As many of you already know, Scott Strand stepped down as Executive Director earlier this month to pursue other opportunities. Scott has a long history with MCEA, and as we go through this transition, all of us at MCEA feel it is important to reflect on Scott’s service to MCEA and how important it is to us as well as the state of Minnesota as a whole.
Before Scott joined MCEA as Executive Director in 2010, he generously volunteered his time as an attorney to MCEA. As for so many others, it was the threat of sulfide mining in Northern Minnesota that brought him to our door. In 2008, MCEA and others proposed legislation to reform financial assurance laws in Minnesota – the laws that require sulfide mining companies to put down a “damage deposit” before they start digging to due to the risks of long-term water pollution. Scott helped draft the proposed legislation, and worked tirelessly with our lobbying staff to get it introduced and through committee hearings. While this legislation ultimately didn’t pass, it shone an light on the deficiencies in our current law in a way that continues to shape the debate over financial assurance for PolyMet today.
Scott came on as Executive Director in mid-2010 to continue his advocacy for Minnesota's environment. Scott’s extraordinary depth of knowledge of the environmental challenges facing Minnesota, as well as his excellent policy and legal judgment, made him an effective advocate for MCEA’s work. Under his leadership, MCEA overcame the remaining fiscal challenges following the 2008 financial crisis to return to full strength. During his tenure, MCEA made great strides in getting new rules to protect Minnesota’s waters, retiring coal plants, expanding stops on the Green Line to ensure that minority communities are served by public transit, and keeping harmful sulfide mining proposals at bay. Scott worked in close partnership with other organizations, including Clean Air Minnesota and the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, to build clout for environmental protections. Scott also served as a valued resource for legislators on issues from buffers to clean energy to mining to environmental review.
We will miss Scott, and thank him for his years of service to MCEA.
Interim Executive Director
Bill McKibben criticizes the proposals from the forest products industry to burn wood to produce electricity, and have it "deemed" carbon-neutral or carbon-friendly by an act of Congress. It's a bad idea, but, for a contracting timber industry, the prospect of manufactured wood pellets as a new fuel source for generation of electricity sounds great. We can expect to hear more about this from Minnesota's forest products industry, and we can expect lots of legislators to support it because it will feel like a win-win--help a struggling industry and do something good for the climate. The problem is that it won't be good for the climate, for the reasons McKibben outlines. We need to plant more trees, not cut more trees down.
Eric Biber used the confrontation between the Standing Rock tribe and the proposed pipeline in North Dakota to make a broader point about how federal (and state) agencies can overuse what are called "general permits" to avoid having to deal with the environmental impacts of major projects. Agencies like the US Army Corps of Engineers develop general permits that govern all projects of a certain kind. The idea is that it is inefficient to require a full-blown permit process, with environmental review, for smaller projects where the environmental impacts and ways to mitigate them are pretty clear. The problem is if that process gets extended to major projects, which appears to be what has happened in North Dakota. The Corps has a general permit for pipelines, and says no environmental review of this big pipeline project is required because all the Corps has jurisdiction over is the place where the pipeline would go under the Missouri River.
We will see how this plays out in the courts, but the moral of the story is to be wary of "general permits" for major projects that really need comprehensive environmental review.
Aaron Brown points out how automation in the mining industry (and manufacturing generally) has kept production levels high, but with the result that there are far fewer jobs, and virtually no lesser-skilled "laborer" jobs. And once trucks become driverless, the jobs picture looks even worse.
Thanks to Ron Meador at MinnPost Earth Journal for pointing out the limits to the new "groundbreaking" pro-pollinator policy on neonicotinoid pesticides. The Governor's directive to State agencies to reduce neonic use is helpful, but obviously will not solve the problem by itself. The so-called regulatory component--requiring farmers to establish that they face grave losses if they do not use neonic pesticides--does not apply to the vast majority of neonic use, which comes from application of the pesticides to seeds that farmers purchase. So, nice to call attention to the problem, but don't expect the proffered solutions to make much of a difference.