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Capitol Chatter: Trump biofuel decision draws mixed reaction

Don Davis of Forum News Service

ST. PAUL — Minnesotans in Congress generally applauded the Trump administration's announcement about the amount of biofuels that must be produced, although it cut requirements for advanced fuels and kept them constant for corn-based ethanol.

While many news stories painted the preliminary plan as good for farmers, Reuters news service said: "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed total volume marked a slight decline from current levels and was more than 20 percent below targets laid out in a 2007 law. The U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, requires increased volumes of renewable fuels each year, but the proposal would keep targets for use of conventional biofuels at current levels."

Minnesota officials emphasized the good news.

"I am pleased that EPA correctly recognized corn ethanol as a robust industry capable of producing 15 billion gallons as required by statute," said U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee.

Peterson and two Minnesota Democrats on the Senate Agriculture Committee did point out shortcomings in the EPA plan.

"While I'm pleased that the administration plans to maintain the 15 billion gallon target for conventional ethanol, the targets for biodiesel and other advanced biofuels fall short of what the industry is capable of producing," Sen. Al Franken said. "EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has said the final rule will be out by the end of November, and I'll be doing everything I can to push the administration to strengthen the RFS for producers in Minnesota and across our nation."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she is concerned that renewable fuels other than ethanol are not getting a fair shake. "Reducing the blend targets of advanced biofuels could short-change the growth of clean energy innovation that creates jobs and strengthens rural communities," she said.

LaDuke fights Enbridge

Nationally known American Indian activist Winona LaDuke predicts a final decision on a proposal to allow Enbridge to replace a northern Minnesota oil pipeline will come in three years.

Technically, the state would approve or reject the request next year, but a court fight likely will push the final decision back.

If she is accurate, that means her fight against the pipeline company is nowhere near ending.

"My primary job is watching Enbridge," she said as executive director of Honor the Earth, an Indian-led organization of which she co-founded in 1993.

LaDuke reacted to recent stories, including from Forum News Service, indicating that the Line 3 oil pipeline controversy is not to the point of a pipeline dispute that produced a months-long protest in North Dakota.

She agreed with others that there could be Dakota Access Pipeline-like protests in Minnesota if permission is given to rebuild Line 3 along a partially new route.

LaDuke said Minnesota and North Dakota are different. "North Dakota was a joke of a government."

But she was not laughing: "What happened to our people out there is not OK, to shoot people over an oil pipeline."

Even if Minnesota as a more thorough process before approving pipelines, LaDuke said she is not convinced the pipeline will be rejected.

"Everybody is prepared in Minnesota for a bad decision," she said.

Water dates set

Gov. Mark Dayton has released more information on previously announced water quality town hall meetings.

Each of the 10 meetings to gather suggestions on how to improve water quality begins at 6:30 p.m. Here are dates and locations:

• Rochester Community and Technical College.

• Minnesota State University, Mankato, Centennial Student Union.

• Southwest Minnesota State University Conference Center, Marshall.

• University of Minnesota Crookston, Sargeant Student Center.

• St Cloud Community and Technical College cafeteria.

• Grand Ely Lodge, 400 N. Pioneer Road.

• Bemidji State University American Indian Resource Center

• Minneapolis Urban League, 2100 Plymouth Ave. N.

• Diamondhead Education, 200 W. Burnsville Parkway, Burnsville.

• Stillwater High School, 5701 Stillwater Blvd. N.

More information is at www.eqb.state.mn.us/25by25.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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