by Nancy Porter, Co Chair, LWV UMRR ILO and LWV Representative to MRN
THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER NETWORK (MRN) Annual meeting was held in Memphis, Tennessee on October 24, 25, 26, 2023.
The LWV Upper Mississippi River Network InterLeague Organization which represents local leagues from Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois, (and currently working with Missouri) is a member of the MRN with sixty-eight (68) other groups across the nation. These member groups include Sierra Club, American Farmland Trust, American Rivers, National Wildlife Federation, Friends of the Mississippi River, Iowa Environmental Council, Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law & Policy, among many others. Our representation has grown from forty member organizations to the sixty-eight (68) current members since I have been your representative beginning in 2019. (Covid was a bleak time for all of us.) Because you belong to the LWV, you are also a member of the LWV UMRR-ILO. Our local LWVJC joins the UMRR-ILO for a $25 annual fee.
MRN’s policy goal is to advance federal and state policies that promote, just, equitable, and resilient communities through: protecting and restoring ecosystem form and function, reducing impacts of agricultural and urban runoff pollution, and defending bedrock environmental legislation.
At our annual meeting we plan for the upcoming year including policy and engagement and involvement and development. We hear from the MRN staff about their equity work and discuss the equity issues in our communities. We discuss and approve the 2024 policy priorities, learn about federal funding and get an update on the Mississippi River Region Initiative. We discuss education and outreach details for 2024 (the following year) and how one can participate.
I have been an active member of the Engagement Committee since joining the MRN. We are fortunate to have Michael Anderson as our leader and monthly facilitator at our committee meetings.
Vibrant Kelly McGinnis is our official CAO. She began the meeting this year by stating we were in need of some changes to meet new challenges. Last year we added a director of fundraising, Gretchen Hagle, Development Director. Maisah Khan is our enthusiastic and knowledgeable Policy Director. She leads through Farm Bill discussions and and actions and directs policies that promote just, equitable, and resilient communities including reducing impacts of agricultural and urban runoff pollution.
Today we took a field trip on the Mississippi River by the banks of Memphis on the Island Queen. We went around Mud Island and watched two barges float by pushed by a tow boat. We went under four of the bridges that cross the River in Memphis. Two bridges were for railroad trains and two bridges were for cars.
Last night we dined at a Brewery and had plenty of time for great visits with our colleagues. Games of Corn Hole and walks down Beale Street while jazz music filled the air, were part of the evening while we networked and learned from each other. Most of our brainstorming is done in small groups or pairs to generate and records our ideas.
Our meeting concluded with a steering committee meeting directed by Maisah. We are full of new information and a mission to increase membership, raise funds so we can continue to develop new ideas and people to protect and sustain our Mississippi River. We have new direction for our Mississippi Days of action and celebrating the River. Our goal is to bring in more groups and create educational opportunities to allow for better understanding and more interaction.
The Mississippi River is truly America’s River. It is the third largest River in the world, it furnishes drinking water for over 20 million people, it is a diverse habitat for wildlife, and the backbone of our economy. Along with weak reinforcement of water laws, land pollution from farms, factories, fertilizers, and untreated sewage our great River is in decline. Together, we can protect the River for future generations.
CO2 pipeline companies are having limited success in getting the land easements and permits they need to complete their projects. The EcoJustice Collaborative in Illinois reports regularly on CO2 progress in their blog -check it out at this link.
Pam Richart from EJC will be a panelist on Dec 4. She cofounded the Coalition to Stop CO2 pipelines in January, 2022. Since that time, she has been leading the campaign to stop CO2 pipelines throughout central Illinois. The coalition includes 13 organizations, and hundreds of active landowners along the pipeline route. The Coalition’s campaign includes education of landowners and elected officials that has led to the adoption of resolutions and moratoriums in impacted counties, and intervention before the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), which is where the pipeline can be stopped. The Coalition maintains a website that documents progress of the campaign, as well as includes resources for landowners, including webinars prepared by the Coalition.
In Iowa, the Sierra Club has taken the point in statewide work on the CO2 pipelines. Updates are posted on their website here. In October of 2022, we had Jess Mazour speak on pipelines - you can view the video of her talk at this post on the UMRR blog. On December 4, we will host Jan Norris, an activist from Montgomery County, Iowa, who will report from the frontlines of local pipeline opposition.
CURE has been following pipeline progress in Minnesota, and leads action through their project, Carbon Pipelines Minnesota. This webpage has information on current events in Minnesota.
Several of the pipeline projects are intended to transport CO2 from Iowa and Minnesota to North Dakota. North Dakota denied Summit's permit application in August, it's now being reproposed. This article on the Associated Press website says:
[The North Dakota utility regulators} last month unanimously denied Summit a siting permit for its 320-mile proposed route through the state, part of a $5.5 billion, 2,000-mile pipeline network that would carry planet-warming CO2 emissions from 30-some ethanol plants in five states to be buried deep underground in central North Dakota.
Supporters view carbon capture projects such as Summit’s as a combatant of climate change, with lucrative, new federal tax incentives and billions from Congress for such carbon capture efforts. Opponents question the technology’s effectiveness at scale and the need for potentially huge investments over cheaper renewable energy sources.
The panel denied the permit due to issues the regulators said Summit didn’t sufficiently address, such as cultural resource impacts, potentially unstable geologic areas and landowner concerns, among several other reasons.
The pipelines would pass through South Dakota, which also denied Summit Pipeline's permit application. This September 11 2023 article on the Associated Press website states that the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission unanimously turned the request down. Without access to the North Dakota CO2 depository, the pipeline projects have to keep redesigning their projects.
Why are carbon pipelines being proposed? Why are investors and the federal government putting money into these projects? We know that carbon in our atmosphere is causing the earth to warm, which will disrupt our climate and all life on earth. Reducing or eliminating carbon emissions is critical, and there are many different ideas about the best ways to do it. One controversial approach we've been taking for the past two decades is to switch from fossil fuels to 'biofuels' - ethanol and biodiesel. In this post on the UMRR Blog, we reported on a February 2022 report that looks at the utility of ethanol as an option for reducing carbon emissions.
The ethanol industry is seeking ways to improve its environmental performance, especially as relates to carbon emissions. One way to do this is to capture the carbon that is released into the atmosphere. The pipelines would move the captured and compressed CO2 to eventual storage and/or reuse. The first two short YouTube videos following provide some more background on why the ethanol industry sees carbon capture as a way forward. The third is a video that provides more information on the process of capturing carbon from industries.
Carbon capture is part of President Biden's climate plan. This link goes to an article in the MIT Review interview with Shuchi Talati, chief of staff at the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. Here, Talati talks about the need to have a range of processes for reducing carbon. We have included a number of references at the end of this post that provide more information on pipeline technology and DOE work on carbon capture. Carbon pipelines are currently used in Texas to transport CO2 for use in extracting oil from spent oilfields, there are also links to information on this practice.
Our guest speaker was Rob Lee, staff attorney for Midwest Environmental Advocates (bio below). Rob provided a brief history of the Clean Water Act (CWA) prior to 2015 regulations defining Water of the US (WOTUS), and the 2020 Navigable Water Protection Rule. Then he'll talk about the May 2023 Supreme Court Ruling and the now revised regulations just issued by US EPA and the Corps of Engineers with a final revised definition of Waters of the US.
Once Rob has set the stage, LWV UMRR's Gretchen Sabel will present information on the status of wetland regulation in the UMRR states based on a 2022 analysis by the Environmental Law Institute, followed by a look at LWV positions that relate to actions supporting strong implementation of the CWA. We'll round out the hour with discussion period led by LWV UMRR Chair Mary Ellen Miller.
You'll find more information on the Sackett decision here and here on the LWV UMRR blog. Here's a link to an excelllent blog article by Jared Mott of the Izaak Walton League that also provides background.
Are you familiar with the story of the duo that RAN down the entire Mississippi River in 2019? Did you know that along the way, they deeply listened, learned, and gathered the voices and stories of 600 people? Three years later, the next chapter of the epic saga is here...
On Tuesday, November 1st at 6 pm CT, join Relay of Voices via Zoom for the launch event of their all-new storytelling platform! At this event, project creator Victoria Bradford Strybicki will release the first of nine chapters and explain the power of this new interactive platform. The event is co-hosted by Mississippi River Network Outreach Manager Michael Anderson and features testimonials from River "voices" and a Q&A. Register here to receive the Zoom link!
Stories are an excellent path to people's hearts, and we look forward to the unveiling of this new resource for all of us. LWV UMRR is a member of the Mississippi River Network. We thank them for their wonderful programs and diligent work on behalf of the River.
Chicago's local forest preserves are a treasure. Join LWV Chicago for a series of naturalist-led walks in the woods of Chicago. All are welcome – bring a friend! Click the link for each walk below to learn more and register.
LWV Chicago is a supporter of the Cook County Forest Preserve VOTE YES referendum coming up on the November ballot—voters will have the opportunity to vote YES to protect clean water sources, air quality, and wildlife in Cook County. A property tax increase of 0.025% (less than $1.66/month for the vast majority of homeowners) will protect, restore, and expand the Cook County Forest Preserves.
LWV Chicago has the following walks planned. Please share this and encourage others to register for the walks. The only way people can understand the importance of Voting Yes for the November referendum is to get out into the woods! Anyone can learn more and to register for the walks by clicking on the links:
Dan Ryan Woods
Wednesday, June 8, 10:00 AM–Noon
S Western Ave & W 87th St
Tuesday, July 19, 10:00–11:30 AM
W Doty Ave S, southeast of E 130th St & S Ellis Ave
Wednesday, August 3, 10:00–11:30 AM
W Irving Park Rd, east of Des Plaines River Rd
Catherine Chevalier Woods
Thursday, September 15, 10:00–11:30 AM
N East River Rd, north of W Foster Ave
The answer is that Congress is one piece – an important one – of the solution to the Mississippi’s woes. In the UMRR Annual Meeting, we will have an exciting panel of speakers to talk about bills currently in the US Congress that have the potential to greatly affect our river. We will also explore the idea of a “compact” between river states to protect the river from water diversions. This session will set the stage for the work that LWV UMRR will tackle in the years to come.
Join LWV UMRR for this session on May 21 at 10:30. This meeting will be held in Webinar format on Zoom - pre-registration is required. Click this link to pre-register! You will receive the link to the meeting by return email; we will send reminders in May, including on the 21st. Registration is open until the meeting starts on May 21 at 10:30.
We have a great slate of panelists for this session - representatives from other organizations working for the river and leading work on federal bills and big ideas. We will cover the Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience initiative (MRRRI), the Safeguarding the Mississippi River Together initiative (SMRT), the Farm Bill reauthorization and a big idea - the notion of an Upper Midwest Compact to protect the waters of the Mississippi from diversion. Our speakers represent organizations that are working to protect the Mississippi.
Championing the Upper Mississippi River Region
Mary Ellen Miller, President, League of Women Voters Upper Mississippi River Region
How a life-long conservationist became an advocate for the Mississippi…an LWV president discusses conservation & change
Conservation activist and self-proclaimed tree-hugger, LWV UMRR Chair Mary Ellen Miller shared the League’s connection between advocacy, voting and the state of the river. She discussed the work that members are involved with to improve soil health and water quality and how they are working with others in the Upper Mississippi River network to take action for change. Here's the link see a recording of her talk.
This monthly series is a project of the Upper Mississippi River Initiative (UMRI) of the Izaak Walton League of America/MN Division, with co-hosts Chris Henning of the Panora Conservation Chapter and Des Moines Chapter Communication Director, Bud Hartley. This program feature guests for 30-40 minute presentations that shed daylight on good works done in the name of the Mississippi and its uplands. In this way we uplift our shared goals for a cleaner river, a cared for environment, and kinder communities. Recorded programs are available shortly after they air live.
February's program featured Kelly McGinnis of the Mississippi River Network. You can see the .
“The POWER of 1 Mississippi & 20,000 River Citizens” Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Kelly McGinnis— February 22nd, 2022 How 58 organizations team up to drive policy—“Can the river count on you?” A call to action…
Alan Guebert bio: Alan Guebert was raised on a 720-acre, 100-cow dairy farm in southern Illinois. After graduating the University of Illinois in 1980, he served as an associate editor at Professional Farmers of America in Cedar Falls, Iowa and Successful Farming magazine in Des Moines. Later he spent eight years as a contributing editor for Farm Journal magazine of Philadelphia.
In 1993, Guebert began the Farm and Food File, a weekly newspaper column on farm and food policy and politics. Twenty-eight years and 1 million words later, the Farm and Food File continues to be published weekly in 26 states and two Canadian provinces.
Guebert currently lives in Madison, WI, with his spouse, the lovely Catherine. They have two children and three grandchildren.
Minnesota's investigation into PFAS contamination began in 2002 when 3M notified the MPCA of PFAS in its Cottage Grove production well. In 2004, PFAS were found to have contaminated drinking water supplies in parts of the eastern Twin Cities, and fish tested in the Mississippi River Pool 2 had high concentrations near the discharge from the 3M Cottage Grove facility. Most of the contamination was traced to four dumps or landfills. The East Metro investigations have identified an area of groundwater contamination covering over 150 square miles, affecting the drinking water supplies of over 175,000 Minnesotans.
This meeting is a follow-up to UMRR's October 4 PFAS webinar, PFAS The Unfolding Story which took a regional look at PFAS contamination, and then focused on problems in Wisconsin. You can watch the video of this meeting at this link. This post also includes supplemental material on PFAS sources and actions.
Kirk Koudelka, MPCA Assistant Commissioner
Kirk Koudelka was appointed Assistant Commissioner for Land Policy and Strategic Initiatives in May 2012.
Prior to that, Kirk served as the Legislative Director at the MPCA. He led the agency’s legislative efforts for the 2011 through 2014 legislative sessions in both roles.
Before coming to the agency, Kirk spent 11 legislative sessions at the Minnesota House of Representatives in various capacities. The last six years were spent focused on environmental and natural resources issues, four for which were with the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee. It included administering the Solid Waste, Recycling and Resources Conservation Working Group focusing on state level changes, but also internal changes at the Legislature.
Kirk has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History from Hamline University.
The video of this webinar is available for viewing now at this link: https://youtu.be/SodForAydqQ
On October 4, LWV UMRR hosted a panel discussion on PFAS. Our presenters helped us understand how PFAS have become a big part of our lives – present in food packaging, household products and drinking water – and what we know about how they affect our health. As awareness of PFAS contamination grows, communities are struggling to cope with tainted drinking water while engaging in advocacy to increase public awareness and bring about constructive change. Watch the video to learn what the federal government and states are doing to establish safe standards for drinking water and ban the use of PFAS in manufacturing. Most importantly, learn what you can do to help protect yourself, your family and your community.
Jeff Lamont – Retired hydrogeologist, works with SOH2O (Save Our H2O) to ensure safe drinking water for residents in Northeast Wisconsin and to advocate for state and federal standards for PFAS compounds. Jeff resides in the Tyco/JCI groundwater contamination plume in the Marinette and Town of Peshtigo area and has a private well impacted by PFAS. Jeff and his wife have been living with bottled water for drinking and cooking for the last 3.5 years.
Erika Schreder – Science Director, Toxic-Free Future, conducts and publishes research on toxic chemicals, their presence in people and products, and safer alternatives.
Deanna White – Minnesota Director, Clean Water Action, coordinates EPA and state level interactions for policy and legislation. Deanna has an extensive background in community organizing and advocacy.
|LWV Upper Mississippi River Region