I might find South Dakota's religious right wing more tolerable if they'd stop bullying our LGBT neighbors and kids and get back to saying crazy stuff about sustainability and Agenda 21.

Here, wingnut friends, look at the Green Aberdeen project that Ipswich United Church of Christ Pastor Enno Limvere is promoting:

Green Aberdeen will concentrate on community action, education and advocacy, he said.

The group plans to take on projects, such as cleaning up along Moccasin Creek, Limvere said. It will also look to educate people about climate change and what they can do to help. As for advocacy, he said, Green Aberdeen will check into things, such as why the present city recycling program doesn’t accept glass.

The goal, he said, is to make Aberdeen a more sustainable community.

“Burlington, Vt., is now 100 percent renewable energy,” he said. “We could come up with 25-50 percent” [Elisa Sand, "Green Aberdeen Advocates Increased Sustainability," Aberdeen American News, 2015.03.03].

Hear hear on the glass recycling! There are practical economic reasons cities may decline to collect glass, but nothing that separate bins can't solve!

Limvere's plan sounds good, but then he tips his globalist hand:

Limvere said global change will require the support of the United Nations, but individual communities are already rising up to make a difference.

“There are communities that are bagless,” Limvere said, explaining that customers at stores bring their own reusable shopping bags.

On a much smaller scale, he said, people can simply make a conscious effort to use less energy. And that can start with simply unplugging charger cords from outlets. Because those chargers, even when a phone isn’t plugged in, will still use electricity.

“We’re making goals for 2030,” he said. “It’s about sustainability. How can we live as a community so we’re not just adding to the dump site” [Sand, 2015.03.03].

United Nations?!? Aaaaaahhh! Pastor Enno is calling in the UN to take away our plastic bags and ration our phone time!

Pastor Enno's plans sound much more fun than picking on transgender kids. Come to Green Aberdeen's next meeting—Monday, March 16, 7 p.m., downtown at the Red Rooster here in Aberdeen—and see what you can do to make Aberdeen greener. Blue helmets are optional.


House Bill 1201, which Dakota Rural Action has deemed the worst of the CAFO bills in this year's Legislative Session, heads to Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources this morning at 10:00. HB 1201, the only bill on the committee's agenda, would make it harder for citizens concerned about stink, water contamination, and other damage caused by big livestock feedlots to block such harmful ag-industrial developments in their neighborhoods.

Dakota Rural Action's excellent legislative blog notes that the state, which views farming as nothing but economic development, not land stewardship or community building, goes to great lengths to promote big CAFOs. This post from Meghan Thoreau describes the state's County Site Analysis Program and its focus on Big Ag:

The Program has been under development for the past several years and involves several key players, such as the South Dakota Department of Agriculture, First District Association of Local government, Planning and Development District III, Turner County Landowner Value Added Finance Authority Board Member and a few others. As it stands today the program is attempting to grow AG related industries through pre-qualifying sites for Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) or Agriculturally Related Industrial Development (ARID), such as ethanol plants, cheese plants, granaries, and agricultural manufactures alike. The current methodology and analysis applied is very landowner and CAFO-ARID-operator centric, involving the landowners of pre-qualifying sites and operators of CAFO and ARID industries, with no great effort to secure public participation in the selection of sites, nor communities’ or the environment’s interests. (The only environmental factor taken into account is the area within the protected aquifer zone.) [Meghan Thoreau, "South Dakota's County Site Analysis Program," Dakota Rural Action legislative blog, 2015.02.25]

The County Site Analysis Program isn't about helping counties identify good locations for community gardens, farmers markets, or other small-scale agricultural projects that would promote sustainability and local self-sufficiency. The state wants factory farms. The County Site Analysis Program flags land for such development, and now House Bill 1201 seeks to weaken the review process that allows citizens to weigh the pros and cons of dedicating their land and water to meat and milk factories.

The state already gives factory farms numerous advantages. Let's not take away the few remaining advantages citizens have to protect their counties from over-industrialization. Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources, vote no today on HB 1201.


Senator Jason Frerichs (D-1/Wilmot) got the Senate to advance his watershed management plan yesterday. Senate Bill 2, while significantly watered down, is a positive step toward dealing with drainage and other water quality issues in South Dakota. In its baby-steps form, SB 2 will map nine new "river basin natural resource districts," for South Dakota's major watersheds, then dispatch a task force to work with local governments to create a pilot water management plan for the Vermillion River watershed. Senator Frerichs tells me he likes that step, since the Vermillion River is the only watershed that lies entirely in South Dakota. Starting there will give local lawmakers, water consumers, and conservationists a good framework for applying plans to other districts which will inevitably have cross-border conversations about water quality.

The Senate vote wasn't a slam dunk: SB 2 drew 12 nays from Republicans who either don't like government, cooperation on water issues, or bills by Democrats (although the latter shouldn't play too large in opponents' sentiments, since the prime sponsor in the House is Republican Majority Leader Brian Gosch (R-32/Rapid City).

Technically, Senator Frerichs offered some debate on his bill the day before it came up in the Senate. On Wednesday, during debate on throwing another pot of money at pine beetles in the Black Hills, Senator Frerichs drew the following comparison:

I applaud the efforts of the folks that are dealing with this Mother Nature problem out there, truly management at its finest. In our Ag committee we've had a little discussion about this and I've talked with my friends who represent those areas.

You know, this pine beetle issue is very similar to what we deal with on the eastern side as far as some water issues, especially surface water, and so I just ask the body's support. Even though I'm probably about as far away from this issue as could be anyone else, we're duly elected as 35 senators to represent this state. I think it's a good issue, and I appreciate the efforts for management on a Mother Nature problem [Senator Jason Frerichs, floor debate on SB 152, South Dakota Senate, Pierre, South Dakota, 2015.02.18, timestamp 32:45].

Translation: I'll vote to spend money on you guys' problem, even though pine beetles aren't eating trees in my back yard; how about you guys vote to help solve some water issues that are more prevalent in my bailiwick?

Four Black Hills senators (Haverly, Rampelberg, Solano, and Tieszen) took Frerichs up on that pitch (because you know, water does run through the Black Hills, too!). Three Black Hills senators (Cammack, Ewing, and Jensen) said no while happily taking tax dollars for their beetles.

Also voting no was the senator towards who sees darn near all of that water flow through his back yard, Senator Dan Lederman (R-16/Dakota Dunes). Of course, when all that run-off comes burbling over the dikes at his golf course, Senator Lederman will climb on his McMansion roof and shout for more big government management of his water problems.


The House State Affairs Committee amended and approved House Bill 1029 this morning. HB 1029 updates the environmental and energy-efficiency requirements created in 2008 for the construction and renovation of state buildings.

HB 1029 updates South Dakota statute to use the United States Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design latest standards, issued November 2013, instead of the July 2009 standards. HB 1029 also raises the threshold for requiring adherence to LEED standards from 5,000 square feet or $500,000 in construction cost to 10,000 square feet or $1,000,000 in construction cost.

Earlier this week, Dakota Rural Action blogger* Tony Helland raised his concern that doubling the square footage and dollar thresholds will reduce the state's energy savings and its commitment to reducing the state's environmental impact. No one at this morning's hearing raised that concern. In her testimony explaining why the Bureau of Administration requested HB 1029, State Engineer Kristi Honeywell simply said that smaller buildings cannot meet the LEED standards. (Hmm... an 872-square-foot dental office can do it, but hey, I'm a blogger, not an engineer....)

David Owen of the South Dakota joined Engineer Honeywell to advocate HB 1029. Interestingly, he noted that when the state proposed the original green-building requirements in 2008, the business sector raised its predictable hue and cry about government requirements. Owen summarized that resistance as "blah blah." He then told today's committee that the state was right, that the original LEED requirements were a good idea, and that the state has used the energy-efficiency requirements well. Keep that example in mind the next time you hear the Chamber of Commerce crying about government action killing jobs.

The American Chemistry Council (that's an ALEC pro-corporate lobby, not chemists) and the Black Hills Forestry Resources Association were on hand to oppose HB 1029. These two industry groups did not like the direction the original HB 1029 went in getting rid of some alternative rating systems from the green-building requirement. Larry Mann, lobbyist for the BHFRA, explained that in 2008, the LEED standards didn't allow credit for timber harvested from national forests. The inclusion of other standards friendlier to Black Hills timber was a compromise that made our green-building requirements tolerable to local industry. HB 1029 as written undid that compromise and raised hackles. But in her opening, Engineer Honeywell offered an amendment to put back updated versions of those alternative standards that the industry lobbyists found perfectly acceptable. Their opposition evaporated, and everyone at the table was happy.

Rep. Roger Solum (R-5/Watertown) posed an interesting question: does South Dakota need these green-building standards to qualify for any federal funding? Engineer Honeywell said no. Apparently, South Dakota has adopted green building standards out of the goodness of its heart.

Rep. Don Haggar (R-10/Sioux Falls) asked what the return on investment is for all this greenery. Engineer Honeywell didn't have the ongoing utility cost savings, but she did say that the up-front cost to get green-certified is less than 2% (I assume she means of the overall costs of the project).

Rep. Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton) asked about the different LEED certification levels. Engineer Honeywell said there are four: certified, silver, gold, and platinum. South Dakota requires and will require post-HB 1029 silver LEED status. Rep. Bolin emphasized that that means we are requiring the second-lowest standard. We're green, but not that green...

...which evidently keeps these green-building requirements tolerable for most of our Republican legislators. House State Affairs passed the multi-standard amendment and House Bill 1029 as amended, with only Rep. Bolin's dissenting vote, for debate on the House floor.

*I really like sound of the words action blogger together. Let's make t-shirts! :-)


I must give John Tsitrian kudos for catching Governor Dennis Daugaard in a brilliant contradiction. In Tuesday's Rapid City Journal, Governor Daugaard responds to a question about South Dakota's weak regulations on uranium mining by saying, "I don't like the notion that the state duplicates federal regulation. So, to the extent that the Atomic Energy Commission or the EPA is looking at this, I think we should let it run its course."

Tsitrian goes just seven months back and finds the Governor saying pretty much the opposite in a press release warning the feds off using the Clean Air Act to impose more regulations on power plants and calling the feds to recognize states as "co-regulators." Hee hee!

Further verbal chicanery lies in Daugaard's feigned preference for EPA regulations of uranium mining. His pal Senator Mike Rounds wants to eliminate the EPA; where would that leave our uranium mining regulations?

Inspired by Tsitrian to jump on the contradiction bandwagon, I scroll up through the Tuesday RCJ article and find another obvious whopper. Asked by RCJ's Meredith Colias about why he left education out of his State of the State Address and his funding priorities in favor of roads, Governor Daugaard dismissed complaints thus:

Bottom line is, you can’t spend money that you don’t have....

I try to give an increase to education every year … so I’m doing what I can with the resources available [Gov. Dennis Daugaard, interview with Meredith Colias, Rapid City Journal, 2015.01.20].

Um, Dennis? You don't have the money to fix the roads, either. You're proposing a plan that goes and gets more money (and still lets the roads get worse). Tell us again: why can you go get money that we don't have now for roads but not go get money that we don't have now for schools?


Keystone XL wouldn't be such a bad project if pipeline builder TransCanada could assure us that it would pay for cleaning up whatever messes the pipeline might make if it spills tar sands oil in our fair state. Oil companies provide us that assurance by paying an eight-cents-per-barrel excise tax on the oil they ship into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. (One barrel produces 19 gallons of gasoline, among other products, so that tax adds far less than a penny to the price you pay at Kum & Go.)

But not TransCanada, not on Keystone XL. Back in 2011, the Internal Revenue Service ruled that tar sands oil imported into the U.S. is exempt from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund tax, because it's "synthetic petroleum," not "oil."

Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) tried last week to amend the Keystone XL bill to require TransCanada to pay that cleanup tax on the tar sands oil it seeks to ship across South Dakota:

If you break it, you buy it, and if you spill oil over the heartland of America, you should pay for its cleanup. In recent years, we have witnessed major pipeline breaks in Michigan, Arkansas, Montana, and North Dakota, spewing oil in these communities. Instead of getting a $24 million-a-year tax break not afforded to other pipeline companies, TransCanada should be held responsible if they put America’s environment and the health of American citizens at risk [Rep. John Garamendi, floor statement, 2015.01.09].

Rep. Garamendi is talking basic responsibility. But if I'm reading the roll calls right, his amendment, rolled into a motion to recommit, failed on a straight party-line vote, with every Republican in the room, including our Rep. Kristi Noem, saying that making TransCanada pay for its messes is too much responsibility for our corporate Canadian friends to bear.

Hmm... I wonder if Congresswoman Noem picks up all of her son's dirty socks for him every weekend when she comes home from Washington.

Custer County uranium mining informational event, hosted by Dakota Rural Action, January 15, 2015

(click to embiggen—share with your neighbors!)

Dakota Rural Action is educating South Dakotans on the risks of uranium mining in the southern Black Hills. The group is hosting a free information session tonight (January 15) at the Custer County Courthouse Annex Pine Room in Custer from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. MST. DRA will have experts on hand to talk about the impacts Azarga/Powertech's plan to mine uranium in Custer and Fall River counties may have on water, agriculture, and public safety.

Among the topics sure to be discussed will be geologist Hannan LaGarry's newly released analysis of previous uranium exploration data from the area indicating that improperly capped boreholes and certain natural features of the local geology may pose a greater risk of contamination from in situ recovery mining operations than either Azarga or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have let on.

Also worthy of discussion tonight are new rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (and brought to our attention by Donald Pay—thank you!) to regulate in situ recovery uranium mining. The EPA would impose standards for groundwater recovery. Miners in polluted aquifers would actually get a break: they would only have to restore groundwater to pre-mining conditions—i.e., undo their own pollution but not the pre-existing contaminants. The EPA rules would allow mining companies to propose alternate restoration standards if they can show that meeting the EPA standards is not feasible.

So put on your science hats and come to Custer tonight to talk about the proper balance between economic development and environmental protection in the Black Hills.


The Washington Post editorial board says opponents and supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline are all exaggerating:

Despite what you might have heard, the pipeline wouldn’t kill the planet, nor would it supercharge the economy. You don’t have to take our word for either assertion: The State Department has said so; nonpartisan energy experts have said so; The Post’s Fact Checker has said so. Keystone XL should have been treated like a routine infrastructure project from the beginning of the permitting process — six years ago. Instead, the issue has been blown far out of proportion ["Return the Keystone XL Issue to Reality," Washington Post, 2015.01.11].

I agree with WaPo's dismissal of both the climate-change and economic arguments, but they oversimplify the problem. I've never beat the drum on the climate-change impact of the pipeline, because (a) I agree that blocking this single pipeline won't stop oil companies from mining the Canadian tar sands, (b) I know that here in South Dakota, concern about climate change won't get me any traction in a policy debate, and (c) there's a whole tub of other reasons to oppose the pipeline.

The WaPo editorial mentions the argument that all the Keystone XL oil will go to China and elsewhere. They dismiss that argument, saying the oil goes to U.S. Gulf refineries and that at least half of the oil currently refined at the Gulf stays in the U.S. WaPo seems impervious to changing economic facts, like decreasing U.S. demand and the business case enunciated by TransCanada itself, that make clear that this additional tar sands oil is destined for overseas consumption and will not affect U.S. energy independence one whit.

The WaPo editorial entirely ignores the other valid concerns Americans along the pipeline route have raised. Landowners on the Great Plains are being forced through eminent domain to bear the costs of disruption to their agricultural operations and future land-use plans. We are being forced to accept avoidable risk to the vital Ogallala Aquifer. We are being forced to facilitate the ongoing addiction to every dirtier fossil fuels. And we are being sold this pipeline on a steady series of Big Oil exaggerations and lies.

Sure, Keystone XL won't single-handedly destroy the planet. But it does other harm through eminent domain and unnecessary environmental risk, and it fails to deliver the advantages its backers have promises. When we're having a policy debate, it's not enough to prove that one harm won't happen. You have to prove benefits will happen and that other harms will not outweigh. Keystone XL fails that test.


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