StateRailPlanlogo

There’s a “State Rail Plan” and it’s up for comment NOW! But I’m wondering just what it is that they’re trying to do, and it seems like the goal is to secure public spending for necessary private infrastructure.  If not, what’s the goal here?

MN DOT has been holding meetings all over the state, Alan went to one in Red Wing last week, and there’s a couple more coming up:

Nov. 24: Moorhead, MN
Hjemkomst Center 5 – 7 p.m.

Nov. 25: Winona, MN
City Council Chambers 5 – 7 p.m.

What’s up for comment?

Start with this 2010 Report from the DOT website:

MN Rail Plan Final Report Feb2010

And updates to consider:

Now check this, from last February:

BNSF Announces $5 Billion Capital Commitment Program

Why is this news?  Isn’t it their job to keep the rails in decent shape, to invest in their own infrastructure, not just to put money in Warren Buffet’s pockets!

When the DOT predicts this level of service (LOS) with or without improvements, are they including improvements such as the $5 billion of BNSF?  The DOT seems to be cheerleading for PUBLIC spending on PRIVATE infrastructure!  These are private for-profit companies (well, some may be “public” in the corporate sense) and they are responsible for their infrastructure.  What is the DOT doing to force the rail companies to upgrade to keep their Level of Service (LOS) at an acceptable rate, SAFELY, so they’re able to handle all the freight that they’re wanting to ram through our communities?  It’s not the job of government to subsidize the likes of Warren Buffet!

2030 Freight&Pass with Improvements

Here’s a freight survey from their site — note it’s called “Metroquest” so go figure.

Something I found interesting when considering rail is this testimony from the Sandpiper pipeline case (go HERE and plug in dockets 13-473 for Certificate of Need and 13-474 for Routing):

Rennicke_Direct_20148-102135-05

They’re framing this Bakken BOOM! as binary, either rail or pipeline, and whenever something is framed that way, that’s a big red flag to take a closer and more thoughtful look.

DOT says there are going to be “stakeholder” meetings — meetings that should be well attended by people like us!  From their site:

  • Three major stakeholder meetings are also scheduled, coinciding with the November 2014 Passenger Rail Forum, the December 2014 Freight Summit, and the January 2015 Passenger Rail Forum. A second round of open houses will be held in early 2015.

So when are these meetings?  Passenger Rail Forum meetings are supposed to happen monthly but don’t.  Just this last Monday, Gov. Dayton’s “Rail Summit” was supposed to have happened. MPCA Commissioner Stine mentioned it at yesterday’s meeting and said there would be another next month, and Frank Hornstein’s fb post, but there’s very little about it in the news other than announcements 10/31 that it would happen, in St. Paul, and of course we all weren’t invited:  http://hometownsource.com/2014/10/31/gov-dayton-to-convene-minnesota-rail-summit-on-nov-17/

Here’s how it’s framed by our good friends at KSTP — if you click on the link, it’s pipeline promotion:

Dayton Hosts Governor’s Rail Summit to Discuss Rail Safety, Backlog

KSTP.com-Nov 17, 2014
Railroad, agriculture and political leaders will be attending the Governor’s Rail Summit to talk about increasing railway safety, addressing the …

Back to the DOT — look at this “Passenger Rail Forum” and how that’s been “working” — meeting after meeting canceled:

Forum meetings

All forum meetings are held from 10 a.m. to noon at the State Office Building unless otherwise specified below. Meetings will be canceled when there are insufficient topics to merit a meeting.

State Office Building, Room 5
100 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd
St. Paul, MN 55155

Date

Location / Time

Jan. 6, 2014 Canceled
Feb. 3, 2014 Canceled
March 3, 2014 Conference call
April 7, 2014 Conference call
May 5, 2014 Conference call
June 2, 2014 Canceled
July 7, 2014 Canceled
Aug. 4, 2014 Conference call
Sep. 8, 2014 Rescheduled to Sept. 15 via conference call
Oct. 6, 2014 Canceled
Nov. 10, 2014 State Office Building, Room 5, 10 a.m. to Noon
Dec. 1, 2014 State Office Building, Room 5, 10 a.m. to Noon

Check out their site.  What are they really doing here?  What’s really at issue?  I think we’re looking at a scam to get the public to pick up the tab for infrastructure updates that haven’t been made over the last few decades:

Money

Money2

These slides are from this presentation — note the date: November 12, 2009… presented at the November 12, 2010 meeting (That’s what the date is on the site, and the 2009 date matches up with the properties date.)  ???

PTACPres20091112

And another thing… why is the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce interested in Bakken BOOM oil and why is DNV-GL top-heavily loading the panel coming up here on December 4th?

06182014_EQB

To the rulemaking staff at MPCA, EQB and DNR:  YOU’RE AVOIDING PUBLIC INPUT ON DRAFT RULES PRIOR TO BRINGING TO PROPOSAL TO THE BOARD.  NOT ACCEPTABLE!

DISCLOSE DRAFT RULES FOR REVIEW BY ADVISORY COMMITTEE PRIOR TO TAKING TO EQB BOARD!

“Bogus?”  Yes, bogus, because a Rulemaking Advisory Committee is “to comment, before publication of a notice of intent to adopt or a notice of hearing, on the subject matter of a possible rulemaking under active consideration within the agency.“  That is NOT happening.

What is there to show for the YEAR since the statute was passed and signed to trigger this rulemaking?  What is there to show for the SIX MONTHS of monthly meetings of the Rulemaking Advisory Committee?  Here it is — the agencies’ “DRAFT concepts” document that they passed out at the May 18 meeting (note it’s not even close to a DRAFT rule):

140516 Air Rule Concept Document

I was told that it would be posted on the Advisory Committee page, well, that was over a month ago and it’s still not posted in preparation for or after the June meeting.  Looking at that Advisory Committee page, there are no materials published for the May meeting, nor are there any for June:

Silica Sand Rulemaking Advisory Panel

This is not public involvement, and this is not providing an opportunity for review of the draft rules.  This committee has been meeting for six months now, and there’s a statement that the proposal will go before the EQB in September…

So back to the EQB.  Thursday’s EQB meeting was a long meeting, one which Alan and I only attended for the CO2 discussion and did not stay for the silica sand discussion (we both received only one day’s notice on this pre-meeting “listening session.”).  No packet materials were posted.  From the EQB site: EQB board meeting proposed agenda, June 18, 2014: Agenda and accompanying materials for meeting, June 18, 2014. (54.38K, .pdf).  NOTHING in the way of materials whatsoever, though one member commented on the large quantity of materials in the packet.

Now I’ve had a chance to listen to the video (THESE VIDEOS ARE MUCH APPRECIATED!).  Check it out:

During the silica sand part, EQB E.D. Will Seuffert stated that the Advisory Panel met yesterday, that would have been June 17, 2014, and that their intent is to have a proposal before the Board for the September meeting.

So the Rulemaking Advisory Committee will see the proposals when and have time to review them when???  This committee has been meeting for six months and has yet to have a draft rule to review.

Since day one, I’ve been warning, predicting, declaring, that what these agencies are doing is paying lip service to engagement of the public, the “stakeholders” in this process, and forging on without giving them any opportunity to participate in a meaningful way, and certainly not giving them any opportunity to comment on rule drafts as anticipated by the statute.  I’ve been pushing staff about it, and get assurances that no, that’s not what’s going on.  HA!

Check this video, particularly starting ~ 53, where DNR staff is explaining rulemaking at the FIFTH meeting of this Rulemaking Advisory Committee, talking around participation of the committee and brushing off any expectation of a draft rule. GRRRRRRR. LISTEN TO MAY MEETING HERE.

And to add to the mess, those supposedly representing the public are not providing updates to those they’re supposed to be representing.  GRRRRRRRRRRR.  No reports on these meetings whatsoever.  As representatives, it’s your job to provide updates after the meetings with analysis of what happened and next steps.  Nada… not a word.  I’m certainly not feeling represented!

Some posts on the failure of agencies involved to properly and meaningfully utilize the Advisory Committee to comment on DRAFT RULES:

Silica Sand Rulemaking off track…   April 30th, 2014

And once more with feeling, state law clearly and expressly authorizes and establishes the role of a Rulemaking Advisory Committee.  The statutory purpose is to COMMENT on the proposed draft… BEFORE it’s published:

14.101 ADVICE ON POSSIBLE RULES.

Subd. 2.Advisory committees.

Each agency may also appoint committees to comment, before publication of a notice of intent to adopt or a notice of hearing, on the subject matter of a possible rulemaking under active consideration within the agency.

These agencies adamantly objected to formation of an Advisory Committee, from that earlier blog post, “Someone explain rulemaking to the MPCA here’s the MPCA resistence and an explanation:

MPCA staff’s report to the EQB stated inexplicably that they were “confused,” claiming ignorance of how rulemaking works and the impact of comments at this stage:

i. Staff requests Board direction on a question that arose at the August 2nd public meetings.

Members of the public expressed interest in a citizen committee to participate in the rulemaking. It is not clear how a citizen committee would affect the rulemaking process laid out in Minn. Statutes Ch. 14. A multi-step public review and comment process is already required in that statute and we just completed the preliminary step. Rulemaking is essentially creating law: Minnesota Rules have the force and effect of law. Rulemaking is a lengthy process, averaging about two years.

Who cares about rulemaking?  Who cares about rules?  I care!  Anyone looking to the state to protect the health and safety of Minnesotans!  And that IS their job.

FYI, an aside… recently a little birdie involved with a new sand plant in Wisconsin told me that it’s not in compliance with air permits, and might not ever be able to bring it into compliance (not without spending more money on  limiting emissions than they want to!).  These emissions rules being developed in Minnesota are crucial.

Rules are important.  Let’s see the DRAFT rules and give us reasonable time to review and comment!

Bundy

Last post on this, Paul Krugman says it all.  Really…. well… probably…

In yesterday’s New York Times, Paul Krugman says very clearly what I’ve been trying to wrap my head around.  Cliven Bundy is a moocher, no doubt, I’ve called him a “welfare queen” too, but the hatred Bundy spews is… is… well, read what Krugman has to say, he puts it all together.

The anti-government mindset is indeed a problem.  Just Friday, I ran into it when a friend repeated the mantra, “You know what’s wrong, it’s the government, the government is too powerful,” when we were attending a hearing focused on utility power (“why do you think they call them power companies”), where it was a utility trying to take someone’s land.  HUH?  How is that an example of problem with “government?”  The landowner in the middle of the fray clearly stated her take, “It’s the utilities, the corporations have too much power.”  Yup, my take too.  How does it become an issue of “too much government?”  This highlights the failure of our individuals and schools to foster critical thinking compounded by the acceptance of the non-stop media regurgitation of false and twisted information.  But hey, that’s just another display of corporate power.

The only thing I’d change?  Where Krugman says it’s a perversion regarding “freedom of the wealthy,” I think it’s more freedom of ANYONE, and so I’d make this edit:

For at the heart of the standoff was a perversion of the concept of freedom, which for too much of the right has come to mean the freedom of the wealthy to do whatever they want, without regard to the consequences for others.

Paul-Krugman

Here are Krugman’s thoughts:

High Plains Moochers

It is, in a way, too bad that Cliven Bundy — the rancher who became a right-wing hero after refusing to pay fees for grazing his animals on federal land, and bringing in armed men to support his defiance — has turned out to be a crude racist. Why? Because his ranting has given conservatives an easy out, a way to dissociate themselves from his actions without facing up to the terrible wrong turn their movement has taken.

For at the heart of the standoff was a perversion of the concept of freedom, which for too much of the right has come to mean the freedom of the wealthy to do whatever they want, without regard to the consequences for others.

Start with the narrow issue of land use. For historical reasons, the federal government owns a lot of land in the West; some of that land is open to ranching, mining and so on. Like any landowner, the Bureau of Land Management charges fees for the use of its property. The only difference from private ownership is that by all accounts the government charges too little — that is, it doesn’t collect as much money as it could, and in many cases doesn’t even charge enough to cover the costs that these private activities impose. In effect, the government is using its ownership of land to subsidize ranchers and mining companies at taxpayers’ expense.

It’s true that some of the people profiting from implicit taxpayer subsidies manage, all the same, to convince themselves and others that they are rugged individualists. But they’re actually welfare queens of the purple sage.

And this in turn means that treating Mr. Bundy as some kind of libertarian hero is, not to put too fine a point on it, crazy. Suppose he had been grazing his cattle on land belonging to one of his neighbors, and had refused to pay for the privilege. That would clearly have been theft — and brandishing guns when someone tried to stop the theft would have turned it into armed robbery. The fact that in this case the public owns the land shouldn’t make any difference.

So what were people like Sean Hannity of Fox News, who went all in on Mr. Bundy’s behalf, thinking? Partly, no doubt, it was the general demonization of government — if someone looks as if he is defying Washington, he’s a hero, never mind the details. Partly, one suspects, it was also about race — not Mr. Bundy’s blatant racism, but the general notion that government takes money from hard-working Americans and gives it to Those People. White people who wear cowboy hats while profiting from government subsidies just don’t fit the stereotype.

Most of all, however — or at least that’s how it seems to me — the Bundy fiasco was a byproduct of the dumbing down that seems ever more central to the way America’s right operates.

Read the rest of this entry »

Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_(1568)_The_Blind_Leading_the_Blind

The Minesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is in charge of organizing the three rulemakings mandated by last year’s silica sand bill, and it’s really not that complicated — narrow specific issues.  From the Session Law, here’s what they’re supposed to do.

    Sec. 105. RULES; SILICA SAND.
(a) The commissioner of the Pollution Control Agency shall adopt rules pertaining to the control of particulate emissions from silica sand projects. The rulemaking is exempt from Minnesota Statutes, section 14.125.
(b) The commissioner of natural resources shall adopt rules pertaining to the reclamation of silica sand mines. The rulemaking is exempt from Minnesota Statutes, section 14.125.
(c) By January 1, 2014, the Department of Health shall adopt an air quality health-based value for silica sand.
(d) The Environmental Quality Board shall amend its rules for environmental review, adopted under Minnesota Statutes, chapter 116D, for silica sand mining and processing to take into account the increased activity in the state and concerns over the
size of specific operations. The Environmental Quality Board shall consider whether the requirements of Minnesota Statutes, section 116C.991, should remain part of the environmental review requirements for silica sand and whether the requirements should be different for different geographic areas of the state. The rulemaking is exempt from Minnesota Statutes, section 14.125.

Do notice that each directive for rulemaking says that “The rulemaking is exempt from Minnesota Statutes, section 14.125.“  That’s code words for “take your time, we’re in no hurry to see anything accomplished.  Dawdle, go around in circles, fall down, and get lost along the way…”  Folks, that’s just what we’re experiencing in this rulemaking process, molasses on a cold day in hell.

Initially, the MPCA resisted forming an Advisory Committee.  Those of us who’ve participated in rulemaking before know that the Advisory Committee is where it happens, where you can have some meaningful input, because in the world of rulemaking, you can’t adopt a rule that is substantially different than that offered for comment by the agency.  Therefore has to happen at the draft stage, before the agency releases it.   But this MPCA is the same MPCA that worked very hard to avoid having a Citizen’s Advisory Committee, despite it being expressly authorized by statute.  Once more, with feeling:

14.101 ADVICE ON POSSIBLE RULES.

Subd. 2.Advisory committees.

Each agency may also appoint committees to comment, before publication of a notice of intent to adopt or a notice of hearing, on the subject matter of a possible rulemaking under active consideration within the agency.

MPCA staff’s report to the EQB stated inexplicably that they were “confused,” claiming ignorance of how rulemakign works and the impact of comments at this stage:

i. Staff requests Board direction on a question that arose at the August 2nd public meetings.
Members of the public expressed interest in a citizen committee to participate in the rulemaking. It is not clear how a citizen committee would affect the rulemaking process laid out in Minn. Statutes Ch. 14. A multi-step public review and comment process is already required in that statute and we just completed the preliminary step. Rulemaking is essentially creating law: Minnesota Rules have the force and effect of law. Rulemaking is a lengthy process, averaging about two years.

As I said in comments prior to, during, and after the meeting, “It is not clear…”  NO NO NO!  For someone in Smyser’s position, there’s no excuse for statements like this.  The statute is very clear about the agencies’ authority to appoint an Advisory Committees and how an advisory committee it would affect rulemaking – it improves the output by providing input before the draft rule is issued.

CLICK HERE FOR STATUTES ON RULES

CLICK HERE FOR RULES ON RULES (don’t worry, it’s not a mobius strip), 1400.2000 – 1400.2570.

Here’s how the Dept. of Health explains the role of Advisory Committee members (link to their entire Rulemaking Manual below, it could be helpful for those stuck in this molasses process, yes this is about Health, but the intrinsic role and function of an Advisory Committee remains the same):

The Role of the Advisory Committee.

-          Advice, not voting. The role of the Advisory Committee is to advise [the agency] on the development of these rules. [The agency] looks to the Advisory Committee for its expertise in these regulations.] The Advisory Committee does not have voting authority on what will go in the rules; the [Commissioner] makes any final decisions. The Advisory Committee does, however, have the power of persuasion and the power that comes from having the information needed to make these rules workable.

-          Represent your interest group. Each of you likely represents an interest group in one way or another, be it [for example: small hospitals or large hospitals, urban hospitals or rural hospitals, large health care organizations or small health care organizations, consumers, hospital administrators, hospital accounting departments, hospital professional organizations], and so on. We encourage you to maintain communication with others who share your interests.

-          Consensus. Our goal is to achieve consensus on as many issues as possible. Even where there is disagreement on some issues, we hope to make the rules as workable as possible for those who have to comply with them.

-          Reasonable comments and suggestions. We will carefully consider all comments and suggestions about the rules. You will have the most success persuading [the agency] with your comments and suggestions if you give reasons along the same lines as how [the agency] has to justify the need for and reasonableness of everything in the rules.

And now, about ten months after the legislation was passed, TEN MONTHS, rulemaking is flailing about, there is no language proposed, and staff has no language.  What’s going on?  My money is on one path — that they’ll stall and bamboozle with bullshit and take in a few general comments, and then hand the draft rule that they want, without any draft, without any review by the Committee, to the agency to issue a SONAR, Notice and put out for public comment, totally blowing off the Citizens Advisory Committee.

Whatever their intent, the impact is that tempest is a fugiting and there’s nothing to show for the time slowly ticking away.

Why would I say such a thing?  First, again, there is no draft language for the Committee to review.  None, nada, nothing for any of the three rules they’re charged with drafting.  So what exactly are they doing?

Second, they are for sure bamboozling them with bullshit, because look what’s posted as materials, from the Silica Sand Advisory Panel page:

Resources for the panel and the public

Reports

Rulemaking

Information sources

Other

Existing rules

Environmental Quality Board

HTML ContentMinn. Rules 4410 – Environmental ReviewExternal Link

Air: State and federal

 OH.   MY.   DOG.

Now honestly, can you look at that without getting dizzy?  If all that crap doesn’t have Committee members, most or all of whom have no experience in rulemaking, ready to commit hari-kari, or go utterly insane, or both…

MPCA, just get to the rulemaking, give the public the draft language, so we can tell you what we think about it.  Show us you’re not acting in bad faith.

D-R-A-F-T   L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E!

Feel free to let them know what you think, what you expect of the rulemaking process, and what you want to see for the draft rules:

nathan.cooley@state.mn.us

Jeff.Smyser@state.mn.us

wendy.turri@state.mn.us

And in the alternative, methinks we’d best come up with some specific draft language now, if not sooner.  Show ‘em how it’s supposed to be done.

 

Caucus day today

February 4th, 2014

Minnesotans – CLICK HERE TO Find out where to attend your precinct caucus.

It’s caucus day today, and right now what’s humming around in my brain is the need for beefed up regulation of train traffic.  There’s the exploding Bakken oil tankers, due to the increased volativity of the crude and need for degasification, and there’s the delay of Amtrak trains through North Dakota, putting people on BUSSES, because of the increased traffic.  These are examples of how the rail system is NOT working.

lac-megantic

Here are a few resolutions I’m putting in:

I’ve got a list of resolutions, growing by the minute:

  • Ban use of polyacrylamide for mining processing in Minnesota (used in silica sand mining, also proposed for use at PolyMet).
  • In the interest of public safety, Bakken crude oil must be properly tested, characterized, classified, and where appropriate sufficiently degasified prior to loading onto rail or truck tanker cars, or into pipelines, to identify potential hazards and degasified to lessen volativity prior to transport.
  • Amtrak trains must be given priority over freight traffic, particularly through North Dakota, where currently trains are significantly delayed (hours), or passengers are put on busses to go around the oil train traffic.
  • AMEND – delete garbage from definition of “renewable” energy sources:

216B.1691 RENEWABLE ENERGY OBJECTIVES.
Subdivision 1.Definitions.

(a) Unless otherwise specified in law, “eligible energy technology” means an energy technology that generates electricity from the following renewable energy sources:
(1) solar;
(2) wind;
(3) hydroelectric with a capacity of less than 100 megawatts;
(4) hydrogen, provided that after January 1, 2010, the hydrogen must be generated from the resources listed in this paragraph; or

(5) biomass, which includes, without limitation, landfill gas; an anaerobic digester system; the predominantly organic components of wastewater effluent, sludge, or related by-products from publicly owned treatment works, but not including incineration of wastewater sludge to produce electricity; and an energy recovery facility used to capture the heat value of mixed municipal solid waste or refuse-derived fuel from mixed municipal solid waste as a primary fuel.

  • Repeal 216B.1694 INNOVATIVE ENERGY PROJECT.

The Excelsior Energy Mesaba Project was rejected by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and the statute should be repealed.

  • Develop publicly available state registry of animal abusers, including those convicted of abuse, neglect and hoarding, identifying names, current address and address at time of conviction of those convicted, dates and charges, resolution, and contact information for probation officer.