Just turn back now if you’re already running low on spoons… Or have not enough bandwidth to process more (possibly) mostly bad… and very little good news in today’s blog.
Or if you’re just overwhelmed, I’m gonna say, go get yourself a warm/cool beverage, put your feet up and relax with a bit of meditation… or cool jazz, hip hop, thrash metal, christian contemporary, whatever your jam… and chill.
If you wanna hear some of the recent ramblings from here at the HARN… Read on.
On Line 3 and Minnesota Environmental Protections:
While the Appeals Court dissent on the PUC case seemed the grounds for the MN Supreme Court taking up a case that considers the very future of, not just Minnesota, but our entire planet [Just my opinion], nevertheless, the Minnesota Supreme Court decided not to take up the case.
Today the ruling on the MPCA case comes. Will this be another arbitrary and capricious decision? Or will justice for Mother Earth be served? Will the Water… and thus the People, be Protected?
We’ve seen a big uptick in rain here of late… which is good for Enbridge as, if we were still in drought, the farmers themselves might bring pitchforks to protest their water usage for cleaning the mud from the roads. One could argue that they shouldn’t be mucking around in the mud anyway… as it is harder on the equipment and more dangerous for the operators, not to mention, it just being a huge mess.
But a billion dollar Canadian Corp with access to 5B gallons of our Minnesota water, thanks to the state’s Department of Natural Resource… just does what it wants. They’re in a hurry installing this pipeline as they’ve been delayed for many years by Water Protectors in courts and on the land standing to prevent this project from bringing ruin. The industry is on the brink of bankruptcy so, if Enbridge is to recoup it’s many recent losses, it REALLY NEEDS THIS WIN. [Though based on a lack of investment in the tar sands, I’m wondering what the loss of all our trees and invasions to our land will really bring Minnesota in any taxes… especially as Enbridge’s recent wins in tax court (mostly as Minnesota failed to show up for the work) means they will pay less and less for their more and more unwanted infrastructure.
Not much doubt for most of us locals about Enbridge being a factor in the proceedings around the rivers running dry. This graph depicts the drops in water levels in St. Cloud… which seem to coincide with the Enbridge dewatering, approved June 4th:
As reported in St. Cloud on August 17th: “The city of St. Cloud announced Monday that it was shutting down the second unit of the hydroelectric dam after water flows dropped to just 700 cubic feet per second. The city says this is the first time it has had to completely shut down the dam since the drought year of 1988.“
We have failed over and over to convince the Minnesota Governors, DOC, PUC, DNR, PCA, and even the USACE to join us in holding water more sacred than oil. While it’s cold comfort, we’re surely being proven right now, as we watch unfolding climate devastation on never before seen levels.
On Environmental News around the Country:
We’re now watching Hurricane Ida… last year we got to Zeta. How much worse are the storms going to get? We’re in early days of the season, eh? And it ain’t looking good at all for Louisiana thus far. Not good at all. New Orleans has lost power. Yes. The. Entire. City.
As I write up this blog, Gaazhii finds himself in the woods, escaped from his leash… again. We’ll see how he does… and I’m hopeful he comes back to the porch soon. I can hear the wolves howling nearby.
There were a whole host of other debacles this past week that have left me feeling beaten down. Hopeless in moments, disturbed in others, darkly sad and alone in many others. When it rains, it pours. So, overall, a pretty rough time.
It’s been a hard couple months but I haven’t felt so much like just walking away from it all in a while. Trouble is, how does one walk away from accountability to the land, the trees, the water, the animals? I truly don’t think we’ve got much chance remaining to really save ourselves as a species. Though I focus on helping and not harming as much as possible these days, in hopes of leaving more for those who remain after us. Some weeks are more successful than others.
Perhaps one of the most heartbreaking pieces of the puzzle of dismay in the last week, was the sinking of a piece of Enbridge equipment in the LaSalle Creek Aquatic Management Area just south of us. We got word from a friend who’d seen the iNewzTV coverage. I was concerned about the person, in fact, so concerned that I’m surprised he was treated and released, one bit of good news in the last week. I was telling a friend Sunday, some things are so horrific, you are better off not recovering. Based on the reporting, it seemed this might be one of those cases. It reminded me of a friend I had who survived an explosion with pretty severe burns over a large portion of her body. She spoke of not wanting to survive. Dan too speaks to his own struggles in surviving his burns. While the physical pain was the driver in the beginning, in a society where trauma is not acknowledged and superficial beauty is so valued, pain is not the only concern as time passes. Some of those scars can last a lifetime.
Nonetheless, a bigger piece of my sad this week is for the beavers who were affected by this equipment failure. The pipeliner was trapped in the equipment and could not be freed. [Um, OSHA anyone? Perhaps some quick release latch on the plexiglass enclosures for emergency submerging situations? FFS has no one ever thought of this before?]
According to a report from iNewz.TV, the vehicle’s shatterproof plexiglass windows made it difficult for workers to free the victim, forcing them to break a nearby beaver dam in order to lower the water level inside the cab.”
No mention in the coverage on how the beavers fared. And what was the effect on the surrounding environment? Was the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency or Department of Natural Resources on site to monitor the releases of oil into the water? Assure proper containment? We will see. My guess is no, based on how little they’ve done to protect Nature and how much they’ve done to accommodate industry in the years I’ve been civicly involved in Minnesota. And what I heard at the MPCA Rule Change meeting Thursday.
Dan and I went to see what we could document and found what appeared to be further work on trying to remove the equipment – at least that was our assessment.
A few years back a neighbor blew a beaver dam. I was shocked. It was early winter as I recall – snow on the ground. Those beavers were left homeless – or dead? – in a time when it would be harsh conditions to find new housing. As I said, perhaps some things are better off not surviving. And here again, we hear no plea for the beavers. No concern for their situation? Perhaps this is why we find ourselves in this mess.
Another Water Protector emailed her own dismay this weekend saying, “Sometimes I wish all the animals could rise up and defend themselves. All at once!” I replied:
I too wish the animals could defend against us. We’re too powerful and destructive. And they are not. That’s not how they live. Or how we should… Regardless of how things go, we can be very proud of stopping so much of the Tar Sands these past half dozen years. That in itself has helped postpone the end of our species. Perhaps giving enough of us time to awaken, get serious, and listen to the Animals, Plant Nation, Nibi, and Aki. These are the things that give me hope.
I will close with big thanks to all the lovely Water Protectors who have come to my aid this week in the struggle. We rely on each other in these times of darkness and I appreciate all who have given me support, strength, love, care, and hope. You help keep me sane as I make sense of all that is happening. And thanks also to all the others who brought me love, laughs, or perspective. And those who also are doing good… always an encouragement. I have some cards to make and send…
Over the weekend, I issued an Urgent Blog Post as opposed to waiting until today. So glad that I did because today requires another URGENT Blog Post. FFS. [This, ladies and gentlemen, is your indicator. For those of you unfamiliar, from here on out, it’s Sailor Style, Trucker Style, Steel Worker Style, which means I’m not filtering the outrage. Proceed at your own risk. I know some of you quite enjoy this version of me, so, read on if you’re not familiar.]
We’re about to see a terrible collision of two things that cannot peacefully coexist: Pipeline Construction and a Pandemic.
My Saturday blog, Need is Clear… for a Stay on Line 3, explained why the Motion for Stay, filed by White Earth Band of the Ojibwe and Red Lake Band of the Chippewa, was just and valid. Even without many of the reasons noted in their Memorandum, a Stay on the Line 3 project is so obviously necessary to protect the health, safety, and well-being of Minnesotans as Mr. Walz is fond to spout.
We are seeing great increases in cases and casualties here in northern Minnesota at the virus surges. And with so many having little regard for masks, or even the virus itself as legitimate, the dangers were high in the region to start. Now, even with recent legal complaints, petitions, and motions filed and Coronavirus surging throughout the Midwest, Tim Walz seems compelled to rush through all the approvals Enbridge needs to start their tar sands pipeline ASAP. Is he trying to surpass the death figures seen in North Dakota after their recent construction project with Enbridge? It was only a 12-mile stretch so our 337-mile stretch is sure to do the trick.
Our highest daily death total yet plowed us into a 4-day holiday weekend, yet with Monday’s ALMOST ALWAYS our lowest figures for COVID, Tim Walz felt NO NEED WHATSOEVER to ask his Pollution Control Agency to consider a wait-and-see approach on their Stormwater Permits – the last ones needed by Enbridge for the project? Not even until we can see how many dead accummulate by tomorrow? Is One Thousand One Hundred Thirty-Three dead – 1133 DEAD – in November NOT ENOUGH FOR YOU, Tim???
Did the Governor give ONE FUCKING SECOND of consideration to the lives of NORTHERN MINNESOTANS. NOPE! He callously WENT AHEAD with Enbridge’s plans for a November 30th start date. And, to add salt to the wound, he also made sure his Climate Subcabinet could get started ON THE SAME MOTHERFUCKING day – in further ruse of giving an actual FUCK about Climate Change.
Ya’ think people at the funerals are going to think that was funny, Tim?
As if things could not get any more fucked up, the PUC has ordered a Hearing on the Motion for Stay for THIS FUCKING FRIDAY. So… Department of Commerce, the challenge is ON! Can you produce a Brief to join the Tribes in their urgent call for a Stay? In under 48 hours? When you likely expected that the Stormwater Permit might take a bit more consideration for a project so controversial. I feel your pain. And I sure hope you can.
It seems Tim Walz is ALL IN with Enbridge on literally “killing it” in Northern Minnesota with their new pipeline project. Who Gives a FUCK about anybody up here, eh? Just a bunch of rocks and cows, right Timmy?
“How many of your constituents are you willing to sacrifice to the Enbridge God of Oil?”
Well, a bunch of the people who live by those rocks and cows are dying. So I ask you, “How many of your constituents are you willing to sacrifice to the Enbridge God of Oil?” Their God seems to be losing steam in recent years but you don’t seem to be able to find a way out of their pocket? Even when the very lives of your citizens are at risk from the project continuing? During a MOTHERFUCKING GLOBAL PANDEMIC? FOR FUCK SAKE, Tim. Are you even gonna give us a goodbye kiss? Can you at least ACKNOWLEDGE your Negligent Homicide as we experience it?
How do you possibly look at the state of the world, the dying tar sands, the dying people – which eventually means less oil use, eh? – and NOT COMPREHEND that an ALLIANCE with Enbridge is going to send your soul straight to Hell? There is NO FUCKING WAY you can PRETEND that people aren’t dying. You can’t pretend that bringing a bunch of potential COVID super-spreaders from TX, OK, ND, WI aren’t gonna really FUCK US HARD up here in the few hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes we have.
I really don’t know what else to say. It seems there is nowhere else to turn. We’re basically being sacrificed to the Oil Gods, and no on can seemingly do a thing to stop it. Not even Tim. Not even if you give him the verbiage to clarify that his Executive Order 20-20 DOES NOT say Pipeline CONSTRUCTION is Essential. Because it is NOT. And pretending it is will cause irreparable harm to many Minnesota families. Damage that will sting for years to come as we consider the results of his heartless decision-making. Though I’m guessing even the rocks and cows might give a bit more of a Fuck than Governor Walz.
If you give a fuck about anyone up here along Enbridge’s Corridor of Death, can you give Tim a call and ask him to give a fuck too? 1-800-657-3717.
Well, I’ve been focusing in recent blogs on the failings of Minnesota government (from the PUC – yeah, them – to the MEQB to the MPCA to the Governor) to protect not only the environment, but citizens as well. This week I thought a HARN update would be good as many use this time of year to give thanks.
Though it’s a hard time to be thankful as we watch cases and dead continue to pile up this week along the proposed Line 3 corridor, more and more voices are speaking on the subject, and that gives me gratitude.
Minnesotans are calling the Governor (1-800-657-3717), the Attorney General (1-800-657-3787), and now the Minnesota Department of Health (1-800-657-3504) regarding the atrocity of continuing to support an unnecessary pipeline project during a pandemic. Flooding northern Minnesota – and its fragile health care resources – with thousands of pipeliners from states like Texas and North Dakota can only be described as INSANE, when you are, at the SAME FUCKING TIME, dialing back the citizens of said region as Governor Walz is doing. How that is not negligent homicide is beyond me.
Our nearest neighbors — North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin— are experiencing some of the highest nationwide per capita increases in COVID-19 cases, and 48 states are now in the Task Force “Red Zone” for new COVID-19 cases. It is simply not a good time for out-of-state travel that is anything short of essential, so this Order clarifies my recommendation that Minnesotans refrain from unnecessary out-of-state travel for the next four weeks and self-quarantine upon their return if they do decide to travel.”
We have to STAY HOME but it’s OK for… thousands of pipeliners from these “hot” states to come HERE… for an UNESSENTIAL TAR SANDS PIPELINE? WTF?
No amount of industry protocols can protect if we’re seeing nurses and doctors, in the most critically sanitized workplaces, falling to this illness. Community spread is a real thing and, with limited enforcement or willingness in this region to wear a mask [even among those who should know better (FFS)], we are all at high risk.
So I spent the last week writing about this, calling folks myself, praying at the river, and seeing what I can do to help mitigate the dangers that COVID-19 and Enbridge’s Tar Sands Pipeline threaten. I got confirmation today of one LTE that WILL be printing!!! So… not for naught I guess.
And… we got a KITTEN!!!
This is Gaazhagens (Ojibwemowin for Cat), Gaazh (or Gaazhii) for short!
He’s VERY HAPPY today as a package arrived from my mom (Thanks, Mom!!) with lots of goodies. So far we opened one that he spent LOTS of time on… until he was exhausted! I replaced the crazy red flashy ball with a golf ball for my own sanity but late night disco ball will come out tonight! (Thanks, Dad! I wondered what the box of golfballs would be good for when I cleaned up the HARN in preparation for Gaazh… now I know! I have no doubt he will be able to pull it from the groove in no time! We’ll need replacements.)
The biggest issue is his eating. Gaazh is a rescue cat [Thanks, Ralph & Paulette Friday!] and he eats like everything MUST BE KILLED and INHALED. He is learning to slow down. Even chewing sometimes!
The decision to bring in a new roomie was predicated on cleaning and rearranging the entire house.
This was cathardic, calorie-burning, and, in the end, energizing! It’s so nice to have everything organized again. And dusted! Chests have been swept clear of underlying dustbunnies, the living/craft room is now one giant space instead of divided (…may that bring good unifying energy for all!), and Gaazh has his own private bathroom space! I am loving the little hand vac we picked up at a sale somewhere for $3 as it helps keep the minimal litter in front of the box swept up – or was that gifted to us by someone else who spent the $3? Who knows… I’m even doing dishes more than once a week now as we keep things organized… for as long as possible!
We don’t use many dishes here… though Gaazh has made clear that dishes on the counter are his… once everyone goes to bed!! Dan tried leaving out leftovers the first night and someone left little tongue prints in the dish after flipping back the towel over it. Three times! 😀
GG is so little but he sure can tear through – pushing rugs and such this way and that – as he speeds through the HARN. And I’m sure he’ll be a big cat before we know it but for today, we’re enjoying how tiny and fun he is. And preparing him to be a lap kitty as much as we can. Every body brings good warmth to the HARN.
Wishing you all good warmth in this season of thanks.
And giving thanks for a good year… regardless of all that we’ve been through. There is good in every day. And every thing. And every one.
The MEQB attempted to introduce Minnesotans to the newly appointed Governor’s Climate Change Subcabinet. And failed. Miserably. [@7:50 Laura Bishop (LB) really tells us how it is in MN government… with the “political, er public!” appointees.]
How badly did they fail? Well, they never even introduced the new Subcabinet appointees… AND they failed to get many answers for the questions posed by the public. Not a good showing, any way you slice it. And we will.
First, we should say where everyone was from:
[Wait, maybe first we should start with the lack of any land acknowledgement being shared? This is something I’ve grown to love hearing from the various groups with which I interact, a reminder of the Tribes’ long history with corrupt government.]
Do we give the MEQB a point for adding Western Minnesota quickly? [after a participant question] Or not? [because afterthought “Eastern” got no add] What exactly are the divisions about – to the MEQB. How is it ONE Minnesota if even the Metro suburbs are segregated out from urban proper? We all get the Metro/Rural divide [which I’ve written about before and which is ridiculous in this forum – I mean don’t we all drink water to live?], but what are these further divisions?
Northern, Central, Southern… Where are the boundaries? Is “Central” the I-94 corridor folks? Are “Southern” those poor folks whose water is already contaminated? “Northern” those pesky folks working to prevent Enbridge from destroying their clean watersheds? If we think these groups have some coalesced voice that requires grouping, what is it? [But, hey, gives you an idea of where people are paying attention to this rollout.]
The session opened, after this “ice-breaker” poll, with a welcome from Laura Bishop, Commissioner of the MPCA and Chair of the MEQB. She thanked Minnesotans for attending to learn more about what Minnesota government is doing to address climate change.
The size and scope of the climate crisis requires our swift action at every level to help protect our communities and ensure a sustainable future for all Minnesotans.
And we need and value your participation in these efforts.”
Laura Bishop intro… We’ll see what they show us today in this vein. Note she also said, “Governor Walz has said, if Washington won’t lead on Climate Change, Minnesota will.” You tell me how confident you feel at the end of this blog about that.
Laura noted that we must work together… “This is the First One Minnesota Climate Forum!” [And she notes coordinating being done with the Tribes.]
Then we had a bit of Reflection guided by Mariah Levinson from the MN Department of Admin’s Office of Collaboration and Dispute Resolution – how apropos! 😀 [Using the Slido tool for dialogue – because why use a CHAT in the meeting when that would be easier? Either way, if you don’t have a computer, you’re shit outta luck for participation.] The Subcabinet and Board were encouraged to use their video to create the idea that we’re all in the same room together! This is the question for reflection (and my answer – one of MANY comments concerning Line 3):
At one point, three NoLine3 Comments were up top! [But we’re not gonna talk about Line 3 today!! Oh, yes we are, Laura Bishop.]
We next moved on to introductions of the state agency reps where each spoke on “a potential climate solution” they are excited about. Lots about Clean Cars, EVs, and EV Infrastructure for BIG BENEFITS TO MN!
Grace Arnold, new Commissioner of Commerce reported after Commissioner Bishop, following on her lead, noting that getting pollution out of the air brings good health impacts. We spent about 20 minutes on these introductions for the MEQB. [And I have to say I CONTINUE to LOVE Jennifer Ho of Housing.] Nick Martin – newest MEQB member repping CD 4 – with background in electric, natural gas, transportation, ag, forestry sectors, spoke near the end. While I was a bit put off by his buzzword bingo, he made some interesting comments.
Ben Yawakie impressed with his comment:
… Loved what I’m hearing from everyone so I’ll just add something different and new. With respect to transitioning away from the use of fossil fuels, and also respecting tribal sovereignty and protecting water quality, by discontinuing any new projects such as Line 3. Thank you.
Benjamin Yawakie, Citizen Board Member CD 3 No, Ben. Thank YOU!!!! ❤
Gerald Van Amberg reiterated getting “everyone on board” to address climate change. At about 45 minutes in, I was wondering how we were going to get to all the introductions for the 15 new Climate Change Subcabinet appointees. Well, no worry. We weren’t! Instead, we got some brief talks about ideas to see what MN is looking to do with the Subcabinet. About 50 minutes in you can see the additional structure of our government workers who will be solving the climate crisis here in Minnesota.
Faith Krogstad, Engagement Coordinator for the MEQB, talked about Climate Change Public Engagement Framework. [So we’ll continue to know our place?] She extended an invitation for us all to get involved and presented some slides from places where engagement IS HAPPENING, like Create – The Community Meal [Seitu Jones’ 2014 project – which is cool as shit so watch this video]. Lots of word salad about how they need to think about new ways to engage but sounds like it’s still a thing they aren’t sure how to do… She mentions a “different table” to get Minnesotans engaged, which includes an interesting approach but not one that seems very “new”. Same old system where individual inputs get buried by “Multilevel” players… Does this mean corporations and partnerships with monied interests?
Of the presentations, the only one I really appreciated (as it was not simply word salad of imagined future worlds with no real indication on HOW to get there, as were most of the other presentations) was given by Mary Otto, Tribal Liaison from the Department of Commerce, on Government to Government interactions. Mary gives historical perspective and detailed information on the reciprocity expressed in Tribal Culture. She shows how the MN Tribal Environmental Committee (previously the MN Tribal Executive Committee?) and State Tribal Liaison Coordination Team (MDA, MDT, MPCA, MDOC) overlap in their work with MOTHER EARTH and FUTURE GENERATIONS. What a concept.
Next Mary Robinson, Info Officer from the MPCA leading Comms and Outreach, discussed the online tools (so not available for all Minnesotans?) and Willis must have been SO HAPPY to see them using the language of “framing”, even if not totally seeming to quite get it yet. While there was some recognition that climate change is already happening – and last month all 15 agencies in the subcabinet got a new toolkit!! – it still feels very much that these folks are truly clueless about the real needs for redressing our situation. You can take action on Local Impacts, State of MN Actions or Community Solutions! Plans are pending for further development! This problem is NOT TOO BIG OR TOO COMPLEX TO TACKLE! [You can also find the new appointments to the advisory council here… I think they believe that simply APPOINTING THE CABINET was a SOLUTION???] Mariah assured us that FUTURE MEETINGS would have opportunities for more engagement. [Promises, promises?]
Then we entered the Q&A section of the meeting! With reflections and responses from our Subcabinet and MEQB Board members? Um… Not so much.
You can see in the above photo of Mary Otto’s presentation, how I was questioning in the chat why MY question was not being approved… [Wondering now if I hadn’t asked, if it EVER would have been approved!]
I added a question at the same time as MEQB Citizen Board member Kristin Eide-Tollefson (1:50 PM), yet you can see that both Matt Doll – Minnesota Environmental Partnership and J Drake Hamilton – Executive Director of Fresh Energy were BOTH approved before mine. What does this say about the algorithm for approval? Who is making those decisions?
While members were encouraged to respond, I saw VERY LITTLE of that during the meeting. Our first question? About urban and community forests… and Shannon Lotthammer responded, noting the Emerald Ash Borer work from 2019… and other projects in progress but that there is more space for things to happen and they are looking for input.
When it came to the second question, Faith Krogstad noted:
Just want to acknowledge that we have a large number of Line 3 questions and that’s obviously a very important topic to a lot of people within the state here so what I would like to do is find (pause) I’m selecting one, um, that actually doesn’t specifically mention Line 3 but I would just ask that anyone responding to it keep Line 3 in mind, um, this one I’m highlighting now: What effective steps can Minnesotans and policy makers take to turn back future natural gas power plants and oil pipelines that will bring more oil through our state. All of these will build in more fossil use and hence climate change? Without effective action now we are derelict in our duties.”
Faith Krogstad 1:19:20 WTF!?!? Why they so scared of Line 3?
Laura Bishop, currently holding power to approve or deny needed permits for the project at the MPCA, responded.
I think, you know, our getting together as a Climate Subcabinet as well as um doing this outreach to our communities is that first step in really understanding across um our agencies a place that we can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. So that is what our intent is with lowering our GHG emissions in the state and the goals that we have in place and the intent to you know come together as a Climate Subcabinet is really getting at that.
With regard to specific to Line 3, what I will say is you know there are all different agencies that have different aspects and the Governor has really asked us to look at the process that is in place as well as follow the science and each agency has, you know, that uh those authorities to look at so, as you know, we have Commerce who has oversight, the Public Utilities Commission that has oversight, DNR has um some oversight for as it relates to different uh wetlands and water crossings, uh as does MPCA with the uh water permits and construction stormwater permits AND we have the Army Corps of Engineers as well that plays a role. So there are many different pieces that have to come together and um certainly a pipeline that does not have a um stated or demonstrated need for supply um is one that um is being looked at right now um so that it’s something the Department of Commerce is has asked for the company to really designate and state the need um for that supply that would be going through the state. Otherwise, what happens is really our duties, um are to look at uh the construction and uh how that comes through the state. So doesn’t really answer the full question, but um, I think it does get at uh what our intent is as a Subcabinet, which is to look at ways (to) mitigate and to decrease the use of these uh fossil fuels that are coming through our state and um certainly uh something that we intend to look at is ways to um bring down our greenhouse gasses through reducing that uh need.
Laura Bishop 1:20:11 – 1:22:50 is of interest as the MPCA has a “duty” to determine Need as well, but they ignored that duty, relying on the “Need” determined by the PUC.
She asked for others on the Subcabinet to speak to this… but no one bit. She moved to a question asking “what can we do”, noting:
… the agencies are really looking at and what we can do and do we have any authority to stop the project. I think what the question here is is really for our agencies to raise those questions so with is there the need, is it protective of our waters with this construction, if the state doesn’t act what happens with the federal government and their role in taking this on and their protections uh with regard to the water uh protections and as well as um really looking at uh those pieces I know there’s been questions about tribal sovereignty and tribal lands and certainly that is something that the tribes have looked at as well um in areas of tribal crossings but we know that hunting, gathering areas are also places that um our tribes have those concerns so those type of dialogues have been happening consistently um with regard to uh interactions by the administration and I know also um the within the communities.
Laura Bishop continues…ending 1:24:50
Which took us to the last question where Faith notes (after unmuting):
as I was saying, we’ve had a lot of questions on Line 3, um, and we really thank the audience members for submitting these important questions and for Commissioner Bishop responding to that. I’m gonna transition to another topic that’s popular here: ‘We often focus on mitigation and consider adaptation as an afterthought. Why aren’t adaptation efforts from and center, along with resilience.’
And I’ll leave you to listen to LB’s word salad at 1:25 and her toss to Frank for his work. All this lead me to add a final comment from the initial survey question:
Luckily we had many allies in attendance (among the 180 – the largest ever MEQB attendance?) as Dorie Reisenweber of Duluth asked to whom we could direct further questions and when comments would be closed. LB noted: This is not a formal comment period for the climate subcabinet but asked her folks if there is something on the climate change website. Or she said you can forward them to her as the Chair of the Subcommittee and that they will look at where we can gather comments. [Uh, if you’re presenting about engagement, think you’d know if there was a way for folks to leave input at the website? Maybe I’m too critical. They’re new, right? FFS.] Mary notes that there is a comment email on the website.
The last question was also pretty great – asking about capitalism and monetary incentives and how we drive policy to incentivize carbon-neutral practices. [Laura seriously mentioned permitting and how we can look at environmental justice committees in permitting work. Wow, like salt in the wound for all the Tribal members opposing Line 3 in the state? Pretty fucking harsh, LB… pretty fucking harsh.]
Meanwhile, Greta issued a response to the UK and their obtuse leaders who seem to ALSO not get the climate catastrophe we’re in and the urgent need for redress. The ask for no more fossil fuel infrastructure – especially for a tar sands pipeline of all fucking things – seems an easy place to start with a mitigation and adaptation decision.
Oh, and if you haven’t yet read Hank Green‘s new book (and the first one), you need to? Blogs on that too… as Water Protector work allows. As you can see, with an MEQB, MPCA, MDNR like the ones we have, it’s an uphill battle. Every day.
This is where we’re at, Minnesota. It’s time for a SOLID “NO” on Enbridge’s proposed Line 3.
Perhaps you watched on April 20thas oil hit a below-zero low at -$37.63/barrel? That’s a We’ll-Pay-You business model that just doesn’t work. And now, as many of the Supermajors are divesting of assets… those assets now include employees.
Other big oil firms are facing similar challenges. Rival BP has also cut its dividend and recently announced it was cutting 10,000 jobs out of its global workforce of 70,000.”
[That’s… almost 15% of its workforce.]
~ Shell to cut up to 9,000 jobs as oil demand slumps BBC News 9/30/20
Like other refiners in the United States, Marathon Petroleum – the biggest – is idling refinery capacity and cutting jobs to cope with the losses stemming from the demand crash in the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Exxon faces losses for a third straight quarter as demand continues to stagnate.
For the second quarter, Exxon reported at the end of July its second consecutive quarterly loss, which was the worst loss for the U.S. supermajor in its modern history.
Exxon booked a loss of US$1.1 billion for the second quarter due to the global oversupply and COVID-related demand impacts. This compares with earnings of US$3.1 billion for the same period last year.”
And… it seems not only has Big Oil been lying about Climate Change effects from their products for generations, but present-day oil gangsters are working to carefully prevent enough of us from realizing the sham as they work to hide the flaring of natural gas as they pull oil from the ground. Perhaps to prevent formation of a rebellion to stop them. [Spoiler alert: It’s too late.]
At a discussion convened last year by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, a group that represents energy companies, participants worried that producers were intentionally flaring, or burning off, far too much natural gas, threatening the industry’s image, according to a recording of the meeting reviewed by The New York Times.
“We’re just flaring a tremendous amount of gas,” said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, at the June 2019 gathering, held in Colorado Springs. “This pesky natural gas,” he said. “The value of it is very minimal,” particularly to companies drilling mainly for oil.
A well can produce both oil and natural gas, but oil commands far higher prices. Flaring it is an inexpensive way of getting rid of the gas.”
Yet the practice of burning it off, producing dramatic flares and attracting criticism, represented a “huge, huge threat” to the industry’s efforts to portray natural gas as a cleaner and more climate-friendly energy source, he said, and that was damaging the industry’s image, particularly among younger generations.
~ A Secret Recording Reveals Oil Executives’ Private Views on Climate Change by Hiroko Tabuchi 9-12-20
Some ~ already awakening to the alignment of the regulatory agencies and the oil industry dismissing concerns from landowners and environmentalists ~ are now calling for reforms. As we’ve seen with Line 3 here in Minnesota with the PUC, MPCA, and DNR, every step of the way favors industry over residents. Industry meets regularly in board rooms with no opposition ideas provided any space. Meanwhile, citizens perhaps get a 3-minute public comment, which is summarily ignored and gets no response from government agencies, as I reported a few weeks back. A short 2-minute video is included at this link.
And Scott Russell at Healing Minnesota Stories also wrote recently about the MEQB’s dismissal of the public voice while presenting the Minnesota State 2020 Water Plan, echoing my concerns regarding Indigenous Treaty Rights.
After nine speakers and roughly 20 minutes testimony, Bishop cut off additional Line 3 comments. “We should stick to the Water Plan and not the individual actions and projects,” she said. Comments on Line 3 “seem to be a bit beyond the Water Plan itself.”
Which is the problem in a nutshell. The EQB apparently doesn’t see a connection between the Water Plan and project-specific decisions state agencies have to make, on such things as permits for Line 3 or large feed lots.
Bishop started to move towards a vote, when Nookomis (Deb Topping), an enrolled member at Fond du Lac, asked to speak. She wanted to know if the EQB had consulted with any of the state’s Native Nations in developing the Water Plan and if anyone on the board was familiar with the Winters Doctrine.
No one knew about the Winters Doctrine. …
The EQB approved the Water Plan on a vote of 11-1.”
~ State’s new ‘Water Plan’ looks good on paper, critics say it lacks accountability by Scott Russell 10/2/20
Judge John Guthmann’s ruling in the evidentiary hearing in the case of the Environmental Protection Agency’s comments on the water pollution permit to mine for PolyMet issued by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency… showed that the MPCA attempted to delay the EPA from submitting comments critical of the PolyMet mining project until the public comment period had ended.
In a permitting case as risk-laden to the St. Louis River watershed and to Lake Superior as the PolyMet mine, such manipulation of public information is an extremely troubling failure of enforcement of regulatory protections. The public has a right to information pertinent to all regulatory enforcement. In this case, important EPA comments expressing grave concerns about the lack of water quality-based effluent limits were withheld.
Paula Maccabee, advocacy director and counsel for the nonprofit WaterLegacy, stated, “We didn’t learn about the EPA’s withheld comments through the MPCA’s permitting processes. These comments were revealed only due to confidential (whistleblower) sources and Freedom of Information Act lawsuits filed by WaterLegacy and settled by the federal government.”
The value of laws and safeguards rests on the trust of the people in their integrity and, just as importantly, their enforcement. Lapses or breaches of enforcement of environmental regulatory protections cannot be acceptable. Minnesotans demand a higher standard from all agencies entrusted with the care and protection of our natural resources for the sake of healthy communities across the state.”
~ Local View: Enforcement is key to environmental protections by Linda Herron | Oct 2nd 2020
And perhaps the corruption will get worse as fossil fuel magnates try to squeeze every penny they can from the ground as We Have Entered the “End Game” for Oil—With “Permanent Demand Destruction” noted in late July?
Indeed, every day renewables gets cheaper and cheaper. A paper published in the scientific journal Nature this week examined the potential for offshore wind competitiveness without any government subsidies.
The research examined wind power for five countries in Europe and found that offshore wind is going to be so cheap that it will soon no longer need government subsidies to compete, and that significant savings could soon be potentially passed on to consumers.
The lead researcher Dr. Malte Jansen, from the Center for Environmental Policy at Imperial College in London, said: “Offshore wind power will soon be so cheap to produce that it will undercut fossil-fueled power stations and may be the cheapest form of energy for the UK…This is an astonishing development.”
~ We Have Entered the “End Game” for Oil—With “Permanent Demand Destruction” by Andy Rowell 7/31/20
As the game gets desperate, will we see more desperados? Will Enbridge try to sneak in a bunch of workers from out of state as the election season distraction unfurls… thinking no one will notice?
We’re watching as it’s looking like they are planning just such a scheme. Word is that some areas along the proposed pipeline route are reporting local hotels booked solid as 2020 turns into 2021… Will Enbridge ignore the global calls to Keep Tar Sands in the Ground? Or will they bully their way through the wetlands of Minnesota, bringing their sludge pushing pipeline with them?
It’s been a bad year for Big Oil. A decade ago, a barrel of oil could fetch around $100. This year, prices briefly touched zero. With coronavirus lockdowns partially lifted, crude is now selling for $40 – $45. BP says demand for fossil fuels will drop 50% to 75% by 2050. On cue, Unilever just announced it will rid its cleaning products of fossil fuels by 2030, in the name of cutting carbon emissions.
Last year, after buying Anadarko, Occidental Petroleum Corporation was a $80 billion corporation. It’s now worth about $12 billion and selling off assets. U.S. shale celebrated its second acquisitions boom from 2016 to 2019; now, many of these deals won’t work. Lenders are shying away from fossil fuels, lest they get stuck with the stranded assets.
It’s worth noting that Salesforce.com, the company that just replaced ExxonMobil in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, produces carbon-tracking software so companies can disclose emissions data to shareholders. The writing is on the wall, boldface. …
Real Sustainability: Controlling Ourselves
Big Oil can’t go soon enough, but its replacements have to be used with care. Humans have already altered more than half of the Earth’s land surface. By August, just eight months into 2020, we used up the amount of resources it takes the planet a whole year to regenerate. A finite planet can’t take infinite growth—of our businesses or the Homo sapiens who run them.
We need to cut our energy use down. We need real plans to stop sprawl—especially now, as the remote work trend releases people from city living and allows them to head for the countryside.
If the pandemic can teach us to work without commuting, surely it can teach us to make peace with less extravagant lives. To shift from animal agribusiness to plant proteins. To stop binge flying. To hike locally, to more deeply appreciate the culture and beauty where we live. To wear condoms as well as masks. Eco-friendly ones, of course.
And, if they succeed, will we be better off than with their OLD Line 3?
A new tar sands pipeline is far more dangerous and costly than Enbridge would like us all to believe as they remind us every day of our budget shortfalls they can help remedy. And collusion with Enbridge comes at what cost to Minnesotans? Are we sacrificing our clean waters, our tourism, our own food production so that a Canadian corporation can transport the dirtiest of fossil fuels through our state to sell it globally?
It seems that Commissioner Laura Bishop at the MPCA is gearing up to permit Enbridge to decimate Northern Minnesota as they all (MPCA and Enbridge) pretend the fossil fuel industry has a future in tar sands infrastructure. I say the better path is to protect some of the cleanest NATURAL water infrastructure of Minnesota. It’s not only the path the public is urging the MPCA to take, it’s literally their mission.
Unfortunately, lots of marketing and cheerleading doesn’t protect the environment. And dreamy idealistic plans don’t equate with concrete goals and measurables that result in agency and corporate accountability. Perhaps this is why the water quality in Minnesota continues to degrade?
Hope the PUC, MPCA, DNR and other agencies will begin to listen.
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 will grant that the MEQB allowed public comment on the 2020 Water Plan. However, the meeting’s disabled Chat functionallowed 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.
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.
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.”
(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 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.”
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:
There were 15 speakers at MEQB and all expressed concerns about theWater Plan.
At one time there were 96 attendees in the meeting.
The Board voted with only one vote heeding the speakers.
Changes are being seen in the manoomin (wild rice), which is a product of its environment – like us all. Rice from Sandy Lake smells of gas and oil. Rice from Fond du Lac doesn’t smell or taste oily.
Understanding the Winter’s Doctrine allows the MEQB to comprehend their MORAL AND LEGAL obligations to Fond du Lac reservation, its Members, and the waters that serve them. These are Federal obligations to assure water rights for the Indigenous, as upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States.
If Manoomin (wild rice) is not protected, it will not thrive. Once Manoomin is gone, so is Anishinaabeg. THAT is the genocide ~ a systematic and purposeful elimination of a Culture and and a People.
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.
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 6/18 FIRST PREHEARING ORDER managed to include Paul… but concerned members of the public were out of the loop… unless they knew one of the attorneys or orgs and had insight to attend. [Luckily, I know people.]
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.
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!
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?