Scott's Blog


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

Children and Climate Change

Excellent collection of articles in the Spring 2016 issue of The Future of Children (a Princeton/Brookings collaboration) on children and climate change. These are not bland admonitions to do something "for the kids," but a series of hard-headed analyses of costs, benefits, and intergenerational equity. Definitely worth a read.

Can Minneapolis reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050?

The answer is yes, says a new report from Siemens. The focus on buildings and transportation in the report is very important, because, with so much attention on the supply side (retiring coal plants), the "demand" side may not get the attention it deserves.


Using municipal solid waste to produce energy is controversial, primarily because of local air emissions around plants. A new report from Berkeley Law suggests a set of policy options that would maximize the environmental and clean energy benefits of these facilities, without reducing incentives for source reduction and recycling.

More on kids' climate change litigation

An organization called Our Children's Trust has been filing lawsuits and petitions all over the country to try to force federal and state governments to take more serious action on climate change. They scored another victory late last week, when a Seattle judge ordered the Washington Department of Ecology to produce an emissions reduction plan in time for next year's legislative session. Most of these cases have been dismissed, but the recent favorable rulings in Oregon and now Washington suggest that a judicial role in climate policy is not far-fetched.

Lead in the water

Excellent primer on lead issues from our friends at the NRDC. We've made enormous progress in getting lead out of the air, but are still way short of where we need to be on lead in the water. This is not just about Flint. This is a national problem.

Worldwide movement toward carbon pricing

Interesting article in the New York Times on World Bank and IMF efforts to get countries to adopt carbon taxes or cap-and-trade programs. MCEA hopes that the recent administrative law judge recommendation that Minnesota adopt the federal "social cost of carbon" is a first step here. And, as many of you know, Washington state has a carbon tax initiative on the ballot this year.

Flint is hardly alone

Good, kind of wonky article about drinking water infrastructure, focusing on technology and financing: "Our drinking water systems are a disaster. What can we do?" 

Criminal charges coming out of the Flint water crisis

Reports are coming in that three of the state and local officials responsible for drinking water problems in Flint are going to be subjected to criminal charges. My understanding is that adding corrosion inhibitors to drinking water supplies is pretty routine when lead pipes are involved. If the reason this was not done was just to save a few dollars to appease the state officials trying to cut all costs at Flint, somebody probably should go to jail.

Half the US Population Still Breathes Unhealthy Air

The American Lung Association has its annual "State of the Air" report out. It shows progress on clean air during the 2012-2014 period studies, but still much farther to go to meet air quality standards. Minneapolis-St. Paul gets a "D" for ground-level ozone and a "B" for fine particulates. If we can get those numbers down--clean up smog in the summer, and soot in the winter--we can make enormous public health strides. That means continuing to close coal-fired power plants, retiring or retrofitting old diesel engines, reducing residential wood smoke, improving practices in typically smaller businesses where volatile organic compounds get released, and reducing overall miles traveled in vehicles running on fossil fuels. It's hard to know how a city like Bakersfield can get out of its air pollution mess, but we can certainly do much better here.

Continuing lead problems

Excellent Last Week Tonight episode, where John Oliver addresses our ongoing lead problem. MCEA has pushed for lower health action levels for lead. As we all know from Flint, there are issues throughout the country with lead contamination in water pipes, but the more serious problem remains ingestion of lead paint. He points out the hypocrisy of members of Congress expressing "concern" about lead in Flint, while they vote to cut spending on lead abatement every year.

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