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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Earth Day Thoughts On Polymet And Oil Transport

Category: Environment
Posted: 04/22/18 13:19

by Dave Mindeman

It's Earth Day and a good time to talk about Minnesota's environmental concerns.

Number one on that list is Polymet Mining. The controversy in the 8th district centers around the Polymet proposal to open up a copper/nickel sulfide mine. This is a highly risky venture because the waste products are hazardous to the environment. The Boundary Waters will be at risk.

Granted, this will create a few jobs - I believe the number is around 300. But can we balance that with any risk analysis that is in play here? I'm not sure we can.

A big concern is Polymet's plan for storing waste...

A hulking, man-made earthen dike that will stretch for miles and reach 252 feet high when finished, the dam will hold back millions of gallons of water mixed in a slurry with finely ground rock left over after crushing and processing -- after the copper, nickel and other valuable metals are extracted.

A breach of this dam (not an impossible thought) would be catastrophic. There have been two such breaches at similar type mines...

Disastrous tailings basin dam failures happened in 2014, at the Mount Polley copper/gold mine in British Columbia, flooding downstream lakes with mine waste; and in 2015 at an iron ore mine in Brazil, killing 19 people and destroying downstream villages.

Of course, Polymet says that "cannot" happen here, but what else are they going to say? This kind of breach would destroy land surrounding that area - trying to reclaim it would be difficult and very, very costly.

To me, this seems to be too great a risk for the benefit. There are other places to mine and there are other jobs to be had....especially in renewable energy.

One mistake or breach will have far reaching effects.

My second environmental concern is oil pipelines. But here, I may have a different take. Pipelines have their concerns but the transport of oil is not something we are going to stop anytime soon. Not unless renewable energy is produced at a much faster pace.

And since oil will be transported regardless, if pipelines are blocked, then it will be transported by rail cars. To me, this is far more concerning. Pipelines will have ruptures and cause environmental havoc to be sure, but rail cars can explode and since they go through populated areas, they will cause casualties and deaths.

Now I do not fault people who protest pipelines. In fact, I still support their cause. The scrutiny of pipeline building and its safety needs to be vetted thoroughly. But if we must still transport the oil, I would rather use pipelines that can be routed through sparsely populated areas than using rail transportation.

The overall solution, once again, is a reduction in our dependence on fossil fuels. This needs to be accelerated and maybe someday, pipelines and oil itself will be a thing of the past.

Let's focus on that for Earth Day and redouble our efforts.
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There Are More Houstons To Come

Category: Environment
Posted: 08/28/17 13:05

by Dave Mindeman

Houston is the 4th largest city in the US. It is built on the coast. It is built over marshland.

In a country run by climate deniers, Houston is not just a disaster but it is also a symptom. A symptom we need to react to and plan for.

The global temperature is warming...faster than predicted. And ignoring the effects is not only a state of denial, it is a tragic mistake. Our coastline cities are vulnerable to events like Houston is experiencing. And we still have not properly protected New Orleans from another Katrina like event.

Are we going to band aid these disaster as they come up with massive investments in emergency services? or are we going to make the harder decision of investments in prevention.

We seem to be in love with ocean front housing. We move farther out and on shakier foundations. We build houses on stilts as if that is smart thinking. We reclaim land from the sea only to give it back quickly and at devastating costs.

The ocean is going to reclaim more land. And storms are going to get worse and with more devastating consequences. Our coastlines need better management and better planning. It is flat out wrong to subsidize this foolishness. And it is unfair to the rest of American taxpayers to pay for rebuilding on unsafe ground.

We have past the point of stopping global warming. Let's face facts. We can only hope to contain it some and that would require a political philosophy shift. One that again has been delayed by an election gone wrong.

Instead of making Al Gore the focus of ridicule, how about we listen to his message. He has been right about climate change. And all the denials and made up facts from the other side have been proved wrong or undergone yet another talking point revision.

Houston is a symptom of a broader coming catastrophe. The ongoing debate about those effects is a foolish waste of time. Time we may have less of than before. Time we may regret with our inaction.

The simple truth is that we must have a drastic political change. We need climate to come to the forefront of current debate. We need to get rid of fossil fuel industry doctored facts and advertising tripe.

There are more Houstons waiting in the wings. We need to address that emergency - but we need to look ahead and get realistic about coastal development and protection.
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We Are Heating The Planet - And Doing Little To Stop It

Category: Environment
Posted: 08/02/17 01:07

by Dave Mindeman

It is getting very discouraging. Climate scientists are almost beyond the point of warnings - now they are trying to let us know what we should expect and try to prepare for it. New studies are out.

From environmentalist, Bill McKibben, familiar with 2 new studies:

"These studies are part of the emerging scientific understanding that we're in even hotter water than we'd thought. We're a long ways down the path to disastrous global warming, and the policy response -- especially in the United States -- has been pathetically underwhelming."

Underwhelming is probably an understatement. The US, under Trump, is actively undermining the little progress we have made.

"The 2 degree mark -- that's 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit -- was set by the 2016 Paris Agreement....If we surpass that mark, it has been estimated by scientists that life on our planet will change as we know it. Rising seas, mass extinctions, super droughts, increased wildfires, intense hurricanes, decreased crops and fresh water and the melting of the Arctic are expected. The impact on human health would be profound. Rising temperatures and shifts in weather would lead to reduced air quality, food and water contamination, more infections carried by mosquitoes and ticks.

One of the studies concludes that even if we could cut off emissions in the next 15 years (assuming that we act with intensity world wide), we still will reach 3 degrees Celsius by 2100.

We keep thinking that we just have to do something...off somewhere in the future. But these studies indicate that the baseline we are establishing now is not something we can really reverse. We can only put the damage to the climate on hold...and only if we seriously act.

We are once again beyond climate "change" - we are heating up the planet.
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