Capitol Comments

Yesterday, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced its decision to add 180 animals and plants to its endangered species list as state scientists undergo their first official update in 17 years. The department noted that progress had been to remove 29 species from the list, including the bald eagle, the gray wolf and snapping turtle, but more landscape wide solutions need to be implemented to counteract the loss of prairie habitat, the surge of invasive pests, and harmful impacts from pollution.

In June, legislators in New York gave final approval to allow bills to be published electronically rather than printed and placed on each member's desk for consideration. According to a recent article in the New York Times, the legislature uses up to 19 million pages a year printing full texts of all published bills. The move, hailed by supporters as a way to reduce solid waste and improve conservation, still has procedural hurdles to meet because the state constitution must be altered to accommodate the change.

On July 25 the EPA issued non-attainment designations for 29 locations in 16 states that exceeded its sulfur dioxide standard set under the National Air Quality Standard. In its announcement the agency stated the determinations were based on observed data form air emissions stations and weather patterns that contributed to the monitored levels.

The Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) announced the preliminary findings of a major study and analysis that traced the chemical agents used in the practice of hydraulic fracturing of oil and and natural gas wells and found no evidence that the wells it monitored had contaminated drinking water supplies in the Marcellus Shale region. The announcement was hailed by representatives from the oil and gas industry and met with some words of caution by academic researchers and environmental groups who noted that its findings are not yet finalized.

Maine's U.S. Representatives, Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud, have asked for a federal investigation on the state's rail infrastructure transporting oil and gas in the aftermath of the tragic derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec where 60 people are presumed dead or missing. The accident occurred only 22 miles from Maine's border and the cargo of 50,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil was bound for refineries in New Brunswick. The request comes after Governor Paul LePage issued an executive order directing the state DOT to review the sufficiency of its existing freight rail regulations.