accounting for ongoing update and support. DW: Limit scope of what we’re asking folks to review, ID calculators that capture reliable data – Climate Registry… Enterprise has used. How they track and report… Enterprise Sustainability just went through a process to develop a tool for that enterprise. We did consider updating and maintenance – as science is developing quickly. Once downloaded, how do we assure latest tool is in use? Another barrier and challenge. Not sure of answer. Looking for your feedback on where to focus convo. Maybe asses what elements we require at this point. MAK: Happy to help as we look at expertise… to think through how we want to move forward and beyond. Appreciate thought put into this.
Dan Huff: Thanks for comments MAK. Lot to look at and sustainability and funding are key. Timing of Phase 1 & Phase 2. 1 immediately? What is the timeline? DW: Implementing this approach would bring a December subcommittee and Board January for Phase 1 implementation. Challenge is once more detailed assessment is done is that RELIABLE info and good guidance is provided to implement correctly. Phase 1 could be done early next year – Phase 2 longer – also resource dependent for 1-3 year development of tool. DH: Need to move and begin to incorporate GHG ASAP.
Aditya Ranade from Commerce: Support Phase 1. When tool launched, how long is Phase 1? Potential assessment of operating expenses for calculator to individual projects. DW: P1 continues for projects under 25mTCO2. Phase 2 would start when we have a good tool… (so years down the line… Not soon enough. They’re still not getting it…) Chair can amend – we can quicky add requirements and come to chair or board for implementation right away. Ongoing support/maintenance – good question… Depends on how we come up with our package for what needs might be – may need a budget item…
Bryan Murdock: Already regulate GHG on some mandatory categories… like phased approach. Start with those requiring GHG first? Threshold values – # of animal units? Under X size doesn’t require it? Not all need to be burdened. Thresholds would be a great thing. Mega-emitters first, then roll to smaller makes sense. LB: At MPCA working through GHG calcs as related to feedlot proposals – ruling with Daley farms – starting to put this in place in our EAW process to evaluate GHG… Start on some of this. Can look at county… not all sources but some sources… and looks at mitigations applicants are making. Tools to learn from… 5 different ones… since Daley where we’ve looked at GHG emissions wrt animal feedlot process.
Kristin: really excited about ability to start on Phase 1 – encouraging – can start shifting culture around how GHG fits in ER. Concerned for Larger projects awaiting Phase 2. From data, how many projects might P2 apply to? And, if not a large number, possible for tech team to begin working and support evaluation of these larger projects, if not too many. Dula purpose of not letting things go too far or too long and getting concrete exp with these kinds of assessments. [GREAT IDEA!] DW: GHG considered under EAW 100mtCO2 leads to ER… Also for stationary sources that fall under air permitting requirements. Data on projects including this info… since we don’t prepare docs, we don’t track how they are evaluated… Don’t have that now. K: How many MIGHT apply to 25KmTCO2? DW: Haven’t gone through that – looking through mandatory catagories… will evaluate threshold. [Dan’s right, they don’t have this answer…] What gets you to mandatory reporting sector… TBD and how many that exceed that threshold… Will probably do that. KE: bears upon all cost issues. You stated in beginning that you need broader stakeholder convos – who else are you planning to engage? [OOOHHHH!!!] DW: Going to be targeting specific groups – Ag community – many proposers going through. League of MN Cities and Counties and local Muni govt acting as RGUs, State RGUs framing and then, more broadly (framework TB developed) doing outreach with Community groups and perhaps focused groups. [So mainly APPLICANT stakeholders, not AFFECTED PUBLIC… until MAYBE LATER???] [Back to core values implies you’re not adhering to them now???]
Alan: splitting out… moving oil by rail, counting cost of constructing rail line? Or eventually when oil will be burned? DW: Some details ironed out in guidance. Id’d important threshold and will develop questions for specific factors and guidance for how they are implemented. RGU decides what info is needed and how it is assessed. [WHERE IS MEQB OVERSIGHT?] Alan: Many are complex – how do you not double-count? DW: Understand. Thank you.
SS: Lots of energy to get moving on this project! [Kinda late… 646 days since the IPCC report.] Next time, with guidance – will want to devote adequate time to that discussion of these details. Will assure we give that. Like to do… 4 folks seeking public input. Then F/U later. 3 minutes from scheduled adjourned time – “important to hear from public.”
Amelia Vohs: Staff atty at MCEA – Allen Anderson – new Climate Program Director. Thank DW and tech team for hard look and this presentation. Hard work, challenging questions. Three reactions to presentation today. 1) From advocacy comm, want an QUANTITATIVE analysis ASAP in EAW – even if using existing calculators, even if not as robust as our own developed. Clear about this analysis. Since Daley Farms case- working to comment on EAWs to assure GHG analysis is done for projects with significant emissions even though not CURRENTLY ON EAW. THAT analysis is HAPPENING! MPCA did it for Daley and others. Stillwater did a mixed use development GHG analysis. RGUs are NOT considering GHG – waiting for analysis. Many respects P1 requires less than what RGUs are ALREADY DOING. Already seeing quantitative analysis – better than a qualitative – which would be moving backwards. Guidance for RGUs need to be MORE ROBUST. 2) Recognize existing calculators cannot compute full scope of emissions MN deems relevant. OK for now. Emissions that can’t be included – scope 3 emissions – could be included in qualitative discussion while using existing tools. 3) Touch on question of RGUs being able to use these tools. Stillwater JUST DID A GHG quantification even though no ER for a number of years. Used existing tools. Even RGUs NOT using regularly are able. IMPLEMENT NOW. RGUs START with a quantitative analysis NOW to build knowledge about how to do a GHG analysis and allow community to suggest how analysis can be monitored or improved. Collective process can help us get better and guide tech team on how to construct for and guidance. LOVE the idea of our own tool that fits what we want to do in MN but cannot wait for this tool to exist before quantitative analysis starts. TOO MUCH uncertainty in staffing, funding and time to develop Cannot condition start on quantitative analysis on THIS uncertainty while other states are performing comparable analyses. Understand variability of RGUs using different tools. WE ARE EXPECTING THAT and it’s OK. REALITY in Env Review variability exists! By RGU and by modeling – ALL best estimates. Public understands and accepts this. Not expecting an objective truth. May comment and disagree with assumptions made in model but that is true whether we have a specific of MN or existing tool use. Two shorter points. From public perspective – investment of resources, quantification is important but using staff tools on robust guidance is more effective. Assembling reports – that is the type of public info the public needs, that doesn’t exist, and where we’d like to see staff resources devoted. Support what Denise was mentioning about stakeholder process. System for public to comment – requires a 2-way convo. I’m talking AT you but had a productive convo earlier – asking and getting feedback. Recommendations are better with 2-way with tech team – understanding their barriers – and creating better response based on why they recommend WHAT they recommend. Monthly stakeholder team to discuss? Tech and legal staff devoted to researching this – would like a back and forth convo. SS: Thanks.
Lori Cox: Support of qualitative and quantitative program, particularly with land use and changing ag land uses. If land were previously tilled but NOW wants to be a feed lot – want to see (Ag member of MDA WQ) what is AS-IS state and what would GHG be after… not only for land use – changes – but what else are you mitigating. If tilled 60 years prior – know that GHG – want to know change brought with a feed lot. When project comes, not just changing GHG from Land/animals but also PRACTICES. All affects water, soil, well quality. Water Quality certified farm – always asking how we can do better. Agri-business needs to ask themselves the same. Agree with WIDER stakeholder view. Would not be giving in to any lobby pressure that says “we have to”. MN, Country and Globally – finding BEST PRACTICES that DO WORK, upheld by SCIENTIFIC DATA. Recommend this rigorous process.
Willis: Support previous comments. My primary concern is usable information… UN climate panel said we had 12 years for siginicant change in course on GHG and carbon capture – now 2 years down range and calculator takes 3 years… 7 years for making a difference. Focus on precision rather than moving immediately in a new direction to change trajectory on climate impacts. Emphasis on WRONG PLACE. Doing best we can with what we have and then making better choices. Relevancy of Time and Unless public can put these numbers in context, they are just numbers. 25K, millions over lifetime. Want to reduce. HOW MUCH is ENOUGH? HOW much is enough SOON ENOUGH in a particular sector. Need these frames of reference else public input is crippled. Can’t know if project is begin held accountable for absorption needed. Incorporate recognizable frames of reference to make them meaningful. Is reduction fitting with pace of time scientists say we need. We have statutes but all of us know that statute was best legislature could create but not consistent with science. Need to know what panels of scientists say on pace and quality of reduction in each economic sector. Suggest this is down the line… but if you don’t have these numbers in next 3 years, we will have wasted another 3 years! 5 years seems unacceptable to show public if we’re on track for each project. TIME AND QUANTITY. Feed lots… know world cannot sustain ag animal units around the world. When a feedlot comes fwd – in MN, we have this many animals, increasing over time – consistent with number of animals the planet can support over time? If this is NOT in the frame of reference, we are deceiving the public. They need this frame of reference to be able to effectively participate in the discussion.
Rob Bouta (bowtay): Env consultant – prepped ~100 EAWs over 30 years, City of ? sustainability commission. Agree with MCEA. Costs of developing tool – submit also costs of not developing the tool that are much greater over time as they affect the viability of life on earth. In developing programs, anything the state can do to develop off-the-shelf implementation of mitigation measures would be really helpful to show project performance. How they can do this, working with their projects – necessary. Demo projects may be outside the scope of MEQB but Overland College – generates more energy than it uses. Netherlands developing residential development. Projects waiting for this… no time to wait. Sooner the better in getting this done. Carbon footprint – reference in some materials. EPA calculator – looked at those as I had to respond… EAWs written by consultants, not RGUs generally. I selected one by Conservation Int’l – thought it included all types of C generation (solid waste and air travel) not included in MPCA calculator. MEQB staff can look at this to get in touch with ppl developing calculators to figure HOW to develop for MN. Lots in CA… not readily adaptable to MN as CA uses energy different with their climate.
Chat discussion was also interesting… just me and the host… as it was for every participant?
[So much for engagement…]