Blog from Scott Strand, Executive Director

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Read Scott's thoughts on important environmental issues in Minnesota, the United States, and worldwide.


Mount Polley and the U.S.

Strong blog entry in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer making the case for U.S. State Department intervention on copper mining issues in British Columbia after the Mount Polley tailings basin collapse.  With it now appearing that engineering concerns about the Mount Polley facility were ignored in 2010, the blog argues that the BC government has lost all credibility.

New "waters of the US" rule "scientifically sound"

The EPA's independent Science Advisory Board (SAB) released a draft report finding that the controversial "waters of the US" rule is well-grounded from a scientific basis.  The one major criticism is that the definition should be extended to groundwater, because of the interrelationship with surface waters.  This may not do any good, because the issue has become wholly politicized, but perhaps it can help stiffen some spines in the US Senate. (The House has already voted to overturn the proposed rule.)

Strong Climate Change Editorial

Nice editorial on how actions on climate are not matching the rhetoric.  Note particularly the growing global consensus around a carbon tax.

What is China doing?

"What is China doing?" is one of the standard retorts when policymakers here in the U.S. are urged to do something about climate change.  The current Rolling Stone has a nice article on what China is doing, as well as the diplomatic efforts underway to try to make next year's big climate conference in Paris successful.

Progress on greenhouse gas emissions thrown into reverse

For four of the past five years, US greenhouse gas emissions have been down.  But last year, they were up 2.5%, as the economy recovered and there was more reliance on coal-fired power.  Bad news in light of yesterday's climate marches and the convening of the UN climate summit this week. (links to the studies themselves are at the end of the online article).

More copper mine problems

Again, as with the recent Mount Polley disaster in British Columbia, there has been another breach of containment ponds, causing the release of  millions of gallons of contaminated water into nearby rivers and polluting the drinking water.  This time it is in Mexico.

Mercury and the St. Louis River

Good editorial today in the Duluth News Tribune about the need to reduce mercury levels in the St. Louis River.  Many environmentalists in Minnesota have been critical of the MPCA, believing that is moving too slowly or, worse, that it is caving in to mining interests whose contaminated water is getting into the river.  MPCA obviously disputes that, but, to its credit, MPCA is participating (up to and including the commissioner) in a forum this evening in Duluth to talk about what they are actually doing.  We hope that is a fruitful discussion.

Enbridge Pipeline: Can you divide up a project into small pieces to avoid environmental review?

Enbridge, the giant pipeline company that is proposing to dramatically increase the amount of tar sands oil moving through Minnesota, is trying to avoid serious federal environmental review of their plan to increase the amount of oil going through its "Alberta Clipper" pipeline.  Because the pipeline crosses the international border, it requires State Department approval and normally environmental review before a permit can be granted.  Enbridge, however, is now saying it will divert the oil into an already-permitted pipeline, just to get it over the border, and then run it through the Alberta Clipper once it's in the U.S.  Their argument is that State Department review can be limited to the short segment that crosses the border, and not include the rest of the project.  So far, the state department is buying that, but environmental groups are challenging this attempt to get around the rules.  Here is a good summary of the case, featuring a quote from MCEA board member Alex Klass.

Fixing Climate Change Can Be Free

New York Times piece today on a new report that debunks the notion that fixing climate change means an era of sacrifice and slower economic growth.  The issue should be less about "shared sacrifice" and more about "smart investments."

Germany leading the way on renewables

Thoughtful, thorough front-page article in the Sunday New York Times on Germany's rapid transition away from fossil fuels and nuclear toward renewable energy sources, and the disruptive effect it is having on electric utility business models.  Lots of references to US utilities trying to figure out whether to fight renewables, embrace renewables, evolve into the backup energy source rather than the primary, and so on, and different state regulatory approaches.  As the first big industrial power to make such a substantial push toward renewables, Germany may well set the rules for the new energy economy that is coming.

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