Just how low can an ENGO go?

Demand that “Conservation Minnesota” sever ties with incineration giant Covanta

It’s no secret that many mainstream ENGOs (“Environmental Non Governmental Organizations,” more simply “Environmental Groups”) have slipped more and more into the pockets of the polluters they are supposed to be opposing.  As they’ve made their transitions from member-support to grant-support, they’ve lost control of their own agendas, and, in many cases, have lost their souls.  So now, hearing from one, we don’t know whether it’s really Pew talking, or the Energy Foundation, or Monsanto, or Chesapeake Energy, or Covanta, or Waste Management, or whatever….

But personally, I’m not seen anything as nauseating at the “partnership” between “Conservation Minnesota” (closely tied to the League of Conservation Voters) and giant garbage burner operator Covanta. Continue Reading →

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“Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Mayor Egan’s go to go!”

In Red Wing, Minnesota, a small city threatened by big-time frac sand mining, Mayor Dennis Egan says he’s going to work for the frac sand mining industry, as Executive Director of the Minnesota Industrial Sand Council, but also intends to remain as mayor.

The Red Wing City Council meets Monday, Feb. 11, 2012, at 7:00.   Under Red Wing’s Charter, the Council has the power to remove the mayor.

Please add YOUR voice to those calling upon the Red Wing City Council to remove Mayor Dennis Egan.  Emails for City Council members are right below:

sebion3@gmail.com, lisa.bayley@ci.red-wing.mn.us, deanhove@charter.net, michael.v.schultz@charter.net, peggy.rehder@ci.red-wing.mn.us, ralph.rauterkus@ci.red-wing.mn.us, marilyn.meinke@ci.red-wing.mn.us

For background, including links to stories in the mainstream media, see Carol Overland’s blog, legalectric.org.

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Where does Red Wing Mayor Dennis Egan really live?

His facebook page says he lives in St. Paul.  At least at the moment.

Screen shot taken this afternoon.

We called Mayor Egan to ask him.  So far, haven’t heard back from him.

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The MPCA’s official “Metro Solid Waste Plan:” Burn, baby, burn!

These are comments submitted on the MPCA’s “Metro Solid Waste Plan”  in November, 2010.  The PCA didn’t pay much attention.  Read for yourself.

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Comments on the “Minnesota Environment and Energy Report Card”

The Environmental Quality Board (EQB) solicited comments on its Report Card, developed per Gov. Dayton’s Executive Order 11-32. I sent some in, which are below, and would encourage people to send something in.  The so-called “Environmental Congress” is happening on march 15th in Bloomington (public apparently not invited). Continue Reading →

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Bogus “Community Forum” on frac sand mining in Red Wing, Minnesota

Letter to the Editor
Red Wing Republican Eagle

On Nov. 15th “Red Wing 2020,” an advisory committee to Mayor Egan, is holding a “Community Forum” on Frac Sand mining (http://bit.ly/SAiT6O).

All of the presenters are state officials: no community representatives are on the panel.  It seem obvious that a “community forum” should include community representatives.

The oil and gas people have huge resources they are bringing to bear to try to impose their will on our city and county.  A basic question is whether an adequate regulatory framework is in place to ensure that frac sand mining, should it occur locally, would not harm community health, quality of life, or our economy.  Residents, many involved with Save-The-Bluffs (https://sites.google.com/site/savethebluffs/), have studied this concern and concluded that the answer is “no.”  These insights should be included in the “community” program.

On the other hand, state officials, no matter how technically competent–I know and respect many of the scheduled presenters–are probably not in a position to be candid and objective about the adequacy of state regulatory programs.

I hope Mayor Egan and his advisors will rethink their approach to this forum and add several community representatives to the panel.

Elected officials should treat their constituents as citizens to be empowered, not children to be instructed.

Alan Muller
1110 West Avenue
Red Wing
302.299.6783

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Personal letter objecting to wolf hunting and trapping

October 23, 2012

 

Mr. Tom Landwehr, Commissioner
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Dear Commissioner Landwehr:

I was outraged when the Minnesota DNR announced a hunting season on sandhill cranes. I am now equally outraged at the current wolf hunt. One wonders if the DNR is planning to make a habit of declaring “open season” on delisted, Federally-endangered species. Continue Reading →

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Great news from Green Bay, WI — garbage burner permit revoked

[People in Green Bay have put up a great fight against this burner scheme.  One should not assume the fight is over, as it sounds like there could be a veto, but this is still really good news.  Note that the reporter uses misleading terminology such as “trash-recycling energy plant.”  /am] Continue Reading →

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Welcome….

Subscribe to my Minnesota Energy and Environment (Etc.) mailing list.

Minnesota is rich in blogs, and alternative media such as The Uptake .  Is another blog really needed?  Good question!   My main reason for setting it up is to have a place to archive and link to various emails and posts. Continue Reading →

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Reminder: TODAY – Greenhouse gas hearing Thursday, August 30th, 2:00, at the MPCA

 

At least 43 people asked for this hearing; the requests, from around the state, make very clear that Minnesotans know what’s at stake and what needs to be done. One of my favorites is one of the shortest, from David Luce: “People, I add my voice to the request for a hearing. We are already way late on this and the longer we delay the worse it will surely get. Forget the difficulties, think of the kids. Thank you.”

An irony of all this is that many people in the Pollution Control Agency also know what needs to be done. The MPCA has a climate change page with a lot of information. Last year the PCA had a good global warming exhibit at the State Fair. (I heard that some Republican pols complained about it.) This year, I am told, “we didn’t back off at all” and the info is beefed up. (Haven’t yet been to the Fair myself this year.)

Minnesota has a Next Generation Energy Act, passed in 2007 with strong bipartisan support: “Effective Aug. 1, 2007, the law calls for cutting the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 15 percent below 2005 base levels by 2015, 30 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050. (Art. 5, Sec. 2)”

So if the people know what needs to be done, and the MPCA knows what needs to be done, and state law calls for it to be done, why is the MPCA proposing a regulation so weak as to throw out a key opportunity to regulate greenhouse gases?

For one thing, many of the activities officially promoted by the Legislature and the PCA as climate change solutions really accelerate climate change. These include garbage incineration, “biomass” burning, turkey poop burning, and corn ethanol distilling. These are high-carbon-emitting processes that can’t stand up to examination either in environmental review or permitting. (Wind power is probably the only politically-favored industry that does tend to reduce carbon emissions,but anyone following this industry in Minnesota knows it has plenty of issues of its own.)

The other approach that has proven politically possible involves various sorts of “offset” and emissions trading schemes. Some of these, such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative of some Northeastern states, may have a small beneficial effect. In general, though, years of experience clearly shows that these schemes mostly serve to enrich speculators and manipulators while creating a false illusion of progress.

The budgets of the MPCA and other regulatory agencies have been slashed, and they attempt to operate without sufficient staff or resources. Increasingly, MPCA staff are being expected to function less as regulators and more as skid-greasers for politically favored industries….

Minnesota politics, like US national politics, have largely descended into idiocy, with the likes of the Koch Brothers and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce calling the tunes for both parties.

In any case, there is little hope of reducing climate changing emissions if we don’t use existing laws such as the Clean Air Act and related state laws and take action. These laws and programs are hard to understand in detail–the lingo is obscure, there are numerous interlinked Federal and Minnesota statutes, rules and regulations, policies and procedures….citizens are at a great disadvantage in disputing the fine details. But the bigger picture is clear enough, and that’s what we should focus on.

A little background:

The Clean Air Act wasn’t written with greenhouse emissions in mind, but rather to control the traditional, health-damaging pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and ozone. The common breakpoint for being considered a single “major source” of such pollutants, and requiring “permitting” of same, is 100 tons per year. (This, by the way, is why so many Minnesota air permits have limits of 95 tons or so!) The conventional argument goes that this number is too low for carbon dioxide, or carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) which tries to factor in emissions of some other climate-changing gases such as methane. That CO2 is emitted in much larger amounts than other air pollutants (true enough) and a 100 ton limit would include heating systems for small commercial buildings, large homes, etc. The US EPA swallowed this argument whole and went for a limit one thousand times higher: 100,000 tons. Minnesota already adopted this number for environmental review, largely taking the Minnesota Environmental Policy out of play as a tool for controlling global warming. Now, the Dayton administration wants to adopt this same number for air permitting, taking the Clean Air Act out of play.

So the challenge for those of us wanting a future is to figure out what numbers we favor at this time, and how to advocate for them successfully.

EPA requires some reporting of greenhouse emissions. “Facilities that emit 25,000 metric tons or more per year of GHGs are required to submit annual reports to EPA.”

Data for Minnesota are here, but presented such that it is hard to analyze. It appears that 132 facilities reported 2010 data. Of those, 18 reported emissions below 25,000 tons, leaving a total of 114 facilities reporting emission above 25,000 tons. Of these, 46 reported emissions above 100,000 tons. (These, of course, include only large “stationary” sources. “Mobile” and “area” sources, such as cars and trucks, are a big part of the picture but not included here.)

“Permitting,” or “environmental review” for that matter, in no way ensures that CO2 emissions would have to be reduced. That depends on how the rules are written. In some cases, like an existing coal powered generating station, there are no practical ways to substantially reduce CO2 emissions other than to shut it down or run it less. It only implies that some consideration will be given to CO2-e emissions.

My own thinking, at the moment, is that the 100 ton limit ought to remain for CO2-e as for other pollutants, but permitting attention should be phased in, starting with the higher emitters. Facilities emitting 25,000 tons should receive immediate attention by means of reopening their air permits. Other existing permitted facilities could get attention as their permits come up for renewal, in a timely manner. (This is a crucial point because the MPCA air permitting program is generally ignoring expired permits.) New facilities likely to emit 100 tons per year would be next in line. Existing facilities emitting 100 tons per year, but not now permitted, would come after then. But these are only Muller’s thoughts and discussion is needed.

Additional resources would be needed to carry this out, but, again, as Mr. Luce said: “We are already way late on this and the longer we delay the worse it will surely get. Forget the difficulties, think of the kids. Thank you.”

The hearing this afternoon will not be an end point, but it could be a beginning. The Minnesota Administrative Rules for rulemaking hearings allow good opportunities for the public to participate, to ask questions, to get more information…. If the Administrative Law Judge follows these rules, if the PCA answers questions in good faith, if citizens show up and participate–these are all big IFs!–we may have a beginning of something very important.

Thanks again to Ken Pentel for his prodding about this.

Alan Muller

 

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