Saturday, November 22, 2014

Protecting Minnesota's Brand

While thinking about "Minnesota's Brand" and yesterday's post here, I remembered some other news this past week. The citizens of North Branch, Taylors Falls and elsewhere in Chisago County have been pushing for alternatives to a proposed increase in frac sand processing in North Branch. Since the existing operation has been fined thousands of dollars by MPCA for air quality violations, the citizens' concerns are understandable.
Tiller Corporation penalized for air-quality violations

Contact: Ralph Pribble, 651-757-2657

St. Paul, Minn.— The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has penalized the Tiller Corporation, which operates a processing and shipment center for silica sand in North Branch, Minn. for multiple violations of the facility’s air quality permit.

The company built the facility in 2012-13 and began operating following issuance of an air quality permit from the MPCA in January 2013. Silica sand is brought to the facility from mines Tiller operates in Wisconsin, and processed for use in hydraulic fracturing and other industries. The product is shipped by rail and truck from the facility....

To resolve the violations, Tiller agreed to pay a civil penalty of $85,000 to the state. In addition, the company agreed to modify certain emissions control equipment and complete modifications to mitigate noise within 90 days. When those measures are complete, the company will conduct noise monitoring and submit results to the MPCA.
The current newsletter from the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club (re)notes the perils associated with the proposed PolyMet mine including the continuing water quality violations associated with the site.
The tailings basin is currently leaking 2.9 million gallons per day of contaminated water into the St. Louis River watershed. The current leakage is already in violation of water quality discharge permits.

St. Louis River at Duluth Harbor
St. Louis River at Duluth Harbor
Photo by J. Harrington

Just last September, MinnPost noted that the St. Louis River remains a source of major concern about mercury contamination and its effect on our children.

On the bright side, Minnesota's current unemployment rate is well below the national average. That would seem to say that, at least in Minnesota, jobs and the environment aren't mutually exclusive. Full employment can be achieved despite stringent environmental protections. In fact, some might argue that it can be attained because of such regulations. We don't have to gut our environmental regulations to attain economic success. As the recently elected Republican majority in Minnesota's House contemplates their agenda for the next two years, I hope they keep in mind how much better Minnesota is doing than many of those states to the south of us who think that "cancer alleys" are the key to economic development. We know better.

"green roof" plantings at UMN
"green roof" plantings at UMN
Photo by J. Harrington

We weren't kidding yesterday when we suggested Minnesota is the state where you can have it all, but only if we're smart enough to protect what we already have. We should be known (branded) as the state that helps employers attain stringent environmental standards, not one that trades today's employment for tomorrow's tax payer funded cleanup.

Smoke

By Philip Levine 

Can you imagine the air filled with smoke?
It was. The city was vanishing before noon
or was it earlier than that? I can't say because
the light came from nowhere and went nowhere.

This was years ago, before you were born, before
your parents met in a bus station downtown.
She'd come on Friday after work all the way
from Toledo, and he'd dressed in his only suit.

Back then we called this a date, some times
a blind date, though they'd written back and forth
for weeks. What actually took place is now lost.
It's become part of the mythology of a family,

the stories told by children around the dinner table.
No, they aren't dead, they're just treated that way,
as objects turned one way and then another
to catch the light, the light overflowing with smoke.

Go back to the beginning, you insist. Why
is the air filled with smoke? Simple. We had work.
Work was something that thrived on fire, that without
fire couldn't catch its breath or hang on for life.

We came out into the morning air, Bernie, Stash,
Williams, and I, it was late March, a new war
was starting up in Asia or closer to home,
one that meant to kill us, but for a moment

the air held still in the gray poplars and elms
undoing their branches. I understood the moon
for the very first time, why it came and went, why
it wasn't there that day to greet the four of us.

Before the bus came a small black bird settled
on the curb, fearless or hurt, and turned its beak up
as though questioning the day. "A baby crow,"
someone said. Your father knelt down on the wet cement,

his lunchbox balanced on one knee and stared quietly
for a long time. "A grackle far from home," he said.
One of the four of us mentioned tenderness,
a word I wasn't used to, so it wasn't me.

The bus must have arrived. I'm not there today.
The windows were soiled. We swayed this way and that
over the railroad tracks, across Woodward Avenue,
heading west, just like the sun, hidden in smoke. 

Source: Poetry (June 1998).           


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