Duck deathtrap: MPCA conceived after 1963 Honeymead soy oil disaster on Blue Earth, Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers


The state’s Republican bloggers and tweepsters think they’ve got a winning message in demonizing state agencies like the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency as ninja regulators dispatched by Governor Dayton’s ex-wife and the United Nations to fetter liberty and steal property.

The agencies themselves were created as “pandering” to environmentalists and of course have nothing to do with anything that happened anywhere anytime in the lives or lifetimes of ordinary Minnesotans.

Nice try. The origins of the MPCA is much more grounded in lessons from the state’s history.

An article in this morning’s Mankato Free Press looks at the horrific soy oil and petroleum spills on the Blue Earth and Minnesota Rivers in December 1962 and January 1963 that made Minnesotans understand the need for an agency like the MPCA, which was created in 1967, years before the federal EPA was a glint in President Richard Nixon’s eye.

In 50 years ago at Mankato soybean plant, a wall of oil, Mankato Free Press staff writer Tim Krohn reports:

The spill at the Mankato plant, the largest oil-processing facility in the world, couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Just a month earlier, pipes at an oil plant in Savage had ruptured, sending about 1 million gallons of petroleum oil into the Minnesota River.

When the estimated 2.5 million gallons of soy oil from Mankato made its way down the river the following spring, it mixed with the petroleum oil. As the mass continued into the Mississippi River, it covered ducks and caused outrage among citizens, leading to water protection laws and the start of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Go read the whole article; check out the photos. Krohn notes one of the problems the state had responding to the problem was its lack of legal oversight:

. . .State health officials lacked even the power to inspect the sites of the spills without permission from Honeymead and Richards — permission they didn’t grant until several months later. . . .

. . .The disaster sparked legislation in the following months and years, including law preventing the storage of hazardous material next to public waters and the creation of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in 1967.

By the spring, the governor had to call out the National Guard in what became known as “Operation Save a Duck”:

Kruger and others were mostly worried about what the oil would do to fish in the spring. “No one realized it was going to flow that far in the spring. In March and April the migration of waterfowl was taking place. They’d land in the oil and get coated.”

Kruger and other officers were sent to the Mississippi River between Hastings and Red Wing where oil flowing into marshland was causing the biggest problems for ducks. They were joined by U.S. Fish & Wildlife officials and by National Guard troops called in after Gov. Karl Rolvaag declared a state of emergency.

“We’d try to catch ducks on shore and they’d flop out into the river and just sink in the oil. We had piles of dead ducks,” Kruger said.

Perhaps Bluestem is merely a slave to chronology here, and the creation of the MPCA in 1967 is in fact more evidence of Alida Messinger’s omniscient powers, which apparently include time travel, given the fact that Messinger and Mark Dayton wed in 1978. She must have used those Rockefeller millions to buy a tricked out used DeLorean to go exercise that power in 1963 through 1967. Or something. And 1972’s establishment of the Environmental Quality Board? More Messinger time travel. Or something.

Given the way the Tea Party has been mixing anti-UN Agenda 21 conspiracy theories into their outrage (and outright lies) about last year’s Citizens’ Forums and the coming state-level environmental, perhaps the conspiracy theorist fancy that the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) borrowed the vehicle in 1992, during the meeting in Rio, to joyride back to 1967 and 1972 to set up the agencies the Tea Partiers now fear.

Heaven forbid that we should recall the real events that led the Minnesota legislature to start these agencies.

The Atlantic: Anti-Environmentalist Roots of the Agenda 21 Conspiracy Theory

The history behind the tinfoil hats was unfolded nicely in Llewellyn Hinkes-Jones’ August article in his short August article, The Anti-Environmentalist Roots of the Agenda 21 Conspiracy Theory, in the Atlantic’s Cities section.

Hinkes-Jones writes:

Most importantly, this type of fearful rhetoric helps create a perceived enemy to rally against. If all of these urban planning and environmental regulations are part of a nefarious plot for world domination, then anything is up for grabs. Any insignificant recommendation about traffic circles to avoid congestion, smart meters for monitoring energy usage, or tracking greenhouse gas emissions becomes suspect.

That need for a named enemy, a focus for the venom, is the strategy behind the demonization of agencies like the MPCA and the Met Council, as well as the summoning of Ms. Messinger’s name whenever “environment” is within a country mile.

The author continues:

These Tea Party tactics were passed down from the Wise Use era, with some of the same names repeated. In the ’90s, threats of a UN socialist takeover were used to thwart environmental protections in state parks back when conspiracy theories were distributed by fax machine rather than Internet connection. But it goes back even further. Some of the Sagebrush Rebels that helped usher Reagan into the White House were comprised of public lands ranching groups who used fear-mongering to fight the environmental protections of the Carter administration. And then there are the lesser-known Sagebrush rebellions of the earlier part of the 20th century, who also incited political action by spreading fears of a looming government conspiracy to steal peoples’ land.

It’s only recently that the focus of the country’s anti-environmentalism movement has turned to urban planning. It may seem absurd, but as long as these types of strategies help to protect oil, gas, coal, logging, mining, ranchers, land developers, and other natural resource industry groups from government restrictions and fines, then we’ll continue to hear about the threats to private property ownership that this “global socialist conspiracy” represents.

Has the rhetoric simply become a Gadsen flag of a floating signifer for the Tea Party and Republican Party (remember, state senator Dave Brown and representative Mary Franson introduced anti-Agenda 21 legislation last session), divorced from corporate interests, how even helpful to their bottom line the conspiracy may be?

Or is there a nexus between the activists and industry provided by groups such as Americans for Prosperity, the American Policy Center and others?