Month: November 2017

Wild Rice Sulfate Standard Statement

Better In Our Back Yard writes today to express our concerns regarding the new wild rice sulfate standard proposed by MPCA. We care about wild rice and believe it’s important to protect the state grain, but we do not think either the current or proposed standard is necessary for many reasons:

 

Increasing Uncertainty

The MPCA recently admitted the current sulfate standard isn’t necessary to protect wild rice in many water bodies throughout Minnesota. Their attempt to create a new standard based on sulfide also raises significant concerns.

 

It is unclear whether wild rice will be more abundant after the standard changes. At a meeting earlier this year, an MPCA official was asked if the proposed standard would result in more abundant rice. Their answer stated that based on the research, there may be no benefit to the wild rice species. Why are we pursuing this new rule if the research shows that there could be no benefit at all?

 

The equation used to set proposed standard predicts the incorrect outcome up to one out of five times. This level of uncertainty is unacceptable. It doesn’t make sense to invest time and money in establishing a water quality standard that is not proven to protect wild rice.

 

Costly Investment

Research has also shown that there is only one water treatment solution to comply with either the sulfate or sulfide standard – reverse osmosis. Reverse osmosis water treatment facilities and equipment require a very high investment to install and operate – estimates from industry show it will cost billions of dollars. Compliance with the proposed standard would be costly and could result in the closure of some Minnesota iron mines due to the proposed investment to it. How would those closures affect our communities?

 

There is also a large investment to local communities, households and businesses in our region to comply with the standard. Other communities have proven that installing reverse osmosis systems increase water bills for individual citizens by a large margin. Can the region withstand even more utility bill increases?

 

Minnesota legislators had the same questions, which is why in the 2017 Session they passed legislation extending the MPCA’s timeline to complete an economic impact analysis before publishing the proposed rule. However, the MPCA chose not to do so, even though the economic impact analysis will be complete in May 2018.

 

It is irresponsible to move forward with either a sulfate or sulfide rule before determining how it will affect Minnesotans’ everyday lives – especially when it’s based on bad science that will fail to have the desired effect on wild rice crops 20 percent of the time.

 

Regional Strength and Prosperity

Iron ore mining is the strongest industry in northeast Minnesota. For more than 130 years, Minnesota’s iron mines have helped build our region, state, and nation. A sulfate or sulfide standard could have a large economic impact on the region, potentially taking attention and investments away from job growth and new projects in the area. More research needs to be done on the impacts any standard could have on jobs, the economy and the cost of living before this rule moves any further. Especially since there’s no proof a standard helps wild rice, which is the original purpose and intent.

 

Make Your Voice Heard 

How can you share your opinion on the wild rice sulfate standard? The public comment period is open until 4:30pm on November 22, 2017. Learn how to submit comments online through http://taconite.org/call2action. We encourage you to share your opinions and thoughts regarding this proposed rule by tomorrow afternoon.

We Stand with Enbridge

Those of us at Better In Our Back Yard write today to express our support of Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Project. We’re ready for this project to move forward because it stands to benefit our great state in so many ways.

We Want a Stronger Minnesota Economy

We all live in Minnesota for a few reasons:

  1. We love all the outdoor amenities our great state provides.
  2. We’re able to make a good living here – and we depend on a diverse and strong economy to supply the good-paying jobs we need. A study by Richard Lichty, Professor Emeritus from University of Minnesota – Duluth, concluded that “Construction of the Project will have significant economic benefits to Minnesota economy.” This includes positive financial impacts before, during and after construction.
  3. We’re ready for the $2.5 billion economic boost and 13,000+ jobs the Line 3 project is positioned to provide. We also believe this project increase the ability of Enbridge to serve refineries in Minnesota and Wisconsin, which leads to the retention of thousands of high-paying refinery jobs.

 

We Care About Environmental Safety

The bottom line is that the new Line 3 will improve safety for workers, landowners and communities while reducing the impact of maintenance of the existing Line 3 pipeline. Replacement of Line 3 will help ensure a stable supply of oil is transported safely through our state. Today, pipeline transport is the safest, most efficient and least costly way to transport oil – and it is far safer than shipping by trucks or trains.

 

We Support Our Local Communities

It’s not just labor, construction or refinery jobs that will see a boost from the Line 3 project. Local businesses in the retail, hospitality and food services sector will also see positive impacts. Enbridge invested over $12 million in community strengthening initiatives across North America. By focusing on safety, environmental and social issues, Enbridge leaves a lasting impact on the communities they serve.
 

We Stand with Enbridge

We stand with Enbridge because we trust Enbridge. Plain and simple. Enbridge has a long history of success as a North American leader in the transportation of oil and natural gas. Enbridge moves 28% of the crude oil produced in North America and they move it safely over 15,000+ miles of pipeline. Enbridge is also investing in renewable energy technology, and has nearly 3,000 megawatts of net renewable generation and power transmission capacity. That’s something we can get behind.

 

Have Your Voice Heard 

How can you share your support for industry and Line 3? The public comment period in connection with the public hearings being held on the certificate of need and route permit applications is open until 4:30pm on November 22, 2017. Comments may be submitted online by going to the following: https://mn.gov/puc/line3/participate/comment/. We encourage you to share your opinions and thoughts supporting this project with your personalized experiences and history with the region.

Conversations To Be Had In The Middle

Supporters of responsible industry and their opposition are getting more and more accustomed to attending public hearings across the state to make their voices heard.

The most recent of these hearings have been on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA)’s proposed wild rice sulfate rule. These hearings were held in St. Paul, Virginia, Bemidji, and Cloquet last week; there was another Monday in Brainerd, and hearings wrap up with a video conference today (Thursday).

Better In Our Back Yard’s members have been present for all the wild rice hearings, and one thing has become abundantly clear about the opposing viewpoints – they agree more often than they disagree.

On both sides, people are fighting passionately to preserve their way of life. Both sides are proud to continue long legacies of providing for their families and sustaining their communities – whether with wild rice or iron mining. Both sides feel the proposed standard is a direct attack on the way they and their families have supported themselves and their communities.

On both sides, people are tired of traveling all over the state to fight for their way of life. At the Virginia hearing, an iron miner said he and his co-workers continue to miss time with their families traveling the state to fight to keep the mines open. They’re exhausted, he said. At the Cloquet hearing, Winona LaDuke said traveling the state is impossible for many low-income tribe members who may not have access to vehicles. The process is exhausting, she said.

On both sides, people want to see wild rice protected. This was made clear by every speaker at every hearing – wild rice is an important grain that must be protected. Not one speaker said they didn’t care about wild rice.

On both sides, people do not believe the current standard will sufficiently protect wild rice. Both sides agree the proposed standard is too confusing and can’t be consistently enforced. Furthermore, iron miners and wastewater treatment operators contend this proposal and its preceding standard are based on bad science.

This is where the opposing sides differ. While industry supporters don’t believe a sulfate standard is necessary at all, based on scientific studies that show sulfate doesn’t affect wild rice until very high levels –  the opposition believes the standard should not be changed from the 10 mg/L – unless it is to go lower.

The most alarming difference is that while industry supporters believe we can (and do) mine iron ore better and cleaner than anywhere in the world, the opposition argues that after 130+ years of iron mining in Minnesota, it should no longer be done here at all. Here, where we are home to the cleanest water in the state.

Better In Our Back Yard and other supporters of responsible industry are always confused when those who are fighting so diligently to protect the environment in their own backyard fail to look at the world on a global scale. We have been mining iron in Minnesota for more than 130 years, right next to the cleanest water everyone is fighting so hard to protect. That water remains clean because Minnesotans – including those who work in industry – care about protecting the environment. When anti-industry groups fight to close mines in Minnesota, they are fighting (knowingly or not) for mines that typically have little-to-no safety, environmental, or child labor regulations to mine.

When both sides have so much in common, there are conversations to be had in the middle. Both sides can benefit from each other. While the tribes certainly have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share, they also use products made from the ore that their neighbors mine. And those who support the mining industry also care deeply about our environment and natural resources. Together, both groups can work collaboratively to find the best practices to mine responsibly and protect a sacred state grain – wild rice.