Blog from Scott Strand, Executive Director

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


Mining Op Eds

Two op eds in today's Star Tribune raising concerns about copper nickel mining in Minnesota. One from former MCEA board member Steve Piragis, one opposing expansion of mining to boost school trust.

Louisiana wetland litigation update

Another good piece on the litigation pending against the major oil companies over the destruction of the Delta's wetlands.  Newest development is the the greater involvement of affected Indian tribes in the area.

Energy issues primer

Nice summary of energy issues in the current low oil cost environment in this past week's Economist.

Coming Attractions

NRDC this week posted a useful list of coming attractions from the 114th Congress.  Good preview of likely blog topics over the next several months.

Ecolab goes all-solar in Minnesota

This is not an altruistic or public relations decision for Ecolab.  This is a smart business decision, and we'll see more of this over the coming months.

Worthwhile Canadian Initiative

The New Republic once reported that this was the most boring possible newspaper headline.  Maybe so, but it looks like Canada, which sometimes has acted like it is a corrupt petrostate, is way ahead of the US on pricing carbon.

Governors leading on climate, governors not leading on climate

Check out this interview with Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, who is proposing a state cap-and-trade program, with some of the revenue going to an ambitious transit-oriented transportation plan.  While you're at it, read the inaugural address and new budget from Gov. Jerry Brown in California, with their strong focus on an aggressive climate agenda.

Locally, not so much.  No mention in Governor Dayton's inaugural.  We'll wait to see what's in his proposed budget.

Global Climate Fund in trouble in Congress?

One of the keys to any successful outcome at the Paris climate talks later this year is a substantial financial commitment from the developed world (who have burned the most fossil fuels) to developing countries who will bear a disproportionate share of the burden from global warming.  Not surprisingly, the new Republican-led Congress wants to torpedo the President's $3 billion commitment.

Update on Louisiana wetland litigation

As the New York Times and others have reported, Louisiana is losing the equivalent of a football field of wetlands in the Delta every hour.  This is all because the canals the oil companies and the US Army Corps of Engineers dug to let the big tankers get up to the refineries have destroyed the wetland ecology of the area.  One of the local agencies, kind of like one of Minnesota's watershed districts, has sued the oil industry to demand that they comply with their permit obligations and fix this problem.  Gov. Jindal and the oil-dominated legislature passed a bill to try to derail the lawsuit, but a local judge held it unconstitutional.  That is now before the Louisiana Supreme Court.  MCEA has been interested in this litigation, primarily to see whether courts in a state like Louisiana are prepared to strike down blatant anti-environment legislation like this under the "public trust" doctrine.  In Louisiana, that is an explicit part of their state constitution; in Minnesota, it's pretty well-established in the courts, but has not been tested in a high-stakes battle recently.  We will continue to follow this.

Sound and fury signifying nothing?

Back from vacation, and the first item on the new Congress's agenda is the Keystone XL pipeline.  The House has already, for the umpteenth time, passed its bill to override the President's authority to approve or disapprove the pipeline, and this time, the Senate is almost certain to go along.  President Obama has promised a veto, and it appears the pipeline's proponents are a few votes short of an override.  At the same time, tar sands companies are laying off staff as oil prices continue to plunge, and more people are speculating that, even if it got permitted, the Keystone XL pipeline won't get built.

So what's going on?  This obviously has become political theater, and a largely symbolic debate.  There may well be people who voted for the pipeline bill, solely because they were certain it would not become law.  For them, it's a free vote for "jobs" without any cost.  Clearly, the pipeline polls well, or else none of this would be happening.  And, it no doubt helps keep the spigot of political contributions coming.

For environmentalists, this has become a test of power as well.  Killing the pipeline (which means no bill becomes law and the President does reject it) sends the message that the President's overall climate agenda is going to make it through and the fossil fuel industry can't rely on Congress to make it go away.  Losing means there are more lost battles in the future.  

None of this is particularly rational, but environmental battles are political battles.  As readers of this blog know, this may not have been the fight I would have picked, but now that it's here, it's pretty important for future battles that the enviros win.

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