AAAAAARGH, how did I miss this?  Though I couldn’t have afforded to attend…

The Sinkhole Conference: Multidisciplinary Conference on Sinkholes and the Engineering and Environmental Impacts of Karst

Friday afternoon is the Karst Field Trip!!!

And it’s in the Post Bulletin too:

What you don’t know about sinkholes can hurt you

I’m remembering how important karst was in the nuclear waste mess, because the “alternate waste mandate” required nuclear waste be sited “in Goodhue County” but Goodhue County is 1/2 active karst, and the rest “transition” or “covered” karst.  Karst was the major factor that lead to the sites in Florence Township, based on the USGS maps at the time.  This map above would rule out Goodhue County!

It’s a conference week!  Tuesday and Wednesday, it was an asbestos-like fiber conference about health and environmental impacts.  Alan’s interest, and I had piles of work to do, good environment at the EPA library!







Back to work after some “time off” (not really, because campgrounds are not immune from internet access, and an advocate’s work never ends).  For the first time, we loaded up the van and headed east, to Wisconsin’s Mirror Lake State Park.  I was a little skeptical, given how Walker’s been gutting the state, but it was great!  Other than extreme highway noise during the week (which we couldn’t hear Monday night due to the intense rain all night, couple inches at least), it’s an amazing park.  The camp sites are huge, and there’s a lot of space and trees between them.  We were on a cul de sac, spot 137, which was way up over the lake.

Little Sadie loves to go camping, rather than trudge along on her walks, she perks up and is trotting and sniffing like a pup.  And afterwards, does she snore up a storm.


This is the perfect time of year to get out.  Weather is cool, no bugs.



And we also took a quick jaunt down to Devil’s Lake State Park, and while the lake is beautiful, the campground is like a bare golf course — I cannot understand why anyone would camp there.  Mowed lawn, neighbors are right there, like camping in a big field. EEEEEUW.  Here’s the lake, with glacial rock piles along most of the edges:


I find it’s hard to pack up and come back to the unreal world… we seem to stay for an extra day.  I remember my father spending the winters planning the summer vacation, and now with the internet, it’s an addicting thing, but the resulting getaway is even better.


Next trip… back to Arkansas via Pere Marquette on the Mississippi?  Hell Creek State Park in Montana, a tour of the dams on the plains, via the Black Hills?  All of the above!

West Avenue Redux

September 24th, 2015


The 20 mph flashing sign hasn’t been very effective, so we’ve had this serious traffic calming regimen coming up the hill, and yes, people ARE slowing down!  Well, it’s either that or break an axle.  So they do, and wind around doing the serpentine, one yahoo ran over a barrel and left a big chunk of bumper in the street, DOH!  How do you not see an orange barrel with reflective stripes?!?!

Today they’re filling them in, blocking off one lane of road, ratcheting it up to a “traffic stopping regimen” which is great.  But when College Ave. is closed for utility tree cutting, and the intersection of Putnam and Pine is tore up to fix the huge cavern under the side walk and equipment lined up along Pine, it’s kinda hard to get from here to there today!

Will the fix the bank over the Great West Wall?


Westwood 3Transmission over Red Wing’s Westwood subdivision

In routing permitting using “Alternate Review” and in wind siting permitting under Minn. Stat. Chapter 216F, exempted from environmental review, the environmental review is inadequate.  An Environmental Impact Statement is necessary!  DOH!

Looking at Minnesota’s draft Rules for Transmission/Utility Infrastructure siting and routing, it’s clear that the recent Minnesota Court of Appeals decision remanding the Sandpiper pipeline case to the Public Utilities Commission has implications beyond Certificate of Need.

“Sandpiper” decision – OPa150016-091415

The Court’s bottom line was:


This was based on its holding that a Certificate of Need decision by the Public Utilities Commission was a “major governmental action.”

Because the decision to grant a certificate of need for a large oil pipeline constitutes a major governmental action that has the potential to cause significant environmental effects, we conclude that MEPA requires an environmental impact statement to be completed before a final decision is made to grant or deny a certificate of need.

Just as a Certificate of Need is a major governmental decision, a Siting Permit or a Routing Permit is a major governmental decision.  The Minnesota statute and rules provide for “Alternate Review” for siting and routing:

Alternate Review of Applications – Minn. Stat. 216E.04

And in this statute, there’s a subdivision authorizing an “environmental assessment.”

Subd. 5.Environmental review.

For the projects identified in subdivision 2 and following these procedures, the commissioner of the Department of Commerce shall prepare for the commission an environmental assessment. The environmental assessment shall contain information on the human and environmental impacts of the proposed project and other sites or routes identified by the commission and shall address mitigating measures for all of the sites or routes considered. The environmental assessment shall be the only state environmental review document required to be prepared on the project.

Throughout this rulemaking, a number of us participating have been stressing that this “environmental assessment” does not comply with MEPA.  Under the logic of the “Sandpiper” decision – OPa150016-091415, the Court would agree.

Yet here are the draft rules for Siting and Routing — search for “environmental assessment” in the draft:

August 3 2015 Draft Minn. R. Ch. 7850 (Siting & Routing)

And Certificate of Need draft rules:

August 3 2015 Draft Minn. R. Ch. 7849 (Certificate of Need)

And regarding wind permits, also a major governmental decision, these are statutorily exempted from environmental review by exempting it from PPSA – Minn. Stat. 216E.03, Subd. 5 “Environmental Review.”


(a) The requirements of chapter 216E do not apply to the siting of LWECS, except for sections 216E.01; 216E.03, subdivision 7; 216E.08; 216E.11; 216E.12; 216E.14; 216E.15; 216E.17; and 216E.18, subdivision 3, which do apply.

Wind siting permits are exempt from environmental review?  Public Utilities Commission issuance of wind project siting permits is a major governmental action.  Nope, not compliant with MEPA.

Carleton's Turbine Sept 1 2004

John Howe enters 2CD Rep. race

September 22nd, 2015

Sen. John Howe of Red Wing listens to the answer to a question he asked during a Friday Senate committee hearing about building a Vikings stadium.

Photo – Gretchen Hoffman, Capitol Chat

John Howe has announced he’s running for Congress in Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District.  It’s all over the web.  I’d wager a fair amount that John Howe would win the election.  The good news is that Drazkowski will not run, Dog help us if he did (though it would get him out of the MN House!). What I know about Howe is that as Mayor of Red Wing, and as our area state Senator, he stood up to Xcel Energy on its Prairie Island uprate and worked to get the full story out, and Xcel Energy did ask that the Certificate of Need be revoked/withdrawn after it was clear that there was no need for the uprate.  Howe also returns phone calls, and he’ll stop for a chat at the Farmers Market.

He was working for a bipartisan legislative environmental lobbying/caucus org of some sort, so I hope that he’ll continue with that mindset.  But given the MPR blurb below of Howe’s early campaign stop at a Red Wing Tea Party meeting, that gives me the willies, and I do hope he’s not taking that party line.  He also says he’ll put in $500k of his own money toward the campaign.  If he’s got that kind of money to throw around, and buys in to the “pay to play” notion, that’s a concern.  He’s been a moderate, sane voice, and if he continues on in that vein, he’ll win.  If not, if he goes off like Republican Presidential candidates these days, well, he’ll have trouble in this swing district.

We shall see…

Here’s the MPR article:

Howe enters race for Congress

And on Hubbard’s KSTP:

In the StPPP and StPPP blog:

2nd Republican announces bid to replace Rep. John Kline

Howe runs for Second District as ‘conservative’ but ‘electable’

I think that last headline pretty much sums it up for CD2!