Does Minnesota need to change its approach to environmental protection?

Each Monday now through the election, we’ll pose a question on an issue that’s pertinent to the race for Minnesota governor. Today’s Question: Does Minnesota need to change its approach to environmental protection?

Democratic candidate Mark Dayton:

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency should be renamed the Pollution Reduction Agency, and its mission should become to reduce pollution throughout Minnesota. It also needs to streamline its review procedures so that they take less time, while still providing the protection Minnesotans want and deserve.

Independence Party candidate Tom Horner:

Minnesota shouldn’t change its environmental protection values; we do need to improve the process. We need to streamline environmental oversight. In some cases — protecting the water quality of our lakes, for example — this will require more cooperation between state and local governments. In other cases — economic development — we will do better if we have fewer agencies, making oversight quicker, more predictable and more consistent. Protecting our state’s natural assets is a priority. But the approach must be less burdensome for everyone.

Republican candidate Tom Emmer:

Minnesota is a leader in environmental protection. We have some of the strictest standards in the country. Our farmers, outdoorsmen and women, hunters and anglers are the natural conservationists.

Science, technology and the economy have evolved since many of the laws, rules and regulations on environmental protection were first developed. We will review these laws to ensure that our economy is not hindered and our environment remains protected.

Maintaining and preserving our natural resources isn’t a partisan issue — it’s a Minnesotan issue. Our approach will be responsible with our resources and will demand efficient and effective permitting of projects that will create jobs.

  • Peter Truitt

    Yes. We need a systematic approach to stop monoculture.

  • Neil Sorensen

    Since the beginning of Arne Carlson’s reign, governors have neglected Minnesota’s environmental protection. Jesse Ventura certainly did not help the environment by leaving Gene Hugoson as Commissioner of Agriculture, and Pawlenty has not made any meaningful efforts in protecting our state’s natural resources.

    In Minnesota, the Commissioners of Agriculture and the DNR have a lot of leeway to neglect or protect the environment. Under a Republican administration, the tendency is to appoint those who abuse the environment in the name of profit. Minnesota, for example, has some of the strictest regulations in the United States on the release of genetically modified organisms into the environment, but Gene Hugoson has the right to waive the environmental assessment requirement, which he has done without fail. Minnesota needs Commissioners who will give the protection of Minnesota’s environment a priority.

    In addition, Minnesota needs to take a forward-thinking approach to dictating environmental management to local governments. We must move towards overarching systems that achieve sustainable development goals and protect our environment at the same time. Now, we have a patchwork of recycling systems, for example. Some cities have fairly comprehensive systems while others are way behind. We need all Minnesotans to have access to comprehensive composting and recycling systems and for them to be integrated into institutions of all sizes. We need institutional composting and composting bins for households, and this kind of activity must be regulated the state level to have positive environmental impacts throughout our state.

    Moreover, we should make efforts to cover our freeways in urban environments with parkland and woods, to create more livable environments for all.

    There is a lot of work to do, but the green economy can create employment and generate new opportunities for economic activity, and we need Minnesota to set an example to the nation on the environment as we have done in so many other spheres of life.

  • Steve the Cynic

    We’ll never get sensible environmental regulation until we figure out a way to include the health of the environment in a measure of national well-being. As long as our primary gauge of how things are going is the GDP, caring for the environment will continue to be viewed by hard-headed economists as a frivolous luxury, instead of the necessity it is. Both the process of damaging the enviroment with heavy industry and of cleaning it up with more heavy industry are considered good for the economy, because both involve money changing hands, which raises the GDP. Meanwhile, the value of leaving things as they are is considered a mere externality.

  • steve

    we sure do! the environment we live in is very fragile thru neglect and we are trying to green but we need to protect what beauty we have because beauty is part of the mn mystic and a valuable marketing tool for the rest of the world!

  • Ray Borens

    Yes, at least if we want clean, safe water. This cannot be accomplished unless we address our agricultural system–the overwhelming source of water pollution in Minnesota (and elsewhere).

  • Kevin


    To many times companies NEVER get inspected like they should, given way too much time to clean (if Ever), and the fines are NO WHERE near enough (Fines as a incentive to NEVER do it again being as weak as they are have NO effect).

    Also the response time is slow, underfunded, and sometimes IGNORED when ever someone points out problems.

    Take case in point the 3M dump. They cared nothing about the environment…. Hell they were ballzy enough to leave their LABELS on the drums!!! They knew even if caught they would not face ANY fines.

    And worse yet we turn to the company that violates the environment for the ‘facts’ about the dangers…..

    That’s a little like turning to the ’embezzler’ and asking how much they stole from people! You think they will be honest when their best interest to reduce the punishment is to lie??

    Like the BP oil spill, guess what only BP is allowed to investigate the damages. Yet scientists are discovering there is at LEAST a 27 mile long oil sludge spill monstrously waiting to return to the surface. The stuff did not magically disappear… their chemical treatment only made it heavy and sink for now!

  • Jeff Brand

    No, I think that environmental protection is important to Minnesota. A May 2010 Pew Charitable Trust study suggested that Clean Energy economy grew 6 times faster than any other sector.

    I would like to see more wind and solar installations in Minnesota – and I would like to see more politicians take their environmental responsibilities more seriously.

    We have a state mandate of a 15% reduction in carbon emissions by 2015 and it’s time to ask the tough question – which Governor will take us there and which is skeptical of climate change?

  • Todd Brandon

    as an avid outdoors-men i have seen the the damage that industry has caused to the environment. i believe that the government must step in and protect the environment from companies like polymet mining which plans on excavating copper out of the boundary waters. if we don’t put our foot down, we won’t have these places much longer. these companies will cause irreparable damage to our state and move on. we must regulate and reduce our pollution.

  • brian f
  • Chris

    Minnesota needs to step up and change its approach environmental protection by first educating the public further about what we put in our landfills, what the current laws are, and how to safely dispose of our waste. Especially electronics, bulbs, and batteries because of the hazardous materials they contain.

    I am a MN recycler of electronics and daily I speak to clients who have no idea of the ramifications of tossing everyday items in the trash. Most business have a good idea where to start, however they do not realize that as they store their business waste forever in the closet, mercury and lead is slowly leaching into the carpets and air. Average households lack the resources and education so they either toss items in the garbage or they sit in the garage, again leaching contaminates into the environment.

    I would like to see bigger incentives to MN companies to recycle, perhaps in better tax breaks or direct incentive to recycling companies, also legislation concerning how long waste can be stored. Cities need to provide more ways to access recycling programs to households. I would like to see more recycling separation and incentives to green up our garbage!

    One last point, most people seem to feel that their singular efforts do not make a difference. I say recycling is like putting pennies in a jar; soon you have a dollar, than you have a hundred. When we all do our part including education and making the recycling process more accessible we will have a cleaner world.

  • Patience

    Yeah, how about we actually reduce some pollution – instead of continuing to permit it and wring our hands because we don’t have the “authority” to regulate pollution. The Clean Water Act goal was to ELIMINATE the “discharge” (dumping) of pollution into our waterways by 1985. Oops – we missed the deadline. Let’s NOT take that approach with global warming. K?!

  • Gordon in Two Harbors

    We need to enforce the laws we already have.

    For example, there is supposed to be a buffer between row crops and streams in southern Minnesota, but I see numerous places where the land is plowed right up to the streambank. That results in a LOT of soil washing into public waterways. The good-old boy system in the counties which enforce shoreline regulations does not work, and yet the people in the “enforcement” jobs still get paid by the taxpayer.

    Also, the Minnesota PCA is completely impotent. I’m sick of hearing about filthy feedlot operations constantly getting away with water and air quality violations. There needs to be a quick, effective way to get rid of public employees who don’t do their jobs.

  • Reid Carron

    Yes. Our current system gives far too much weight to the supposed short-term economic benefits of some kinds of development, without taking into account the real long-term financial costs. Two good current examples are the Governor’s torpedoing of stricter shoreline development rules and the complicity of state government in sulfide-ore mining projects in Northeastern Minnesota. Sulfide-ore mining, if it proceeds, will rank alongside the draining of our wetlands as the greatest environmental catastrophes to befall Minnesota.

  • Peggy Sannerud

    Yes – by making it stronger and less easily manipulated by politicians.

    We need an advocate for the environment with some power. Right now, feedlots operate with impunity, lakeshores are developed at will, and a potentially hideous disaster of a sulfide mine is being considered in the heart of lake country.

    We need to to focus the PCA on POLLUTION PREVENTION. Cleanup is always the last answer, and we all know who pays for that.

  • Bonnie Mairs

    Minnesota could be a leader in environmental protection. All it needs is the political will to do it.

  • Linda

    Yes, absolutely!

    Like Thomas Friedman says:

    “We underestimate the risks. We privatize the gains. And we socialize the losses.” My family is worried about the proposed mining in the Boundary Waters watershed – the risk of catastrophic spill is great, only a few would benefit from the huge profits (most of them from out of Minnesota) and guess who would be left dealing with, and paying for, the environmental damage.

  • Minnesota claims to have high values regarding its natural resources, and “strong environmental protection laws”. Too often those words come up empty as the laws are either compromised through variances granted by local agencies, or by lack of oversight due to the influence of political and business interests or lack of funding for enforcement personnel. In the case of the proposed sulfide mining in northeast Minnesota, the law is not strong at all! We have NO financial assurances law that would force the mining companies to put up bonded money sufficient to clean up acid mining drainage should it occur, much less the strong “prove it first” law that our wise neighbor Wisconsin has enacted to force such companies to show that they can do this kind of non-ferrous ore extraction safely BEFORE any permit is granted.

    It is HUGELY important to note how the mining companies (owned by Canadian and Chilean companies, by the way) have fought hard to keep our legislature from enacting a financial assurances law. Their argument that they would not pollute our precious waters is empty, since they are unwilling to put up their own money in the event that they do, but would rather see you and me, the taxpayers, put up that money when they are finished.

    It is also important to note how our Republican Governor has bowed to the wealthy special interests that want to build huge residences too close to lakeshores, often in violation of local zoning rules, as he refused to implement the new legal powers that were outlined this last summer, which would have required further setbacks from the shore, and would have protected shorelines from unhealthy development.

    Yes, Minnesota needs to change its enviromental protection practices by adding strength to both the written law and the enforcement procedures. We are sorely unprepared for the destruction of sulfide mining, and from the threat of shoreline destruction.

  • Nancy

    Yes, we especially need to resist efforts by big business to minimize legitimate concerns about the harmful effects of their operations. In the case of one such operation—proposed sulfide mining in the areas adjacent to the Boundary Waters —the state can stop pollution before it starts by simply refusing to issue permits to companies like Polymet and Antofagasta, the Chilean mining conglomerate. One of the byproducts of sulfide mining is sulfurlc acid which can seep into ground water. This has caused long-lasting environmental problems in my home state of Arizona. In northern Minnesota, the effect on the lakes and rivers would be devastating.

  • Jim Carlen

    New mining techniques such as those envisioned in the proposed Polymet mine (about 15 miles south Ely) should not be given approval until there is conclusive evidence showing that the new techniques, on the scale envisioned, are safe for the environment and the public purse. I understand that Wisconsin does not allow this sort of mine for that precise reason — no evidence that it is safe (chemical leaching, sulfide tailings pools, etc) on a commercial scale. I fail to understand why MN would care less about its northern woods that WI. I also fail to see why it took the EPA to put the brakes on this project and prevent a quickie approval. Moreover, damage deposit requirements need to be stregthened and put in a bankruptcy remote vehicle with senior secured status — i.e. company cannot despoil the environment and then file and leave the public holdng the bag. The general population is nowhere near cynical enough about these issues. Short term jobs for poisoned waters, streams and Lake Superior. Is that a good trade?

  • shane

    Yes, enviromental protectiion needs to be pushed further down on our list of priorities. Right now the most important thing is to get the economy back in good health. We are not going to do that by imposing more enviromental regulations on individuals and businesses.

  • Bil Knapp

    Environmental values – yes. Sulfide mining at the edge of the Boundary Waters – no.

  • Sarah

    Living on a lake within the BWCAW watershed for several decades has made clean water a matter of great importance to me and my family. We have held stewardship of this valuable resource as a priority–from keeping natural vegetation between the house and the lake shore, keeping our septic system up to code and using no chemicals on our lawn and garden. The state must take stewardship of our clear waters in a like manner and not just assume the sulfide mines will perform the way the mining companies claim (but has not proven). These lake systems are fragile and even the slightest sulfuric acid introduction to them would be an environmental disaster. No more fish in the BWCAW. Is the possible destruction of a unique wilderness area worth the few jobs it would bring for about 20 years?

  • Atina

    There is no such thing as economic sustainability without environmental sustainability. Just because we can’t always see the damage, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Often we are paying a very high price for “economic development.” The price in human and ecosystem well-being, is very difficult to measure. The world we live in has so many contributing factors and it is challenging to isolate and the worst contributors and connect them to the damage done. Proceed with precaution and take our time. Damaged ecosystems and human health area very hard to repair once damaged. Humans who live with chronic health problems know the truth of the adage, ‘health is wealth.’ The same is true for our environment.

  • Becky Stoner

    Except for a few living-wage earners who would spend their money locally, I don’t think there is ANY good reason to allow the Polymet project to go ahead so close to the environmentally precious and fragile Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeast Minnesota. I live here and care about it deeply. From all that I’ve read, there are no assurances that it would effectively boost the local economy long-term and absolutely no assurances that they would not pollute our precious BWCAW.

  • Walt Gordon

    Yes. We need to consider the longterm consequences of decisions. For example, the Polymet Mine in Northern Minnesota will provide jobs for a short period of time but could devastate the lakes and rivers for generations.

  • Chris Norbury

    Pollution of all kinds has a cost. The question is, do we want to pay those costs now- with resource-extracting companies required to leave a mining site, oil well, lake, river, farmland, etc., as clean as they found it- and charge those costs to those who consume the resources (i.e.- most consumers,eventually, but initially the resource extracting company up front)?

    Or, do we chose to pay later in the form of environmental cleanup costs after the fact, born by all taxpayers, no matter if they consumed the resource or not?

    Paying upfront will require complete revamping of environmental and business laws and regulations, with no special interests (the multinational oil industry, for example) allowed to game the system in their favor over competing technologies or resource companies (smaller energy companies, or wind and solar power companies, for example).

    When the true cost of consumption of all resources is known, only then can the free market price those resources fairly so that society makes the best use of what resources we have.

    For example, if all the tax credits, legal advantages and political favoritism currently enjoyed by the oil industry in the US were abolished in favor of simple laws that require no net pollution of the planet by the extraction, use, or consumption of that resource, all other forms of energy production would easily become competitive with fossil fuels and we would be able to gauge which energy form was truly the most economical.

    So yes, we do need to change our approach to environmental protection.

  • Cory in Rochester

    Yes. Minnesota needs to improve stewardship of our natural resources: the air we breathe; the water we drink, swim and fish in; and the soil on which our children play and that grows our food. Everyone wants these things, but not everyone is willing to pay the price.

    Protection of our environment must be a sustainable balance between the use of these resources and preservation. We have enough laws and regulations on the books. What we need is an Governor that supports environmental protection and the effective and efficient operation of the DNR, MPCA, MDH and Mn Ag Dept. The State must also coordinate effectively with many Federal Agencies that also provide environmental regulation and management, and with other States in the Midwest.

    Unfortunately, adequate environmental protection is not easy or cheap. Many would like to take our natural resources for their own use, without regard for the cost to all Minnesotans. The environment must be sustained in a way that provides health, food, recreation, and resources for Minnesota now and into the future– forever.

  • Joe Merz

    Are we adequately protecting our water resources from the ravages of new mining proposals?

  • Mary Theresa Downing

    Yes, we have passed strong laws to protect the environment, but they aren’t effective because they’re not being enforced. State-wide standards for water protection and more uniform recycling along with green energy projects are good goals, but without enforcement of existing regulations, they won’t do enough

    Developers of potentially polluting projects, like the PolyMet sufide mine, should be required to post a very sizable bond to provide funding for clean-up in the future. Whether there could be a fund large enough to pay for restoring as many lakes as such a mine would jeopardize is an interesting question. Perhaps we should follow Wisconsin’s lead and allow only projects that have already been safely carried out elsewhere.

    Making things efficient for business would give investors more certainty, but too often “streamlining the process” is only code for “making it easier to get permits.” Certainty is valuable, but our lakes and rivers are even more valuable. What we need is more uniform and effective enforcement. Need it done more quickly? Hire more people to work on the analysis, perhaps by collecting a fee from the company submitting the proposal.

  • Steve the Cynic

    What good will a “healthy economy” be when we’ve made the planet uninhabitable? Or, long before that, when we’ve so damaged the ecosystem and destroyed so much natural beauty that the planet is a dreary, unhealthful place to live, where happiness is next to impossible no matter how big your bank account? We’ve deluded ourselves with the idea that a healthy economy is one that produces lots of material wealth without reference to how happy it enables people to be.

  • Sue de Nim

    We humans don’t own the ecosystem. It’s not ours to do with as we please. When we spoil it for economic gain, we’re stealing it from our descendents and from all the other life with which we share the planet.

  • Kevin

    Heard the comment on the radio that we should let the criminals go on ruining the environment because it costs jobs to enforce the rules/laws.


    Actually NOT enforcing the environmental laws cost jobs and cost us (as tax payers) more by ignoring the environment.

    When the perpetrators are allowed to continue unhindered to pollute/damage/ or ruin the environment it still needs to be cleaned…. Guess who clean it?


    Which then diverts needed money to pay down the debts and services we already are behind on. Hell, we have over 6000 bridges that need repair, and if we keep ignoring that need they will need replacing.

    Have the persons who caused the problem pay.

    Just as we have the murderers pay for their crimes…. Or thieves…. or any other criminal.


    In my own town we have a gas station that has been abandoned for years. No one wanted to buy the property.


    Because then they assume the environmental impact the neglected gas tanks have on the land and needs to be removed and cleaned before ANY building can occur.

    And due to that need, no one wanted the land. Taxes and income lost due to the previous owners NOT paying to clean up, the ones who put the faulty tanks in…. The land literally sat for decades ….

    The person sounded like they were only aware or thinking of short term profits and not aware of the LONG term losses!!! And the deferred costs to others who had nothing to do with the problem….

    the “Not me” claim any parent hears…

  • C A. Arneson

    Yes. Minnesota needs to have a stronger approach. Instead of talking about streamlining permitting for industries such as sulfide metals mining, we need to build agencies where employees are given the power to act decisively and effectively, knowing that they will be supported.

    From a time when variances were unheard of, we are now to the point where a variance is referred to as a “benefit. “Limits without benefit of a variance” is how the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency refers to limits that are in compliance.

    We have industries that essentially blackmail the state by holding up jobs as the reason they should be allowed to pollute our waters, mining is just one of them. They claim they can’t afford to operate otherwise. So who loses? Not the industry. The money they don’t spend on keeping our waters clean is money in their pockets. The public pays instead. I have read document after document from mining company representatives listing one excuse after another why they can’t or shouldn’t have to do what the MPCA asks. Often a variance is the result.

    So, now our leaders are jumping on the bandwagon to have sulfide mining in Minnesota when we can’t clean up the pollution we have from existing iron ore and taconite mines.

    Minnesota is a state that is known for it’s 10,000 lakes. Sulfide mining is an industry that is known for it’s consistent pollution of lakes, rivers, and streams.

    Minnesota needs legislation, such as Wisconsin, stating sulfide mining must prove it can be done without pollution in a water rich environment. Why won’t our legislators support “prove it first” legislation? We need to elect ones who will.

    Minnesota also needs more than legislation to protect our waters. We need to change the MPCA so the men and women who are trying to do their jobs have the clout to do so. Hire people with the most expertise, pay them well to keep them, have restrictions on industry recruitment, and have enough people so they are not forced to practice pollution triage.

    If an industry can’t clean up it’s act, then they don’t operate. Losing jobs is never to be taken lightly, but is it right that the price of someone’s job is the loss of clean air and water for others? Give the MPCA power and funds to do their job, unfettered by who is governor.

    The same is true for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. It would be more appropriate for the Minerals Division to be a separate entity or a part of the Department of Commerce. Let the Department of Natural Resources be in charge of our natural resources, renewable ones. As it stands now people within the MDNR know the dangers to our waters from sulfide mining, while the Minerals Division is doing everything within its power to minimize them.

    The U.S. Forest Service is another conflicted agency. It deliberately sacrifices renewable surface resources for non-renewable mineral rights. It’s a fallacy to define that as forest management. Again, the people in the ranks do not have enough of a say in decision-making.

    Let go of the streamlining rhetoric. PolyMet spent millions because it was a disaster waiting to happen. If it had been streamlined it would have been a done deal by now and the public non-the-wiser, until perhaps the tailings basin blew.

    If a project spends millions in the permitting process it’s a red flag that the project has problems, not that the process does. Minnesota’s permitting process is not supposed to be set up to protect industry. It is supposed to be in place to protect the public. It takes time for the public to educate itself on the issues. Even then, until the EPA stepped in, few listened to the people who tried to say there were severe problems with PolyMet’s NorthMet Project.

    Remember PolyMet representatives repeatedly telling us the Draft Environmental Impact Statement was going to prove how safe their project was? Remember when they received the lowest rating possible from the EPA?

    Minnesota does not have strong environmental regulations when variances exist and our agencies are not doing their jobs. We could have, if the people of Minnesota demanded it. We are part of the process. Elect people who care more about protecting our waters. Elect people who are going to put the millions that have been poured into mining, or other industries, into jobs that are compatible with our waters. Elect people who are going to support true diversification, not diversification of one industry. Elect people who do not think sulfide mining is the economic answer. Sulfide mining is not the answer. It is the curse.

    Be suitably impressed, but not fooled, by clever marketing. Duluth Metals coining the name “Twin Metals” while feting their Chilean partner at the Twins’ Target Field was a perfect example of the power of advertising. They made sulfide mining sound benign, on the par with a ballgame. They forgot to mention Minnesota would be the losing team, for keeps.

    Research. Read about what has happened to Chilean waters from metals mining. Canadian waters. U.S. waters. Read about the increasing drought around the world. Read about the states in the U.S. that are running out of water, that are rationing. Water is wealth, and not only environmentally. For Minnesota, water is our future – our economic future.

  • Elaine

    Streamling environmental review to protect the environment is an oximoron.

    Projects being put forth today require more analysis and more review–not less.

    For example, the EPA rated the PolyMet draft environmental impact statement as EU–environmentally unsatisfactory, with the potential to contaminate Minnesota’s waters for centuries.

    The PolyMet environmental review process is demonstrating that metallic sulfide mining–even with so-called new technologies–cannot be done without polluting our waterways and profoundly altering the landscape of northeast Minnesota with waste rock piles and tailings.

    Streamlining environmental process would only serve to cover up potential problems and allow industry to leave behind a legacy of pollution.

    Despite the rhetoric about jobs, companies from Canada, Switzerland, and now Chile, are not coming to Minnesota to bail us out of our financial woes. These companies are seeking to make quick, huge profits in a short term market that is based upon infrastructure and industrial demands from China.

    Our gubernatorial candidates and current governor are on some kind of a bandwagon, trying to outdo each other in their verbal defense of copper nickel mining as safe for the environment and good for the economy. These assumptions are based upon mining company propaganda, not upon candidate understanding of the environmental issues involved.

    The EPA, in its EU rating, laid out the areas of weakness and/or omission within the DEIS. Legislators are now putting pressure on the state environmental review agencies to speed up the review process. This is irresponsible.

    Our Department of Natural Resources, one of the lead agencies in this review is already conflicted out. The Lands and Minerals Division of the DNR has been actively promoting copper nickel mining within the state for the past 30 years. Meanwhile, agency personnel who question the mandate of the Commissioner of Natural Resources, who is appointed by the Governor, are threatened with the loss of their jobs.

    The environmental review process does not need streamlining. It needs independence and responsible management and science.

    Our gubernatorial candidates are adding fuel to the flames of a controversial issue by promising copper nickel jobs to residents of northeast Minnesota in exchange for a vote.

    There are many other aspects of our state environment which would also suffer from environmental streamlining. These include feedlots, garbage incineration, toxic industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals entering our waterways, nuclear energy, tar sands pipelines, and unscientific promotion of biomass as a fuel.

    Why aren’t our gubernatorial candidates and other elected officials promoting educational programs which will develop creative, environmentally safe solutions to our problems–while at the same time creating a sustainable economy–and jobs?

  • Alan Muller

    First, there are other candidates than the three above, including Leslie Davis and Ken Pentel. If these had been included we might have some more interesting statements to react to. Yes, know neither are going to be elected Governor, but they can serve the vital role of broadening the discussion. Shame on MPR.

    It’s a very bad sign that all three “major” candidates above are supporting “streamlining” of the environmental regulatory process. This is a key objective of the MN Chamber of Commerce but is obviously not in the public interest.

    It’s clear that environmental protection has stagnated in MN and new approaches are needed. The answer to this is probably complicated, but I have come to believe that a key issue is this:

    Environmental NGOs, manipulated by the foundations that fund them, have largely abandoned grassroots agitation in favor of insider lobbying and dealing. The former is where the enviro strength lies and in the latter they can’t compete effectively with the business community. This, of course, is not a problem limited to Minnesota

    Alan Muller

  • Rita O’Connell, Duluth

    Wow, lots of comments – some too long for me to read thoroughly during my busy day. But I want to put my two cents worth in, too.

    Does Minnesota need to change its approach to environmental protection? I think your question really is a shortened question that could really have “in order to let business more quickly do whatever it likes with minimal environmental controls” added to the end. If letting business make a profit more quickly isn’t the question, then why would we need to change our already strong approach?

    I think what we do need to do is actually enforce what we already have in laws, ordinances, rules, etc., which is something we don’t adequately do today. BUT, we also need to ensure that we will adequately address new activities that are either 1) unlike what we’ve already experienced (e.g., mining in sulfide rock) or 2) are substances that we hadn’t previously regulated (e.g., carbon dioxide), but are now recognized to have environmentally harmful effects.

    We also need to look at all of those responsibilities in light of the impacts on far future generations. Both of my examples above (mining & carbon dioxide) can have impacts for hundreds and/or thousands of years. What good are jobs now if we ruin our environment for the future? I live in NE Minnesota and while I know that jobs here are needed, I’m still particularly concerned with the Polymet-type projects that, by their own admission in the recent draft environmental impact study, will exceed some water quality standards for hundreds of years. I read and commented on a number of water quality components of that extremely long draft study and I agree with the US EPA that is inadequate – and that the proposed mining controls are also inadequate. If you want to see what kinds of impacts can happen from acid mining – check out the Rio Tinto in Spain, where acid drainage from mining has been occurring for thousands of years (yes, thousands), and the more recent Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana, an open pit mine which is filled will water so acidic that birds landing in it will die if they stay for more than a few hours and overflow of the pit would threaten an entire river watershed.

    We do NOT need to shortcut our review processes and enforcement. Maybe we do need more coordination, but government – from local to state – needs to have adequate time to ensure that all environmental consequences are adequately addressed. We also need to ensure that agencies that have a responsibility to encourage a particular type of business are not also the same ones authorized to regulate the environmental consequences of that business.

    And as a last point, let me tell you a story about when I worked for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for about 15 years, helping to protect our water quality. At one point during those years, sometime in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, the MPCA staff was reorganized and management wrote a mission statement for the agency that shocked many of my technical staff-level colleagues. The wording, which I don’t recall exactly, said that the MPCA’s role was to protect the environment for the benefit of Minnesota’s citizens. Many of us thought that we were protecting the environment so that it (the environment) was protected in perpetuity, while that mission statement could very easily be interpreted as – jobs come first. Sigh…

    Today, before I wrote these comments, I went to the MPCA website to see if the mission statement had changed since then. I see that there is the new statement: “Working with Minnesotans to protect, conserve and improve our environment and enhance our quality of life.” That’s better, but could be interpreted in lots of different ways, too.

    Let us strengthen, not weaken our environment protection approach.

  • Beth

    I heard about your question of the week initiative and decided to use my short afternoon work break to check it out. Wow, what a lot of passionate comments expressed for the environment. Here is just a quick thought before getting back to my job as an environmental scientist. The politicians’ responses are as boring and whitewashed as they would have been in 1950. The issue still seems to be framed as jobs vs. the environment. I think the best chance to break this cycle is for you, the media, to step up to the plate. I recommend you starting reframing the issues with the questions you ask. When you talk about jobs and the economy, start distinguishing statistics on green jobs vs. dirty jobs. What would Emmer say to the question, “Does Minnesota need to create green jobs?” First you need to define the difference, and not ‘greenwash’ the meaning of a green job (i.e. biomass fuel jobs). I recommend your regular news reports find or develop economic indicators representative of a green economy. I’ll gag the next time I hear a crescendo of cheers for consumer spending going up (like is happening today) – I recommend you break it down into green vs. dirty consumer spending. Environment and jobs are going to continue to be intimately intertwined, so you better have a benchmark to show which jobs and which consumer spending behavior is compatible with the environment. You, the media, have a lot of power to frame the issues. Use this opportunity wisely.

  • The question is a good one and I think candidate Dayton is the only one in this race who sees the full scope of this issue. Mark has been in state government for several decades and he’s witnessed the demise of the PCA over the years to the point where PCA now stands for Pollution Contribution Agency. He may be wrong about the streamlining but at least he knows that PCA and the DNR need new leadership. Under Dayton we have a chance to see these agencies do the job they are chartered to do. With either of the other two we get more of the same or even worse.

  • Matt

    I certainly hope all three candidates read the preceding comments, as I agree with many of the points which were made. I hope the candidates then take the message to heart and take concrete steps to improve the enforecment of our existing regulations.

    The candidate who has my vote will be the one who demonstrates they have an effective environmental protection / development plan, no amount of rhetoric will change my mind.

    I can see the reason behind wanting to streamline the system, since bureacratic agencies tend to be exceedingly slow, but isn’t that the point? To purposely take time so studies can be conducted and interested parties can comment on the decision before any action occurs?

  • freebird

    It is a downright shame for the” far out there” environmentalists to want more regulation and government added to the 37 pages of financial assurances now in place to cover this situation with respect to Polymet Mining.

    They will ship every one of your jobs and future sons and daughtors overseas, And it will destroy the environment by shipping the minerals back…these people do not want to have common sense they are Elitists that want to only have their point of view…And this MPR reporting is a one sided Joke, also…