Environmental Successes of the 2014 (Spring) Session
Compiled by Becketwood’s Environment Committee
Many of us roll our eyes when we hear talk of legislative compromises and bipartisan bills, especially when they have to do with the environment. There are such large problems and controversies, such seemingly insurmountable difficulties. Can anything real and good happen in the Capitol halls and back rooms? We all eat, drink, and breathe and wish to continue doing so in healthy ways, so we want solutions.
Let’s consider what’s working well for our environment in Minnesota’s legislature:
MN Legislature Funds Forever Green Initiative
The Land Stewardship Project's legislative priority is gaining greater public investment in sustainable agriculture.
Background: During the bulk of the year, bare, sparsely protected fields dominate Minnesota’s agricultural landscape. The land loses water, soil, and productive crop opportunities while absorbing additional pollution. Agricultural runoff remains the largest source of pollution to Minnesota’s surface waters.
This year a University of Minnesota research initiative involving cover crops and perennial plant systems, the Forever Green Initiative, has secured funding. The project is focused on crops that are profitable for farmers to grow, will work in Minnesota’s climate, and will create more crop diversity, key to cleaning up our water by keeping farm soil and nutrients on the land.
Source: Land Stewardship Project.
Clean Water: the big winner in 2014
Triclosan Ban. Background: Triclosan, a chemical additive and cleansing agent in some personal care products poses serious health risks for people and the environment. It breaks down to form dangerous dioxins in our surface waters. These dioxins have increased by 200-300% since triclosan appeared on store shelves.
Effective January 1, 2017, triclosan will be banned in consumer hand and body soaps.
Legislative Water Commission. With water quality and quantity issues becoming more common and complex, a legislative venue for vetting water-related issues and administrative actions was needed. This bi-partisan group was reestablished and funded. The body is charged with understanding and improving on Minnesota's system for protecting and managing water resources.
Community Energy & Energy Efficiency. An expanded program promotes industrial, commercial and other large institutional energy efficiency projects statewide, through low-cost loans that can be paid back with the savings from reduced energy consumption.
Solar Cost Tracking. New cost-tracking process will show how the cost of installing solar energy around the state is dropping over time.
Increasing the Market for Electric Vehicles in Minnesota
Residential charging rates. Fresh Energy developed and sponsored a bipartisan bill, passed into law as part of the 2014 energy omnibus bill. Under the new law, the state’s three largest utilities (Xcel Energy, Minnesota Power, and Otter Tail Power) will offer their residential customers the option to charge electric vehicles using renewable energy at a reduced “off-peak” (e.g., overnight) rate, starting in spring 2015.
Background: Plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) are three times more fuel efficient than conventional passenger vehicles. “According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the 2014 Ford Focus Electric gets 105 MPGe in combined city and highway driving, while the 2014 Nissan Leaf gets 114 MPGe.* EVs don’t consume oil or emit ground-level exhaust—an important health benefit.” Posted by Ross Abbey on Fresh Energy.
*Miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (MPGe or MPGge) is a measure of the average distance traveled per unit of energy consumed. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency uses MPGe to compare energy consumption of alternative fuel vehicles and plug-in electric vehicles.
On June 21, Fresh Energy executive director Michael Noble gave a keynote address at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s 25th Energy Fair in Custer, Wisconsin. “I love the idea of transportation powered by electricity. Bikes, motorcycles, pedicabs, cars, light rail, commuter rail, and freight trains: it all makes sense because electric motors are three times more efficient than internal combustion engines. What’s not to like about filling your car up with electricity at the equivalent of 50 cents to 1 dollar per gallon? … by 2015, we’ll need to print up the bumper stickers: “This car is CO2 free.” “This car is powered by wind.”
Increase the adoption of electric vehicles by state agencies . Also this year, the Minnesota Legislature passed a bipartisan bill that removes barriers to the purchase of plug-in electric vehicles by state agencies, which enables state administrators to consider the total cost of vehicle ownership when purchasing vehicles—taking into account the lower fueling and maintenance costs typically associated with plug-in electric vehicles.
Source: Fresh Energy
Victory on Railroad & Pipeline Oil Spill Bill
Oil trains rumbling through the Twin Cities and crude oil pipelines that cross northern Minnesota will get greater state scrutiny under a measure passed this session.
The Railroad and Pipeline Oil Spill Bill passed as part of the Budget Bill, H.F. 3172 and is now law. As a result, the rail and pipeline industries must pay the costs of new equipment, materials, and training for first responders along rail and pipeline corridors in Minnesota. Several new state inspectors will be hired and railroads must submit improved oil spill prevention and response plans to the state. In addition they must provide timely notification to state and local authorities in the event of a spill. Oil spill containment, recovery, and sensitive area protection drills by railroads will occur under supervision of the Pollution Control Agency. MN350 led this highly successful effort.
So many of us at Becketwood are passionate about the environment; we are delighted that these legislative initiatives are having results.