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:
The pineapple upside-down cake experiment Saturday night. NEVER BEFORE do I recall making pineapple upside down cake, a specialty of Gramma’s (his mama)… but I sure felt a draw to make one this weekend. And I did. And it was delicious. And I did celebrate the old man with it Sunday.
Oh! And I’d made tuna salad for lunch Saturday and took some of the tuna and some frozen veggies and made a rice tuna casserole which is really good with cheese and sour cream but which needs more peas… and I thought today, as I enjoyed the leftovers, “Well, looks like we have the funeral casserole… CHECK.”
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.
Sarah Strommen DNR (Chair today)
Laura Bishop MPCA
DOT (Arrived later) Margaret Anderson Kelliher
Alice Roberts-Davis Administration
Dan Huff MDH – for Malcolm
BOWSER Gerry Van Amberg (Not a Member; listening)
And… Citizen Members:
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:
ER in 2019 was WAY DOWN…far below the number done in any of the previous 4 years… and Almost NO EIS in the last 5 years… [what effect has that had? Did I mention shitty water quality yet?] In fact ALL 2019 environmental reviews were barely more than only the EAWs in 2015 and 2016 and their number was below the EAWs alone for both 2017 & 2018.
Reduce delay and uncertainty and duplication was covered with a review of citizen petition completeness and how many needed EAW (not many… never more than 3 in any year and often, only 1).
Efficiency over effectiveness seems the rule of the day. The ER Technical Assistance efficiency review showed: 175 calls in 2019. [Almost NONE!! But we’re looking at how well we did on the calls!!!] We’re GREAT! 84% of the public says EQB staff was responsive and punctual, 100% agreed that they were courteous and professional, but only 50% strongly agreed they were knowledgeable on the topic. So… nice, on time, but not really full of answers? [Maybe some scientists would help?]
Now to Transparency… first Giuseppe quotes MR4410.0300: “A first step in achieving a more harmonious relationship between human activity in the environment is understanding the impact which a proposed project will have on the environment” and he claims “The ER Process led to the public participation that would not have otherwise occurred…” ER Interactive Map shows locations of data received… but docs are Not readily available [uh… so much for transparency??? Seems they are saying, “Public Participation is important!!! Speak Up!!!” No promise they will listen though…]
New Map NOW in the works!! Current map to be live in next week or so.
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:
GHG Emissions (construction/operation)
GHG sources (& % from each)
Types of GHG
Alt Mitigation measures & justifications
Purchase of any renewable energy credits [Credits… push the problem to another part of the globe?]
Net lifetime GHG emissions (meeting state/local GHG reduction goals)
Contributions from other GHG emission sources
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?
Well, for all the lock-down we’ve had, we ventured into entertaining of late. We entertained a neighbor couple Saturday evening, where the porch allowed a long evening of mostly masked conversation, with each couple enjoying their own festive cheese platter – totally failed to get early photos in all the prep and precautions.
There was one trade of beers and some shared spirits were poured. We used multiple spoons – to allow as little re-touching of items as possible – as scoops of hummus, artichoke dip & cheese dip were plunked onto dishes. Brownies were sent home. [Too much focus on beer and spirits!]
We were able to enjoy beverages, carefully share snacks, and converse (masking when we were in close proximity and when we weren’t eating or drinking). We’ve done this kind of entertaining before, with a bit less food sharing, and have found that masked interaction seems to give good protection as we’ve so far seen no apparent COVID-19. I do believe mandatory masks would go a long way toward getting us ‘back to normal’. [Though most of us realize now that we’re never going back to the old ‘normal’.]
The brownies that remained were carefully placed onto a serving dish for Sunday visitors. An older couple – who Dan & I have long admired as pioneers to our own escape of the rat race – came for their first ever HARN visit! What a thrill.
Daughter and grandson chauffeured their trip and we all had a masked chat – first visitors INSIDE the HARN since March! We’re a week out now and all feeling good, so fingers crossed we were safe enough with our visits in Days of Corona.
Some will say we are being over cautious and some will wonder why we let someone in our safe home space bubble. We know visiting is a risk and take precautions to minimize risk. Because we live very cautiously on a daily, some who are also taking extra precautions feel our space is a safe place, in a time when it seems no place is safe.
I did not hug my 80+ friends though we threw distant hugs and gave big huge smiles that felt almost as good. I did hug my neighbor – with both of us masked and looking aside. It was great to hold someone for a bit that wasn’t Danny!
I have always been a hug person so this thing has been especially rough. It’s so hard to not just hug people but… we are very careful. While we feel we are taking risks, we’re doing so with people who also live very protected lives in Days of Corona. I guess that had been the big change for us. We basically don’t interact with folks who aren’t using precautionary principles.
The keys for us are:
Masks in proximity
Avoiding the careless (those not respecting SARS-CoV-2)
Careful eating protocols (limited options & prevention of interactions)
Not too often (allowing time to assess health after interacting, not entertaining until our town trip is shown to leave us “safe” again)
So… I emailed one of my favorite authors and… AGAIN got a response!!! HOLY COW!! I was so excited! James Fucking Kunstler!!! Well, he goes by James Howard Kunstler…
Another crazy magical event in my weirder and weirder life…
This guy was introduced to me when I was reading about peak oil some time back. Dan and I read his World Made by Hand long ago and really enjoyed it. And more recently, I was turned on to his blog – When Giants Fall – and again thrilled by his use of wit and sarcasm to explain our current situation. So I wrote him to tell him. And he wrote back!!!
I also listened to his interview on the recent Oil Patch issues… which taught me a bit about that. So I’m sharing it with you today.
April Crash – 4/20/20… so a memorable day.
Futures were reportedly created long ago when cold markets had the potential to destroy an annual reaping from crop sales so agreements were made to assure farmers they could “flatten the curve” on risk. Kinda like CSAs were designed to do more recently – though with perhaps better returns?
Oil futures have been useful for producers who HEDGE to control for a future price. So how’d we go negative? Get online, buy a contract for a barrel of oil at a certain price – with a contract expiration date – and, if you can’t sell it before expiration, you’re on the hook for those barrels of oil which requires selling at a loss if you get stuck.
What happened was 110M barrels of oil had to be dumped when May deadlines were expiring – had to PAY the ppl who had storage lease to take their “futures”. Paid about $37-38 for this to happen!
A little suspicious…. Hard to imagine how so many ppl – or a few owners of such a large # of contracts could get caught. No NEWS that we were running out of storage space… Gonna be investigated as it “smells funny” and seems a weird event with no clear explanation.
-$37/barrel means some took a bath on sales but NOT that oil has no value. 150X price to get rid of the contracts… $37 X 100M… that’s a lot of dollars. Meanwhile, markets were sending strong signals to producers to STOP Producting – no place to put it, no demand (which is why the former) so markets were CLEAR.
Shale oil party seems to be over… for a while anyway. But don’t sell them short… More than half the oil produced in the US is tight oil – shale oil. If this is going away, the US is in BIG TROUBLE.
What about conventional oil? Not as much as the 1060s but… what about those guys? Lot of it but in many small places – too deep, under a National Park, not feasible to extract at a profit. Economics of this shale oil is better than most conventional oil… including Saudi Arabia and Russia. Saudi oil being $3.80/barrel is hogwash. Cost to run pump is that much! But drilling, taxes, royalties, moving the oil to a pipeline, etc. Aramco offering “publicly” meant they disclosed cost info…. Nov 2019 IPO – break even price is about $40/barrel. 10X more than most ppl thought.
Decline in ratio of energy invested to energy return has been dropping – 1990s was 100:1 and now about 15:1 to 18:1… making it hard to run an industrial civilization at this ratio. EROI – net energy – is a brilliant idea but almost impossible to calculate. What is true cost of drilling a well – simple question but hard to determine – all the diesel, trucks, dozers, concrete – a bunch of costs. Bakken shale stufy years ago (with some questions) – about 30:1 to 50:1. It does require more energy today to get a barrel of oil than 70 years ago but beats the hell out of any other energy by a ton. Numbers are squishy… But solar and wind are about 10:1. Oil best bang for buck – coal is lower – may be beatable by renewables but the real competition is oil and natural gas.
Money-making is the deal… but examining the details shows cost of solar and wind is almost nothing – so dirt cheap nothing can compete – assume that is true, why is only 4% renewable? Well, not so cheap. Oil is most productive fuel that man has discuvered.
Costs of oil and costs of energy – how do they fit into rest of the economy? Decade of shale oil rising – none in 2005 to great summit in 2019… amounted to a financial racket. Many shale producers couldn’t make a buck but attracted investment – how while demonstrating it was not a good investment? True for oil business since day one. Not a special feature of shale.
Oil industry on avg has returned about 7% since the 70s. For something that has such high cost intensive risks, investors are wanting 20%… So did shale oil draw a bunch of investments because other investments weren’t getting as much as desired? After 2008 when interest rates went to 0… US Treasury bonds were a loser. Fed Reserve was buying bonds and wanted you to put $ in stocks. Yields on safe/passive investments like bonds and money markets were not worth having. Oil was “master resource of the world”, was backed by a hard investment in the ground… collateral! Given no more than a percent or two for most other investments – not so much a risk overall, buying oil – slightly higher risk but higher returns. Most of the investment in tight oil was not real checks written to oil companies to subsidize their operations. Most was in stock.
Early days 2007-09 was bank money, then joint ventures, then private equity – moving to BIGGER AND BIGGER investors. By 2012 or 2013 – certainly after oil crashed in 2014 – was almost all secondary share offerings. Stocks are money a company can use… if you look at shale companies and, if you bought in Jan 2016 – lowest point in oil until recently. If you held it to end of 2018 gave you 250% profit! For those who played it right…
23 minutes in begins a discussion about the investment in shale and how it was based on the system, not the true value of the companies. Art Berman, an independent oil geologist and industry analyst, admits that the stock market is a casino. Jim notes that there is a disappearance of capital – and a creation of new capital that doesn’t seem to be keeping up. He asks what will keep shale going. Berman notes that oil was poorest performing long before COVID-19 began. [Note: Art lives in Houston and writes a blog.
Recent rally showed 89% increase in their stocks. Oil company stock price fluctuates as a function of it’s product, OIL. Started at -$39 and went to $25 – $60 increase in two weeks is largest oil rally in the history of man. A distortion in a world full of distortions… People are making money on this goosed price. [I’d ask if that seems fair. Certainly seems like money being made for no effort so doesn’t seem far…]
US Oil could be screwed.
Info on current state and COVID seem to say we’re royally screwed.
Price, cost and value are not the same thing. Price is $25/barrel but COST is $60/barrel to get it out of the ground. Value is hundreds of hours of work – tremendous source of energy. 4.5 years of human labor in a barrel of oil = $120K/barrel. Value far exceeded it’s price or cost of extraction.
Discussion continues on the prospect of nationalizing some portion of US oil production. Art sees it as pretty sure this will happen. Companies have billions in debt load Futures market and stock market are saying “turn off production”. With no output, there is no payment of interest expense to creditors… and then bankruptcy. Whiting declares bankruptcy [Tar Sands refinery in Indiana].
Usually there is an Exxon or Chevron ready to buy the littler guys as they fold… for pennies on the dollar. But these guys are struggling to pay dividends! Shareholders will not tolerate buying a zombie oil company on the cheap. But… oil is so important to the economy that, if no one is there, the US Govt, like they did for GM, may bail them out.
Refineries are operating at 2/3 normal intake. They are not profitable if they are not at 100%. Might as well not operate at all – from a financial perspective – at 67%. Shipping relies on transport. Without that, the whole industrial sector is hosed. Will likely be not only producers but refiners and all in between to assure we have oil.
Renewables won’t cut it in a pinch. [That assumes we need to keep going at the pace we are… which I believe has been proven to slow… outside our span of control. Think we’re heading to a new world, just not sure what it will be yet.]
Jim asks if government will fund or actually take over the business – are they competent? Art notes they were not able to run the auto industry – GM was a big org – could underwrite debts and costs and leave mgmt structure. But with OIL, it’s 1000s if not tens of 1000s of companies. Of all the government policies – energy is too complex to be covered. If US becomes the default owner of energy production, “heaven help us”. Jim says we will become Venezuela. Mexico did same. Saudis have managed their national company pretty well. Art agrees.
Storage and overproduction situation. Shale are shutting in their oil – closing down wells – not a cheap or simple procedure. VERY COMPLEX Process. Using a beach ball analogy, Art explains it. Fluid and material (Barite?) loaded on top to keep the pressure and then a metal plug installed – requiring a rig and thousands of dollars – and then cement poured to kill the well. Hope the cement holds!!! Then you can take the rig off. So this is a process that will need to be done over and over.
The pressure causes a probability that you will damage the formation. After 6-12 months, re-opening will be again, this same complex process – drill cement, pull metal plug, drain fluid… and then hope it pumps on its own. More often than not, it’s not that easy. Requires acid, zylene, cleanup and possibly re-fracking and STILL you may not get past performance.
Jim notes the Europe situation for oil (only Norway and a bit from Britain)? Not hearing from EU bigwigs about concerns for their lack of supply. Reset to an economic level unthinkable a few years ago? Art argues this will be a US and worldwide problem, not just European. He argues there is a 1:1 correlation between GDP and oil consumption. If the world is consuming 20% less oil, then GDP will reasonably to fall 20%. “A damn disaster. A catastrophe!” [But is it? Aren’t we destroying the planet too quickly? Wouldn’t that be a good thing to slow down?]
No one will like the way we get through it. We will NOT GO BACK to the way we were before – certainly not in the near term. Things are gonna suck economically. Jim is not surprised.
Europe is captive but there are lots – Saudi, Iran, Iraq, N. Africa, Libya, Tunesia…. We have more oil than we need as consumers. [Wait, what about peak oil?] Dispelling the myths from the Secretary of Energy that the US is a net exporter…
US imported avg of 9M Barrels/day of crude oil. More than Europe uses! US imports oil from around the world, refines it and sells as products. But we are NOT A PRODUCER of oil. We are an exporter of REFINING. US the NOT energy independent.
Art asks… if our oil is so great, why are we selling every barrel? Because our oil is NOT GREAT and we need better oil. We produce gasoline – light stuff – doesn’t contain molecular compounds needed to make DEISEL. Nothing you can do to give it something it doesn’t have so we have to blend it with heavier oil and there are limits to what we can do. 3.5M Barrels/day still exporting. VALUE IS WORTHLESS to us. May be worth something to a producer but, if it were so valuable, why would we export it?
Art Berman’s view on US 5-10 year economics, living, ordinary life: Geologist here… Simple answer is IDK but a range of scenarios exists.
Worst case – about 25% of Americans missed their mortgage last month and a bit higher % didn’t make rent payment. If this persists, creditors don’t get paid and the financial system collapses. If US finances collapse, then entire world system collapses and we’re in a parallel universe – unthinkable. In 5 years time, maybe things will be better… assuming no wars, mass chaos, rioting. [Well…] Then all bets are off.
Best case – that is completely avoided. Treasury, Fed defibrillate the economy by creating liquidity and capital to help us live through. In a service economy, can’t make widgets faster to make up for lost productivity. Consumer, industries – all damaged. Everyone saving to not let this happen again. In a few years, the US is hugely weaker. Credit out of system – 30% haircut on what we’re used to. Not the worst in the world but not many who will sign up for a 1970 standard of living. Best case? Maybe most likely case…
Hard to see a happy ending if nothing happens other than what is already happening.
5000 B/day – have to be there next month. Then 50% reduction in production. What is good news for the economy? If oil drops 63%, GDP drops 63%…
Optimists say Art is a pessimist but he argues he’s a scientist. Optimists choose to ignore objective information. Can’t pull a rabbit out of the hat. Hope you’re right – my feeling part wants to agree. But the present implies that the future looks awful. Hoping Treasury/Fed can make things happen but don’t see it based on the info today.
Jim agrees there is much anxiety and distress and we’re gonna have to stick with it. American impatience with uncertainty needs to end… we need to grow up.
Thank goodness for plum blossoms and roses. The critters don’t seem to be affected by all this. Hmmmm. Something to ponder.
Update 12/7/20: In hindsight, as I watch Enbridge rush to drill under the Mississippi River to install a NEW Tar Sands Pipeline in Aitkin County, Minnesota, it seems the critters are affected by this… we just haven’t been paying close enough attention. But yes, the critters go on, as best they can, as humans continue to destroy the planet’s ability to host human life. Fewer of them, certainly. I’m glad for those that remain in the forest where I live. ❤