Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Thanks and No Thanks


All to often, I'm ready to find fault with and criticize "what's wrong with the world," especially how politics and government have a penchant for making things worse instead of better. Not today. Today I truly want to thank Governor Dayton, MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine, and the good folks at the Land Stewardship Project for their wisdom, decision-making and collective efforts that led to an "environmental review of the CD Corporation’s frac sand facility expansion at the river port in Winona, Minn. As a result, the proposed expansion cannot proceed until the environmental review process is completed." It's a pleasure to see government doing its job. I wonder if a similar review might be required for the proposed frac sand transfer facility in North Branch.

Northern Minnesota, Sawtooth Mountains
Photo by J. Harrington

Many corporations aren't waiting for government to make a decision or impose a requirement. I'm becoming more and more intrigued by the growth in Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting. It may or may not cut into profits, but, except for those who think we should win a race to the bottom, effectively and efficiently managing environmental responsibilities, which involves more than permit compliance, is rapidly becoming a necessity for obtaining a social license to continue (or start) a successful business. That's why I'm both surprised and disappointed that the Mining Minnesota web site references only meeting mandated federal and state environmental standards.
Strong Environmental Standards: Minnesota’s strong environmental standards are among the most stringent. The state has a thorough and comprehensive environmental review and permitting process. All mining companies are required to meet or exceed all standards, assuring air and water quality is protected.

Calumet, Minnesota, a different kind of mountain
Photo by J. Harrington

No Thanks

I would be more impressed if they also made reference to developing and following an Environmental Management System for any mining operation that may get permitted. We can make a comparison with the building industry. Building codes establish minimum requirements to be met for health and safety and energy efficiency. Many developers of new buildings are using green building criteria to go well beyond those minimum standards for energy efficiency, indoor air quality, water conservation and other factors including waste minimization and recycling. For many years, mining companies have had the benefit of international standards they could use for environmental management systems consistent with ISO 14000. I wonder why Minnesota Mining doesn't mention on their web site an intent to follow and develop such a system. Maybe they're waiting for the voluntary system to become a legal requirement. (That might make a great permit condition, if we ever get to that point.) Five uranium operations in Saskatchewan are ISO 14001 certified, Minera Yanacocha, an open pit gold mine promotes its 2004 certification. Doe Run's Sweetwater Mine and Mill has achieved ISO 14001 Certification. I certainly don't want you to conclude that I think achieving an ISO 14001 certification is the solution to mining's environmental impacts, but it is a clear indication of companies that have learned to walk their talk about minimizing environmental impacts.

Maybe, like Tony Hoagland, I take it personal. I live on this world.


By Tony Hoagland

Don’t take it personal, they said;
but I did, I took it all quite personal—

the breeze and the river and the color of the fields;
the price of grapefruit and stamps,

the wet hair of women in the rain—
And I cursed what hurt me

and I praised what gave me joy,
the most simple-minded of possible responses.

The government reminded me of my father,
with its deafness and its laws,

and the weather reminded me of my mom,
with her tropical squalls.

Enjoy it while you can, they said of Happiness
Think first, they said of Talk

Get over it, they said
at the School of Broken Hearts

but I couldn’t and I didn’t and I don’t
believe in the clean break;

I believe in the compound fracture
served with a sauce of dirty regret,

I believe in saying it all
and taking it all back

and saying it again for good measure
while the air fills up with I’m-Sorries

like wheeling birds
and the trees look seasick in the wind.

Oh life! Can you blame me
for making a scene?

You were that yellow caboose, the moon
disappearing over a ridge of cloud.

I was the dog, chained in some fool’s backyard;
barking and barking:

trying to convince everything else
to take it personal too.

Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.