Statement by Carol Hardin, Chair of the Sierra Club St. Croix Valley Group in response to American Strategies, Inc. Survey

Statement by Carol Hardin, Chair of the Sierra Club St. Croix Valley Group in response to American Strategies, Inc. Survey

For Immediate Release – January 30, 2012

The St. Croix was designated one of the eight original National Scenic Riverways because it is a natural treasure. It is possible and necessary to balance development pressures with preserving the high quality features that draw residents to the St. Croix Valley, and continue to protect one of the country’s most endangered rivers.

“In the survey released today, it is no surprise that most respondents support the currently proposed project — they are being given a false choice between a costly mega bridge that is neither fiscally or environmentally responsible, and no action. Meanwhile, residents in communities across the state with urgent road and bridge repairs have not had a voice.

“The Sierra Club continues to support the construction of a lower, less-intrusive bridge which will meet residents’ needs at a fraction of the cost of the four-lane mega bridge. Survey respondents expect a new bridge to ease congestion, reduce travel times and improve safety. The proposed alternative bridge would address those issues, but at a lower cost to taxpayers across the state.

“We continue to work for a less intrusive and costly solution that is responsive to residents’ needs and fiscal realities while honoring the river’s protected status.”

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Sierra Club Responds to Senate Rejection of Public Utilities Commission Appointment

For Immediate Release: Monday, January 30, 2012

SIERRA CLUB RESPONDS TO SENATE REJECTION OF PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION APPOINTMENT

Today’s action by the Senate Republican Caucus is yet another example of a qualified public servant losing their job over partisan politics. Minnesotans deserve leadership that respects talent and integrity; unfortunately today’s party-line confirmation vote demonstrates that the current Senate leadership has other priorities.

Since her appointment to the Public Utilities Commission, Ellen Anderson has voted with the majority 215 times out of 221 votes. Such a record is nothing if not ‘mainstream’.

Minnesota has real challenges ahead, and we need capable, qualified people running our public institutions in order to meet them. If the Minnesota Senate is not capable of handling public appointments in a responsible manner, then Minnesota voters will need to do some firing of their own next November.

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Sierra Club Responds to Senate Passage of Bill to Weaken River Protections, Build Most Expensive Bridge in State History

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, January 24, 2012

SIERRA CLUB RESPONDS TO SENATE PASSAGE OF BILL TO WEAKEN RIVER PROTECTIONS, BUILD MOST EXPENSIVE BRIDGE IN STATE HISTORY

On Monday night, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to exempt the currently proposed, massive St. Croix Crossing project from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. “This bill would gut the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act – to push through a massive and costly new bridge,” said Jim Rickard, Sierra Club St. Croix Valley group spokesperson. “The Sierra Club supports a new crossing that is less intrusive to the river, and will meet residents’ needs, provide local jobs, and save taxpayer dollars to be spent for other transportation priorities.”

In November, an independent study showed that the smaller design supported by the Sensible Stillwater Bridge coalition would cost about $394 million — 57 percent of the price tag of the freeway-style bridge specifically exempted from review in the current legislation.

Minnesota already has more than 1,100 structurally deficient bridges across the state, but Mn/DOT is already projecting a $270 million annual repair and maintenance shortfall in coming years.

“We urge officials to reconsider the cost and scale of the current $690 million proposed design, which if built, would break the record for the most expensive bridge in Minnesota,” said Margaret Levin, State Director of the Sierra Club North Star Chapter. “Instead, we call for a balanced and reasonable solution that will better protect the river and communities statewide.”

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Groups Want Farm Operators to be Held Accountable To Clean Up Minnesota’s Waters

Release Date: Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Saint Paul (Jan. 17, 2012) Members of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership (MEP) today offered guiding principles to ensure that large farm operators do their share to help clean up Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams under a new state and federal funded proposal announced today by Governor Mark Dayton, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Under a voluntary joint federal-state proposal, farm operators would be allowed to adopt practices designed to prevent pollution from running off their farmland and avoid being required to meet future state and federal water quality standards as they are developed to ensure that farm runoff will not further pollute Minnesota’s waters.

Since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, the agricultural sector has been exempt from programs that require measurable and enforceable reductions in water pollution. In Minnesota, conservation and environmental groups have been working to ensure that large farm operators be held accountable – just as cities and other businesses are – to prevent and clean up pollution from their operations.

“We want to protect Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams,” said Trevor Russell of the Friends of the Mississippi River. “Just last week we learned that 500 more waters in our state have been identified as not meeting basic water quality standards set by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Right now, 40 percent of our lakes, rivers and streams that have been tested are too polluted for fishing or swimming.”

“As it stands now, this proposal is very vague. It does not provide the certainty that we need that our waters will become clean and healthy,” said Steve Morse, executive director of MEP. “There are no assurances that the practices farm operators adopt, when added together, will get the results Minnesotans expect. Once the technical and stakeholders committees are appointed, we urge them to establish strong oversight so that Minnesotans who drink the water that comes from our rivers and eat the fish from our lakes will be assured that everyone – including agriculture – does their share to protect our water.”

The Minnesota Environmental Partnership and its member groups believe that any agricultural water pollution clean-up program must:

• Ensure water quality will meet standards. Any voluntary agricultural water quality certification plan must effectively reduce pollution to safe levels in affected lakes, rivers and streams and be evaluated by an independent examination team.

• Be targeted to the greatest needs. Funding for pollution reduction projects should be focused on the most effective projects to reduce water pollution.

• Ensure accountability from farm operators. There must be mechanisms in place to ensure an entire farming operation is included in an evaluation and that farm management plans are reviewed on a periodic basis to ensure accountability. Operations not currently in compliance with existing law must not be eligible to participate.

• Be consistent with existing pollution reduction programs and laws. Currently factories and cities implementing water quality improvement plans must meet safe water quality standards through five-year agreements. Any voluntary certification for large farm operators should follow the same time frame.

Minnesota Environmental Partnership is a statewide coalition of 79 nonprofit conservation and environmental organizations. Formed in 1998, MEP works with its member organizations to protect and restore Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, streams, forests, wildlife habitat and natural areas.

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