Environmental Congress to outline state climate goals

Hailey Colwell

 

In an effort to formulate state environmental goals, the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board’s March 15 Environmental Congress will bring together citizens and government officials to discuss the state’s climate and energy issues.

Using material generated from six citizen forums held in November and December 2012, the congress will finalize recommendations for Governor Mark Dayton and the Environmental Quality Board for short and long-term ways to address Minnesota’s ecological obstacles. 

In November, University of Minnesota students, faculty and alumni participated in one of the forums in Bloomington. After discussing the Minnesota Environment and Energy Report Card, a document summarizing state energy, land, water, climate and air use, they convened with about 400 others to compile a list of the issues most important to them. 

These priorities will act as a jumping-off point at Friday’s congress, when environmental experts will lead discussions on the topics in the report card.

Dave Frederickson, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and chair of the Environmental Quality Board, attended the citizen forums and spent time with University students in February at the Next Generation Environmental Congress as they prepared to address legislators on their energy priorities.

Among the issues brought forth in the forums, Frederickson said silica sand mining, water quality and renewable energy were the most discussed, according to a press release from the Environmental Congress.

The Minnesota Daily sat down with Commissioner Frederickson to hear his thoughts on some of the topics that will be addressed at Friday’s assembly.

Coming from an agriculture background, Frederickson said it’s essential to have food producers involved in the environmental decision-making process.

“Some people may think it is a dubious alliance, bringing agriculture and the environment together,” Frederickson said. “The only way you can accomplish anything is to bring these two groups together and sit down and say, ‘look, we’re all part of the problem. Let’s all be part of the solution.’”

He also mentioned the Environmental Quality Board’s focus on the social and economic impact of silica sand mining in communities in southeastern Minnesota. He said he hopes to continue this discussion at the upcoming congress.

“There has to be some kind of tool by which we measure the impact of silica sand mining in those affected areas.”

Another concern that has been on his mind is food production and population growth, Frederickson said.

Though feeding an exponentially growing population could be done sustainably, he said he doubts it can be done “purely from an organic perspective.”

“It’s a race to the bottom,” he said, “and we need a race to the top in terms of our ability to produce for this growing and growing population.”