The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials

Fly Away! Six States and FHWA Will Collaborate to Enhance Pollinator Habitat along New Monarch Highway

DES MOINES, IA. – Six state departments of transportation and the Federal Highway Administration today signed a memorandum of agreement that will improve pollinator habitat along Interstate 35, a key migratory corridor for Monarch butterflies.

The Obama Administration last year identified the I-35 corridor as a route along which land along the interstate could be developed to increase plants that would provide refuge and food for monarch butterflies and other critically important pollinating insects.

The memorandum of agreement was signed during the AASHTO Board of Directors meeting in Des Moines. Signatories included FHWA Administrator Greg Nadeau and senior executives from Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

The agreement establishes “a cooperative and coordinated effort to establish best practices and promote public awareness of the monarch butterfly and other pollinator conservation.” The parties also will work together to develop a unified branding for I-35, informally naming it the “Monarch Highway.”

“State roadways have acres and acres of habitat ideal for pollinators,” said MnDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle. “We should strive to build awareness of pollinator needs along the Interstate 35 corridor. With some careful planning, we can ensure that Monarch butterflies and other creatures that pollinate are able to thrive, which ultimately benefits our food sources and us.”

Monarch butterflies born in late summer or early fall migrate south to winter in Mexico. In the spring, the butterflies return to the southern U.S. and lay eggs. Successive generations of Monarchs continue moving north which takes them along the I-35 corridor and finally into Canada. These Monarchs begin the cycle over again by completing a 2,000 mile trek back to Mexico.

More on the White House’s pollinator strategy is available here, http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/05/19/announcing-new-steps-promote-pollinator-health.

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The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is the “Voice of Transportation” representing State Departments of Transportation in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. AASHTO is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association serving as a catalyst for excellence in transportation. Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/aashtospeaks.

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Fresh Energy Global Warming Action May 2016

Xcel Energy annual shareholder meeting highlights clean energy, the end of coal

At its May 18 annual shareholders meeting, Xcel Energy CEO Ben Fowke stated repeatedly that the utility is embracing the changing energy industry and is making big strides in reducing its dependence on coal, especially in the Upper Midwest.

“In Minnesota we’ve filed resource plans that will reduce carbon by 60% without raising customer rates,” Fowke told shareholders. He acknowledged this was largely due to the rapidly declining costs of wind and solar.

In July, 2015 Fresh Energy and partners filed our very own analysis to counter Xcel’s initial resource plan that proposed no coal plant retirements. Our plan showed that Xcel could reduce costs, cut harmful air and water pollution, and still retire two coal units in the near term.  In October 2015, Xcel submitted an updated resource plan that used our plan as a base, reducing carbon 63% by 2030 from 2005 levels.

 Clean Power Plan court hearing rescheduled for September 27, to be held before full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

The U.S. Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit announced it will delay hearing oral arguments in the Clean Power Plan case until September 27, 2016 and that the hearing will be in front of the full 11-judge court rather than the earlier proposed panel of 3 judges. The court specified that this is a case of exceptional importance. Many experts agree that the full review has significant advantages for climate action and public health. While it delays the legal arguments for a few months the order will allow the full D.C. Circuit to hear the legal challenges to the Clean Power Plan expeditiously – an especially important development given the urgent threat of climate change. The case is expected to eventually end up in front of the Supreme Court.

Minnesota legislative session ends without laws that weaken or restrict Clean Power Plan

Many states, including Minnesota, are moving forward with strategies to reduce carbon pollution and reduce the worst impacts from climate change, yet are meeting significant resistance and attacks from legislatures.  Fresh Energy is happy to report that this legislative session we successfully defended against all attacks that would diminish or weaken Minnesota’s Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan requires carbon pollution reductions from fossil fuel plants—the biggest cause of global warming—by 32% nationally from 2005 levels, and is one of the most important U.S. commitments under the Paris Agreement, which 177 countries have officially signed.

June 17-19 Wisconsin Energy Fair to draw audience of 15,000 people

Join Fresh Energy’s J. Drake Hamilton at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s 27th Annual Energy Fair in Custer, Wisconsin. J. will be the keynote speaker June 19, describing big opportunities for large-scale carbon reductions using recent economic and policy levers. The Energy Fair brings together over 15,000 people. For more information visit Fresh Energy’s events page or the Fair website here.

Learn about historic opportunities to cut carbon – invite a Fresh Energy expert

Want to learn more about what your electric utility can do to cut carbon and grow renewable energy, and how you can help? Invite Fresh Energy to speak to your business or civic organization. Fresh Energy’s J. Drake Hamilton has a national reputation for delivering engaging presentations that are rich in information and inspire people to take action. She connects the dots between actions from Minnesota communities, business leaders and governments that meet the scale of the challenge. Contact J. Drake Hamilton at Hamilton@fresh-energy.org or by phone at 651.726.7562.

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Midwest Wetlands May Prevent Disastrous Flood From Climate Change, Study Says

Wetlands may prevent catastrophic flooding in the future in the Midwest, as scientists have found that as climate change increases flooding, wetlands may be the solution. (Photo : USDA Natural Resources conservation Service)

Wetlands may actually help prevent catastrophic floods in the future. Researchers at Oregon State University have taken a closer look at the possibility of restoring wetlands in the Midwest and found that they have the potential to significantly reduce peak river flows during floods.

“Flood management in the Midwest is now almost entirely concentrated on use of dams and levels,” said Meghna Babbar-Sebens, assistant professor of civil engineering in the College of Engineering. “Wetland construction or restoration could provide a natural and ecological option to help with flood concerns, and serve as an additional tool for flood management. Greater investments in this approach, or similar approaches that increase storage of water in the upper landscape of a watershed, should be seriously considered.”

In this latest study, the researchers examined climate models that were supported by the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program in order to examine the impact of wetlands during climate scenarios that ranged from 2041 to 2070.

“There’s some variation in the models, but there’s general agreement that the future will bring more heavy precipitation events,” Babbar-Sebens said. ”How we transfer and store runoff on the landscape is going to become even more critical. From the perspective of a decision maker, an advantage of wetland construction is that it would significantly reduce flooding from heavy precipitation in almost every possible scenario. Wetlands are consistently effective.”

With that said, many programs that support wetland restoration focus on ecology, wildlife enhancement and water quality. While these aren’t bad things to focus on, there’s limited funding to create wetlands for flood management. In addition, it limits economic incentives for farmers and other landowners to set aside areas for wetlands.

Unfortunately, climate change is exacerbating flooding issues. In 2011, Indiana experienced a record-breaking heat wave and record-breaking rainfall. In fact, the state has been declared a flood disaster area 14 times between 2000 and 2011. That’s compared to four times just a decade prior to that.

It’s likely that flooding will continue to increase in the future. That’s why it’s important to put practices that will help mitigate flooding into effect. By encouraging wetland creation, it may be possible to lower the risk of flooding in some regions.

The findings were published in the April 2016 issue of the journal Ecological Engineering.

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