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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Speaker Daudt Pulls Ominous Move in Removal Of Rep. Wagenius

Category: Environment
Posted: 12/18/14 19:10

by Dave Mindeman

In an ominous move by soon to be Speaker Daudt, Rep. Jean Wagenius was kept off of the Environmental House Committee - even though she was the recommended Democratic lead by Minority Leader Paul Thissen.

Wagenius has a wealth of experience on the environmental front. First elected in 1986, she was the chair of the Environmental Committee during the previous session, but has now been blocked from even being on the committee.

Her new committee assignments will consist of Ways and Means which she has been on before and Capital Investment, where she has not served before.

I'm not sure I like the message that the new Speaker is sending here. Environmental policy is a complicated animal. Tossing away a legislator with over 2 decades of experience in environmental public policy has the look of a deliberate change in public policy.

Rep. Denny McNamara will chair this committee - not exactly a friend of the environment. Look for some restriction easing in regards to standards for sulfides in the water table and other Polymet favorable changes.

Rep. Wagenius would be a leadership voice and a strong counter argument for environmental changes. Apparently Speaker Daudt has decided that her expertise and experience are no longer required.

The last time the GOP moved as a majority on environment with a bill in 2011, Rep. Wagenius had this to say....

"For Minnesotans who value our clean waters, this is going to leave a very bad aftertaste," said Wagenius. "The Republicans are gutting the funds used to protect drinking water sources and neglecting a core government responsibility to ensure we are keeping our natural resources clean and protected for the next generation."

I guess with thoughts like that, Rep. Wagenius needs to take her opinions elsewhere.

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Climate Change = It's Now Irreversible

Category: Environment
Posted: 11/06/14 15:00

by Dave Mindeman

Climate deniers and Sen. Inhofe can skip all this, because they will refuse to accept it - but this does concern me. A statement from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)....you remember, those pesky scientists.....

The Earth is locked on an "irreversible" course of climatic disruption from the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and the impacts will only worsen unless nations agree to dramatic cuts in pollution, an international panel of climate scientists warned Sunday.

That's an attention getting word - "irreversible". The crux of the matter is that we cannot reverse the damage anymore. All we can do is slow down the damage to the point that we will have a chance to adapt to the changes.

We have crossed a line....and we cannot fix it anymore.

As I examined election information yesterday, it was worth noting that 12% of the electorate was under 30....just 12%. Climate changes will have some effect on my generation, but we probably won't have to make a lot of significant lifestyle changes.

But young people will. This is their future being affected. And unless they begin to choose to participate in elections, then they will abdicate all the decisions regarding climate to a generation that has damaged it beyond repair.

Please all of you that have a long future ahead of you -- THINK ABOUT IT AND PLEASE ACT.
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North Dakota Doubles Down On Dirty Energy

Category: Environment
Posted: 10/23/14 12:25

by Dave Mindeman

I grew up in North Dakota. I graduated from North Dakota State - go Bison! So I have some deep roots there. I have deep philosophical and political differences with my home state - but you learn to accept things the way they are.

But North Dakota is jeopardizing its future in a way that will be difficult to extricate itself. It is a state heavily dependent on energy resources. The oil and gas fracking industry is now deeply embedded into North Dakota's financial structure. And that is part of their future problem.

However, they are doubling down. A recent news release shows that North Dakota is going to begin a return to coal mining. The Coyote Creek Mine will occupy over 8,000 acres near Beulah, North Dakota. It is an extremely rural area - low population. That part of North Dakota can probably withstand a mining operation for the present. But it is the future I worry about.

Despite what you hear there is no viable method of clean coal. And North Dakota is predominantly lignite coal.....

Lignite coal has a low carbon content (25-35%) but a high percentage of water (30-40%) making it uneconomical to ship. All the power plants in ND are near the coal mining fields where the coal can be burned on site rather than ship as is done with the harder more efficient coals of the Powder River Basin (Wyoming) or Appalachia (WV, KY). Lignite has abundant impurities. Among the impurities is particularly high emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Because of that high CO2 content, there have been attempts to some valiant attempts to sequester that carbon in the ground at North Dakota coal plants. But what they have done so far is a blip on the radar and the fact that they are using lignite makes the CO2 release much to high to get any real benefit from the small sequestering efforts.

North Dakota has not had a new coal plant since the 1970's. But if this new permit is any indication of a renewed commitment by North Dakota to coal, then we all will pay a price.

Coal is not the future source of energy production. We need to gradually eliminate coal from the mix and we can actually do that if we get more production from renewables. We are actually almost to that point. North Dakota relies on coal for a lot its electricity. And that may work in a low population state where people have plenty of available space to steer clear of the production sites. But the pollution released affects everyone.

New coal plants are not necessary. And the more you build the harder they become to get rid of. Because of the jobs and because of the areas that become dependent on the power production. It becomes a local political football and we already have squeamish politicians when it comes to shutting down dirty coal plants.

North Dakota was, for a time, the home of Teddy Roosevelt. He came there to let the wide open, clean spaces heal his soul. He loved his time here and talked of it often, but he would be saddened by the danger his pristine Badlands is in because of the ever growing tentacles of big oil, gas, and coal in the wide open spaces of North Dakota.

It is hard enough to deal with the fracking in the Bakken Fields. There are unknown future problems there. But to reposition coal in an already very dirty mix is just not very smart in terms of looking to the future.

The permit has been approved and there is no going back now. But I hope that, at some point, North Dakota will reexamine what it is doing. They may look back on this time and have a future conversation that looks at the big mistake they made right here, right now.

Coal is NOT the future.
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