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Anti-pipeline coalition adds new members

Minneapolis Fed chief upbeat on economy; doubling water fees pitched; apartments aimed for Duluth’s old county jail; physics lab milestone; paychecks growing; and more.

In the wake of that oil train derailment and spill … Dave Shaffer of the Strib says: “Conservation groups have added allies and opened a new battlefront against pipeline expansion projects that will bring more Canadian tar sands crude oil through the Midwest. A coalition of 29 groups and former public officials, along with 36 landowners, petitioned two federal agencies to impose tougher pipeline regulations in advance of proposed upgrades to Enbridge Inc.’s pipelines that carry Canadian oil through Minnesota, Michigan and other states. Coalition leaders said Wednesday their goal in the pipeline fight is to stop Canadian tar sands development. … Besides petitioning for tougher regulations, the wildlife federation said it’s building a coalition to oppose an amended ‘presidential permit’ that would allow more tar sands oil to cross the U.S. border via Enbridge’s upgraded Alberta Clipper pipeline, which crosses Minnesota. The U.S. State Department recently began an environmental study of the proposal.”

The Minneapolis Fed chief is offering a modestly brighter view on the economy. Annie Baxter at MPR writes: “While Narayana Kocherlakota’s formal economic outlook has not changed over the past couple of months, he is optimistic about the U.S. economy’s ability to withstand troubles in Europe and uncertainties at home. … Kocherlakota’s sunnier mood appears to stem partly from recent job growth. He said he has been pleasantly surprised by strength in the private sector. Non-government employers added nearly 400,000 jobs in the first couple of months of the year, despite uncertainty caused by the threat of the tax hikes and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff, and the possibility of a budget stalemate shutting down the federal government.”

And this is in Minnesota, not the desert Southwest … Dave Orrick of the PiPress says: “Facing an increasing demand for groundwater amid a shrinking pool of money, state officials hope to essentially double the price of wholesale water fees in Minnesota. The plan by Gov. Mark Dayton and the Department of Natural Resources, which would need approval of the Legislature, would increase water fees for more than 7,000 water permit holders statewide that use more than 1 million gallons annually. That includes municipalities.”

I’ll take the penthouse in Cell Block One. Peter Passi of the Duluth News Tribune says: “The former St. Louis County Jail in Duluth may be on its way to a new future as an apartment building. Developer Grant Carlson, a principal partner in Jail Holding LLC, which owns the building at 521 W. Second St., is turning away from original plans to market the property as commercial/office space after analyzing the local market. … Carlson figures he and his father/business partner, Clint Carlson, have invested about $500,000 in the property so far. The pair bought the jail in 2009 for $54,000. … Some of the improvements were made with the help of a $225,000 check from the Minnesota Historical and Cultural Grant Program. … Carlson estimates that converting the former jail to an apartment building will cost ‘not less than $2 million and not more than $4 million.’ He said the project also should be eligible for historic building tax credits.”

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Not exactly the Large Hadron Collider, but still … . Also in the News Tribune: “A northern Minnesota physics laboratory yet to be completed already has reached a significant milestone.The first finished section of the NuMI Off-Axis  Electron Neutrino Appearance far detector near Ash River has recorded its first three-dimensional images of a subatomic particle producing a shower of energy as it passed through the detector. … The 14,000-ton NOvA particle detector is being built to study neutrinos — subatomic particles that can help researchers discover how the universe was formed and how it will change.”

At The National Review, which hews to the notion that more concrete and more cars is the sole key to economic vitality, Greg Pollowitz, citing MPR, writes:   

“The planned Southwest LRT between Eden Prairie and downtown Minneapolis could end up costing more than originally proposed. … The light rail project is projected to cost $1.25 billion. But the original cost projection doesn’t include expenses related to placement of the new line in relation to an existing freight rail line. Mark Fuhrmann, program director for rail projects at Metro Transit, said they are looking into whether there is room for light rail, freight rail and a bike path to fit together through narrow sections of the potential alignment.

The GleanBecause a bike path in Minneapolis, with its nearly five feet of snow per year, certainly makes a whole lot of sense. And who is the genius who didn’t think to add in the cost of a new line next to the existing line?” Someone should tell Mr. Pollowitz that we could use the bike trails for our sled dogs during the six months of winter.

Adam Belz of the Strib says: “Minnesota paychecks continue to bounce back at one of the fastest rates in the nation. Personal income in the state grew to $46,227 per person in 2012, a 3.7 percent increase that put the state fourth overall, according to data released Wednesday by the Commerce Department.”

The price of corn, though high, could tumble if this holds true. The AP says: “Farmers intend to plant 97.3 million acres of corn this year, the most since 1936, the USDA’s spring planting survey said Thursday. The survey said the 2013 corn planting forecast is up slightly from last year’s 97.2 million acres. Corn remains profitable, as prices are holding strong at around $7 per bushel after last year’s severe drought left the grain in short supply. In a separate report, the USDA said corn stocks fell 10 percent from a year ago to 5.40 billion bushels. Record corn acreage is expected in Arizona, Idaho, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, and Oregon. And Iowa, the nation’s leading corn producer, will plant an estimated 14.2 million acres in corn, the same as last year.” Arizona? Nevada? How much are they paying for the water?

So much for wholesome North Dakota … . Emily Welker of the Forum papers reports: “A 20-year-old woman who told police she was abducted and raped on Sunday was instead acting out a rape fantasy she arranged with a man she met online, police allege in court records filed Wednesday. Mary Kate Gullickson, of Fargo, is charged in Cass County District Court with a single count of false information to law enforcement, a Class A misdemeanor. … According to the criminal complaint, a man stepped forward to tell police he was corresponding with a woman the day of the alleged rape who said she was a 20-year-old female who wanted to be picked up off the street, bound with duct tape, forced to have sex, then dropped off where she was found. Campus police tracked down the post and found the email and phone number connected to it matched Gullickson’s, the police report states. Showing her iPhone to police, Gullickson had so many messages between her and others she met on Craigslist on Sunday that she could no longer tell which came from the alleged suspect, according to the report.”