OK, let’s start by defining the alphabet soup title… MEQB = Minnesota Environmental Quality Board & ERIS = Environmental Review Implementation Subcommittee This MEQB ERIS subcommittee was recently formed as a way to fix our failing environmental review in Minnesota.

On September 18, 2019 the Board established the Subcomittee [sic] for the purpose of providing a forum for transparent deliberation and public input on important issues related to the State Environmental Review Program and making recommendations for improving effectiveness.

Their own description seems to indicate more talk and ideas…
Will there be action resulting? Only time will tell. And we’re running out of that.

A bit of background…

Chuck Dayton, long instrumental in Minnesota environmental law, reported in May that the work of the MEQB is failing. It was recognized at the 5/1/19 meeting that the process we now use is outdated and does not account for the world we find ourselves in today with the rapidly increasing climate change. We currently fail to look at climate implications and we fail to look at alternatives to proposed projects. MERA and MEPA are not being upheld with current practices.

“The EQB chair shall develop an EAW form to be used by the RGU. The EQB chair may approve the use of an alternative EAW form if an RGU demonstrates the alternative form will better accommodate the RGU’s function or better address a particular type of project and the alternative form will provide more complete, more accurate, or more relevant information”

Chuck Dayton recommendation to the MEQB Chair 5-1-19

The first meeting of the subcommittee in October consisted of a lot of talk and presentations with one Commissioner actually pushing for the administrative items to be completed to get to something substantive. Citizens too were frustrated by this business-as-usual interaction, which left only about 20 minutes for their input – all monologue to the committee, no helpful dialogue. As a citizen doing what we all say we want – staying home and not driving my car all the way to the cities for a 3 hour meeting – I was restricted from providing my input verbally. [Though I did hear that my typed comments were being displayed during the meeting… guess there are many ways to skin the cat… As such, Will Sueffert did end up reading my main concern as a closing to the meeting’s public comments: How do we assure RGUs have expertise to review the submissions by project proposers?]

With redress seeming slower and less effective than hoped and expected, some pushed for and got a Listening Session in December with a few members of the MEQB ERIS. Will Seuffert, Laura Bishop, Sarah Strommen, and Gerald Van Amberg and the meeting was attended by many of the departmental tech reps – these are the “make it happen, find the person needed” liaisons that link the MEQB and their home department. [This liaising is only a small part of their regular jobs from what I gathered in discussion with one of the tech reps.]

I’ll leave it to you to decide if you think the meeting went well or not. You can determine if you think the MEQB ERIS members present adequately expressed and demonstrated their commitment to the needed urgency of this work. I, for one, was not satisfied. Perhaps my satisfaction would only be achieved if everyone on the team cut all the BS and truly began to work to make the changes that might allow us to address our climate emergency and what it portends… near term human extinction. But clearly, a 2:30 hard stop prevented that from happening on December 18th when we met.

One good change that happened at the meeting was that we started to break through the business-as-usual format and actually got into a circle for sharing face-to-face. This would have been better done if it had included all the members present but the circle was mainly speakers and the few ERIS members present, with tech reps and others sitting outside the circle.

However, in this unexpected format, and with my hopes to start the conversation on the topic of urgency, I led but failed to share all my points and details. My solution was to share the written document via email with all I could determine were in attendance (see below). I got a couple bounce backs – Megan Kelly and Mike Coons were two – the first bounced back and the second I couldn’t locate in the MN Gov websites. Hopefully someone will share my email with them. Not sure how many will read it, but I can at least note another attempt at working to make MN Government better.

Hi, all.
With the modified format of the 12/18/19 MEQB ERIS Listening Session, in trying to assure time for all to speak, I failed to deliver my entire commentary.  I am sharing these comments with you below, along with a video link that highlights my main concerns, in hopes that it will bring further understanding and insight.  
I do want to thank each and every one of you who attended.  It was nice to put names with faces and have some time to thank and connect with several familiar ones.  I especially appreciated the presence of MN State Agency Tech Reps and wish we’d had more time to interact and get to know each other.  And a big thanks to Giuseppe Tumminello who did a great job with tech, both during the meeting and to capture it. Will & Laura – Giuseppe continues to be a responsive and attentive resource for my engagement.
Below are my comments and I appreciate any feedback you may have.  Thank you for your consideration.

I’d like to begin by speaking to the urgency of our situation.  Until we agree we are in a dire climate emergency, we will not act with the necessary immediacy to implement Environmental Review practices that allow Minnesotans continued confidence in our state government to protect us and our environment for a secure future.  This is the foundation on which all further action must be built.

436 days ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued their 1.5 Report, which noted that “Limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels would require transformative systemic change, integrated with sustainable development, … implementation of far- reaching, multilevel and cross-sectoral climate mitigation, … linked to complementary adaptation actions.”

The IPCC basically gave humanity a decade to take strong action in order to meet goals, goals which we now know are insufficient to meet the 1.5°C target.

Since then, scientific reports abound on the apocalypticinsect die-offamphibian population declines, significant losses of birds inthe US and Canada, and dramatic declines in our global wildlife speciespopulations.  Minnesota ecologists recently confirmed, in an MDNR Conservation Volunteer editorial, that these declines are being observed here in our state as well.  These catastrophic changes are not limited to fauna as our flora are also being assaulted by the changes humans have wrought on the planet’s atmosphere, leading to more insecurefood systems.  And, as we are a part of this giant ecosystem called Earth, we too are feeling the effects. Is it any surprise that we’ve named the children born most recently Generation Z?  Is this a reflection of the underlying conscious or unconscious terror we are feeling as a species? 

A report tracking progress on Human Health and Climate Change, perhaps appropriately titled the “Lancet Countdown”, has a video which begins at present portraying the dismal state of our planet noting children today will experience, as adults, “more heat waves, stronger storms, the spread of infectious disease and see climate change intensify mass migration, extreme poverty, and mental illness”.  The video for the report goes on to visualize the world where children born today will celebrate their 31st birthdays as the world reaches net-zero emissions.

Yet the global response to the climate emergency has been abysmal.  Just this past weekend we watched as the global community failed to find agreement at the COP25, yet again kicking the can down the road to next year in Glasgow.  At what point will humanity see the real and unified efforts it will take for us to provide for continued human existence?  At what point will our actions match the needed urgency?

Whether through their fear of retaliation or criticism, a need for consensus on what is reported as “agreed-upon” science, or simply a lack of an ability to fully comprehend the workings of our complex planetary systems, our scientific community has struggled to give an effective message that brings action and we continue to see reports revealing that we have and continue to underestimate the dangers.  Humanity is only now realizing that our window of time to act is closing quickly as scientists have begun to more loudly express concerns.

And citizens are speaking up too, begging for action.  For many of us, it seems our only option to stop the devastation is to literally lie in the way of the bulldozers.  We’ve changed our buying patterns and our ways of life, written letters to the editor, contacted our government representatives (from local city councils to the President of the United States), met with government agencies, and done all we can to address climate concerns via the “appropriate” channels.  Now we are taking to the streets to voice our concern, and locking down to equipment when we are not heard.  We’ve even had multiple attempts to involve the judicial system for redress to no avail as the Necessity Defense for climate action continues to wait for its day in court.  This is not what climate justice activists like me want to do.  We are forced to these last resorts by both the ineffective action and inaction of government and corporations.

MEPA requires state agencies to “use all practicable means and measures, including financial and technical assistance, in a manner calculated to foster and promote the general welfare, to create and maintain conditions under which human beings and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of the state’s people.”  The Environmental Quality Board is charged with providing leadership and coordination across agencies on priority environmental issues and providing for opportunities for public access and engagement.

MEPA requires firm, clear guidance for RGUs (Responsible Governmental Units) and adequate EAW forms that request ecologically and climatologically relevant and accurate information. What we have seen throughout this year’s EQB meetings is that our current environmental review tools and practices are failing to protect either citizens or our environment.

Today, we citizens and scientists are offering our help so Minnesota can continue to lead.  We offer solutions to bring climate justice and find our way to a more secure future.  We hope today’s meeting represents the beginning, not the end of this citizen/ scientist/ government partnership where we all recognize the gravity and the urgency of the situation and commit to make the environmental review process provide a clear pathway to our clean energy and stable climate future. 

This is literally a fight for our very lives.