Frac Sand Mining in Minnesota
By Chuck Salter
Frac sand is valuable and Minnesota has lots of it. The sand is used for frac mining which has transformed and increased oil and gas production in the U.S. in recent years. The procedure blasts sand, water and chemicals into underground rocks to enlarge natural fissures in rocks and to release otherwise unreachable deposits of oil and natural gas. Frac sand is currently in short supply and typically sells for about $50 per ton although it fluctuates with the price of oil and gas and has sold for as much as $100 per ton. Frac sand found near the surface throughout southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin is known as “Northern White” and can sell for much more than other sands used for frac mining. The perfectly round, inert, pure quartz silica sand grains from Minnesota and Wisconsin can withstand the intense pressure needed to break apart rock and are therefore ideal for creating and preserving the fissures and maximizing the oil and gas flow. Click here to read more.
Summary of Siewert v. Northern States Power Company
By Esther Goldschlager
Dairy farmers, Greg and Harlan Siewert (d/b/a Siewert Holsteins) brought suit against a company authorized to sell energy services in Minnesota named Northern States Power Company (NSP) for damages and injunctive relief based upon a variety of claims: negligence, strict liability, trespass, and nuisance due to stray voltage. The Siewerts alleged that their herd of dairy cows experienced health problems and unusually high mortality rates due stray voltage. Stray voltage is a phenomenon in which electrical voltage that returns to the ground after powering an appliance passes through an object not intended as a conductor (allegedly the Siewert’s dairy cows). Click here to read more.
Border Battle Moves to Federal Court: North Dakota Sues Minnesota Over Next Generation Energy Act
By Joseph Maternowski
North Dakota and several coal producers have filed suit against Minnesota naming Minnesota’s Attorney General Lori Swanson and the members of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in its complaint, filed on November 2, 2011 in federal district court. Requesting injunctive and declaratory relief, North Dakota alleges that portions of Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act (NGEA) are unconstitutional. Click here to read more.
The Public Utility Commission rules on high voltage transmission lines on the Midtown Greenway
By Chuck Salter
On January 12, 2012 the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) ruled that a 115 kilovolt transmission line proposed for southeastern Minneapolis must run underground on 28th Street (between Hiawatha Avenue and Oakland Avenue South) and not overhead on any of the alternative routes or along the Midtown Greenway, the initial preferred site of Xcel Energy (Xcel). Click here to read more.
Chemical Pesticide Drift May Constitute Trespass Under Minnesota Law
By Esther Golschlager
On July 25, 2011, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that pesticide drifting from one farm to another because of errant overspray may, in certain circumstances, constitute a tort claim of trespass. In Johnson v. Paynesville Farmers Union Co-op., 802 N.W.2d 383 (2011), the Court of Appeals reversed a district court decision that dismissed the farmer’s claims of trespass, nuisance, and negligence per se claims against a farm cooperative. Click here to read more.
By Adam Apter
TransCanada, a Canadian company, is seeking to build and expand an oil pipeline called Keystone XL from the Athabasca Tar Sands oil producing region to refineries and distribution centers on the Texas coast. The pipeline will also have branches bringing Bakken region oil from North Dakota and Montana to market. This project is an expansion of the already existing Keystone pipeline and will bring the capacity of the total system to 1.3 million barrels of oil per day. It will cost approximately 7 billion dollars to build and could employ thousands of workers. The projected and alternative paths do not enter Minnesota at any point along the route. Click here to read more.
National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act
The National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act, H.R. 1505, is proposed legislation that could have potentially significant effects on environmental protection and border enforcement in the United States. The act would exempt the Department of Homeland Security from having to conform their border control activities with over 30 pieces of environmental legislation. This bill is especially controversial with regards to sensitive parts of the border between the United States and Canada, such as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park. Click here to read more.
Lutsen Mountain Allowed Continuing Water Withdrawal of Poplar River Until Fall 2016
By Nels Paulsen
On November 10, 2011, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that Lutsen Mountain Corporation (LMC) would be allowed to continue drawing water from the Poplar River for snowmaking at the ski hill under the permit issued by the DNR. DNR Commissioner Tim Landwehr emphasized that the permit is a temporary fix to prevent serious negative economic impact if snowmaking was not allowed with water pumped from the Poplar River. According to the DNR news release, LMC should commit to cease all pumping from the Poplar River by the fall of 2016. Click here to read more.
The Struggle Over Wind Development in Goodhue County Opens a New Chapter
By Tom Burman
On December 15, 2011 Belle Creek Township was served a summons and complaint by AWA Goodhue, LLC, which seeks to develop a 78 Megawatt large wind energy conversion system project (LWECS) under Minn. Stat. § 216F.01 in Goodhue County. This lawsuit marks the most recent event in an unusually long permitting battle over the wind project. The complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against a Moratorium Ordinance adopted by the Township on June 14, 2010 that bans the development, siting, or construction of any Wind Energy Conversion Systems within the Township without review by the Town Board. The complaint argues that, pursuant to Minn. Stat. §216F.07, the site permit issued by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for the project “supersedes and preempts” the local moratorium.
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Brookings County-Hampton 345kV Project
By Adam Apter
The Brookings Line, which is a 345kV transmission line, was approved by the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO) on December 8, 2011. The line will run from Brookings County, SD to Hampton, MN. The line will be constructed both to increase the efficiency and long term capabilities of the Midwest’s power grid, as well as to improve the ability of the grid to transmit electricity generated in recent and planned wind energy projects. Many Midwestern states, including Minnesota, have substantially increased state wind and renewable energy requirements for utilities. This has caused the construction of numerous wind projects throughout the upper midwest and Canada served by MISO. Because the particular siting needs of wind projects—they need to be constructed where adequate wind resources are located—the power grid that was designed for primarily large fossil fuel and nuclear plant based electricity sources needs to be modified and upgraded through projects like the Brookings Line. Click here to read more.
Mesothelioma Death Toll Rising from Minnesota’s Mining Area
By Esther Goldschlager
The Taconite Workers Health Study, conducted by University of Minnesota scientists reveals an increased incidence mesothelioma and a rising in the Northeast region of Minnesota. The study, which began in 2008, examines the taconite mining in Minnesota’s Iron Range region. Taconite is a low-grade iron ore that is prevalent in the region.
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