Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sand in your face?

Following yesterday's thoughts in My Minnesota on mining's environmental management in Northern Minnesota, today's MinnPost has an informative piece by Ron Meador noting that "Frac-sand mining boom is accelerating and eluding regulators, analysis finds." This time its Southeastern Minnesota that's the area of concern. Combine that with  western and southern Minnesota's agricultural contributions to Anthropogenic Climate Disruption, and you might get the impression we're at war with the only home we have, and There is no Planet B.

Planet A and Planet B
A true-color NASA satellite mosaic of Earth.

At least as far as the frac sand mining in Minnesota is concerned, the EQB has devoted a page on their web site so you can try to keep track of what the state has done and is still proposing to do. DNR's reclamation rule-making schedule is here; The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has recently issued a second request for public comments on particulate emissions rule-making; Minnesota's Department of Health suggests that Health Impact Assessments should be part of the environmental review process (I'd like to see legislation making an HIA mandatory for mining, processing, transport and transhipment of silica sand). Once again, I think that rather than banning mining operations, Minnesota should be imposing environmental regulations, regardless of cost, to protect the "public health and welfare." If that drives up the cost of natural gas or other natural resource, we should use less of it. I think that's the way economics is supposed to work. Otherwise, those folks who are negatively affected end up subsidizing those who make a profit from the activity.

Minnesota's Impaired Waters
source: MPCA

Most economists I've read think rather poorly of subsidies. If energy subsidies aren't beneficial, I don't see why mining subsidies would be. Some smartphone makers are already charging a small fortune for their products. The price of natural gas has dropped significantly in the past few years. We need to start paying the real price, including the depleted environmental capital costs, of the resources we consume. Why? There is no Planet B and the most recent world populations forecasts have population increasing to 12+ billion. The issue isn't just the amount of change that's going on, but the increasing (increased) rate of change also. Minnesota is currently, or may soon be, paying the price in environmental quality and in quality of life for those who enjoy the outdoors or need water and air. If you're starting to think we're under assault, you may be right. See what Pogo has to say about it. Don't we live in

Interesting Times

By Mark Jarman 

Everything’s happening on the cusp of tragedy, the tip of comedy, the pivot of event.
You want a placid life, find another planet. This one is occupied with the story’s arc:
About to happen, on the verge, horizontal. You want another planet, try the moon.
Try any of the eight, try Planet X. It’s out there somewhere, black with serenity.
How interesting will our times become? How much more interesting can they become?
A crow with something dangling from its beak flaps onto a telephone pole top, daintily,
And croaks its victory to other crows and tries to keep its morsel to itself.
A limp shape, leggy, stunned, drops from the black beak’s scissors like a rag.
We drive past, commenting, and looking upward. A sunny morning, too cold to be nesting,
Unless that is a nest the crow has seized, against the coming spring.
We’ve been at this historical site before, but not in any history we remember.
The present has been cloaked in cloud before, and not on any holy mountaintop.
To know the stars will one day fly apart so far they can’t be seen
Is almost a relief. For the future flies in one direction—toward us.
And the only way to sidestep it—the only way—is headed this way, too.
So, look. That woman’s got a child by the hand. She’s dragging him across the street.
He’s crying and she’s shouting, but we see only dumbshow. Their breath is smoke.
Will she give in and comfort him? Will he concede at last? We do not know.
Their words are smoke. In a minute they’ll be somewhere else entirely.
Everyone in a minute will be somewhere else entirely. As the crow flies.

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