A huge thank you to Governor Dayton and his team for the vetos of the energy and environment omnibus bills

Governor Dayton’s veto letter lists the reasons for the veto of the Environment bill. In a piece titled “The sorrows of young Denny McNamara beneath the unbearable lightness of being blindsided,” the always insightful Bluestem Prairie reports that Environment and Natural Resources Finance Chair McNamara felt “blindsided.” Bluestem opines what that would mean for the renegotiation.

This renegotiation will be especially difficult because Governor Dayton’s Pollution Control Agency relies on the inconvenient truth of science and Chair McNamara, on behalf of his Republican House Caucus, wants to pretend that the science doesn’t exist or that it is not good enough.

Governor Dayton’s veto of the energy bill was undoubtedly easier for the Governor but the renegotiation will be just as difficult.

There are two huge gifts to North Dakota coal in the energy bill. One changes net metering by giving municipal and cooperative utilities the ability to charge fees to those customers who install their own wind or solar. Fossil fuel interests have been seeking these fees across the U.S. as a way to discourage residential solar installations.

The other gift to North Dakota coal was the failure of the legislature to provide any money to defend against the lawsuit that North Dakota filed against Minnesota challenging one of the key under pinnings of the landmark 2007 Next Generation Energy Act. Our Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, along with The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, weighed in on the side of North Dakota in an amicus brief.

Inquiring minds will first ask what is the Minnesota Chamber’s interest in North Dakota coal and then ask why is that interest so large that it causes the Minnesota Chamber to weigh in on the side of North Dakota against its own Minnesota. Once those two questions are answered, it will be clear that the Chamber will do everything possible to stop Minnesota from defending itself in the lawsuit including telling the House Republican Caucus not to budge. It will not be a hard sell. The Minnesota Chamber spent untold amounts of money to put the Republican Caucus in control of the Minnesota House.

House and Senate conferees have agreed to the worst environment bill ever. It’s title should be “Let’s pretend.”

Conferees finished their work early this morning, May 17. A copy of the proposed new legislation is not yet available but legislators have already heard from the environment community. Their letter to legislators says that the conference committee report for H. F.846 “undermines key policies that protect and restore our air, land, and water….”  The letter lists some of the many problems with the bill and asks legislators to vote against final passage.

The underlying problem is that the House Majority Republican caucus is totally rejecting current science. Science has identified pollutants like nitrogen, phosphorous, and carbon dioxide that are contaminating our water and air. Science has identified problem solving steps. Our Governor and state agencies want to work  on the problem solving steps.

Some of these problem solving steps are difficult so by pretending there is no science or that the science is wrong, the House Republican Caucus doesn’t have to do any problem solving. And their allies who profit from pollution are happy. Unfortunately, this bill doesn’t just pretend there is no science or that the science is wrong, it sets up all sorts of time consuming and expensive procedures to find excuses to continue to do nothing.

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Who speaks for the bees? Not the Minnesota Senate.

Thanks to the Star Tribune’s Josephine Marcotty for her report on the Senate’s decision to allow nurseries to advertise plants as “polinator friendly” if they had been treated with neonicotinoids, the systemic pesticides that can kill bees. It seems that Senators thought the idea of protecting polinators was quite humorous.

Who speaks for the bees?

The Star Tribune’s Josephine Marcotty interviews the players and frames the debate that will take place in the Minnesota Senate on Thursday, May 14. The question before the Senate will be: can a seller advertise plants as “bee friendly” if the plants are treated with a systemic pesticide like the neonicotinoids.

Going backward on pollinator protection when science is telling us to go forward

The Agriculture Policy bill, HF 1554, passed the House floor with two anti-pollinator provisions that move Minnesota backward.

Last year the legislature adopted pollinator friendly legislation that said a seller couldn’t advertise a bedding plant or similar nursery stock as beneficial to pollinators if the plant has a detectable level of systemic insecticide. Consumers who didn’t want plants with systemic pesticides in the soil were pleased. Big chemical was not pleased.

Language was added in HF 1554 that erases “detectable level” and would allow a seller to advertise a bedding plant or similar nursery stock as pollinator friendly if it is treated with a systemic pesticide unless “a concentration in its flowers (is) greater than the no observed adverse effect level of a systemic insecticide.” “No observed adverse effect level” is defined in HF 1554 as “acute oral toxicity for adult honeybees.” The House author, Rep. Paul Anderson, said this was the language that the nursery industry wanted.

“No detectable level” is clear, measurable, and designed for the consumers who want to protect pollinators and to make sure that they are not adding unwanted pesticides to their gardens. The new language is not clear and may be misleading to those who don’t want to add unwanted pesticides to their gardens.

Importantly, toxicity is measured by the effect on adult honeybees. Any effect on native pollinators is ignored. Science is ignored. A recently published article in Nature reports on research that looked at the question of how neonicotinoids (a group of systemic insecticides) influence bees and wild bees in particular in agricultural landscapes. The research found a “substantial risk” to wild bees and that the contribution of pesticides to the global decline of wild bees may have been underestimated. The article further said that reported pesticide effects on honeybees cannot always be extrapolated to wild bees. nature14420_rundlof-1

Last year the legislature also provided that the owner of bee colonies would be compensated if the bees died from pesticide poisoning. In doing so the legislature treated bee keepers the same way that farmers would be treated if their livestock were subject to wolf depredation or if their crops were subject to elk depredation.

HF 1554 would require a bee keeper to register colony locations if they wanted to be compensated. Farmers don’t have to register their cows, pigs , etc to be eligible for compensation. Turkey farmers do not have to register their flocks in order to be compensated for the devastation caused by the avian flu and rightly so. Inquiring mind will want to know why bee keepers are treated differently.

Pine forests to potato fields: the saga takes a surprising turn

The Grand Forks Herald published a good update on the conversion of Minnesota forestland to potato fields by McDonald’s French fries supplier, R.D. Offutt.

In light of McDonald’s recently released sustainability plan and endorsements of the plan by SierraRise and the Union of Concerned Scientists, I wrote to Don Williams, McDonald’s Director of Government Relations, Central Division, Global Government & Public Affairs. This is the email I sent:

Minnesotans have been asking me about your newly release sustainable sourcing plan with the title “Comprehensive Plan Addresses All Products; Reaffirms Sustainable Sourcing Priorities.”

Many of us got an announcement from the Sierra Club that McDonald’s “America’s biggest fast food company just announced a new commitment to eliminate deforestation from its ENTIRE supply chain!”

The Union of Concerned Scientists announced, “We did it! McDonald’s goes deforestation free.”

I am a Minnesota State Representative who has been extremely concerned about the conversion of pine forest to potato fields in Minnesota by McDonald’s biggest French fry supplier especially since the forests are over an almost pristine aquifer. I have detailed the issues involved in three letters to your president. Yet despite your very public commitment, the Grand Forks Herald just updated the issue with absolutely no indication that your French fry supplier was going deforestation free.

http://www.grandforksherald.com/news/agriculture/3731369-potato-growers-move-forest-land-raises-concerns-regions-wildlife-water-and

What shall I tell Minnesotans?

Jean Wagenius, State Representative 63B

I feel safe in assuming that neither the Union of Concerned Scientists nor SierraRise was aware that R.D. Offutt, McDonald’s French fries supplier, has been clear cutting forests in Minnesota and converting the previously forested land to intensive potato production. I have emailed both of them.

However, unless their assertions that McDonald’s is going “deforestation free” and that it is committed to “eliminate deforestation from its ENTIRE supply chain” cover McDonald’s French fries supplier, they are not accurate. The announcements list products that McDonald’s procures through its supply chain with the clear implication that those are the only products that are currently dependent on deforestation.

While the Union of Concerned Scientists and SierraRise were likely not aware of the deforestation practices of McDonald’s French fries supplier, McDonald’s is well aware and has been aware since at least August 29, 2013. I have sent McDonald’s president three detailed letters; the first one is dated August 29, 2013. McDonalds Letter 1McDonalds Letter 2McDonalds Letter 3

Additionally our Minnesota media have so thoroughly covered “pineland-to-potatoes” that the public relations department at McDonald’s could not have missed the continuing saga.

Bottom line, why didn’t McDonald’s tell the Union of Concerned Scientists and SierraRise about the deforestation practices of one of its core suppliers before accepting the accolades and endorsements of their organizations?

Our ever vigilant North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club is contacting the National Sierra Club.