As Dave Dempsey has pointed out, there is much to be proud of from this legislative session. Most of these victories came with broad, bi-partisan support.
Here’s a brief summary of the outcomes with the collaborative Protect Minnesota’s Great Outdoors package as well as some additional environmental victories from this session.
- Renewable Electricity Standard – Minnesota created the best standard in the country, which will ensure that approximately 25 percent of our state’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020.
- Global Warming Solutions – With the Governor’s expected signature, Minnesota will have the goal of reducing global warming pollution 80 percent by 2050. In addition, an emission reductions action plan is due to the legislature by February and a program to reduce power plant emissions must begin by August 1, 2009.
- Energy Efficiency – By setting a goal of reducing demand by 1.5 percent each year, Minnesota should see a 25 percent reduction in electrical and natural gas use by 2025.
- Biofuels – A new state-wide working lands bioenergy program, Reinvest in Minnesota – Clean Energy, was established. The program allows for perennial crops to be grown under long-term easements for the bioenergy market. In addition, funding was provided for forest and perennial biomass research and a portion of the state Renewable Fuels Standard was dedicated to cellulosic sources.
Clean Water Legacy
Efforts to restore and protect Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams came up a bit dry this year. The legislature only provided funding for one-quarter of the money needed to create cleanup plans for the water known to be polluted and to test the over 80 percent of lakes and rivers yet to be analyzed.
Legislation to give voters a chance in 2008 to create a long-term, dedicated source of funding for water, wildlife, parklands and natural areas fell just short this year, again. A conference committee finalized language, but the bill did not receive a final vote this session. The constitutional amendment, if approved, would raise the state’s sales tax 3/8 of one percent with the proceeds dedicated to clean water, wildlife habitat, land protection and parklands, as well as arts and culture.
Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact
Minnesota became the first state in the region to endorse the Great Lakes Compact. Once approved by each of the eight Great Lakes states and Congress, the Compact will provide uniform protection for new or expanding water usage within the basin.
Additional victories this year:
- Electronics Recycling – Electronics contain toxins that are not allowed to be disposed of in landfills. Legislation passed in April creates a recycling program that requires manufactures to recycle a certain weight of electronics waste in proportion to the weight of new equipment sold each year, which also creates an incentive for manufactures to use fewer heavy, toxic materials. For more information, contact Sara Rummel at Clean Water Action at 612-623-3666 and www.cleanwater.org.
- Environmental Health Tracking and Biomonitoring – Biomonitoring and health tracking programs will be developed to help identify the connections between exposure to hazardous substances and diseases. Bio-monitoring allows the Health Department to ask for volunteers in target areas to be checked for specific chemicals and elements in their bodies. For more information, contact Samuel Yamin at Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy at 651.223.5969 and www.mncenter.org.
- Green Fleet School Buses – Approximately 4,000 school buses will be eligible for retrofitting with pollution control technology as part of Project Green Fleet and a $2.4 million allocation contained in the environment finance bill. More information is available from Minnesota Environmental Institute at 612.334.3388 and www.mn-ei.org.
- Mercury Products Phase Out – This bill bans the sale of certain mercury containing products when alternatives are available. It also restricts mercury products from k-12 schools and increases labeling and recycling requirements for products without a viable mercury-free alternative. More information is available from Carin Skoog at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy at 612.870.3458 or www.healthylegacy.org.
- Toxic Flame Retardant Phase Out – Certain toxins contained in flame retardant materials that accumulate in humans will be banned since safer substitutes exist. Alternatives for a third toxin will be studied. More information is available from Kathleen Schuler at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy at 612.870.3468 or www.healthylegacy.org.
- Wild Rice Protection – The Department of Natural Resources will prepare a report on threats to natural wild rice in Minnesota, including development, non-native invasive species and genetically modified organisms. The report will also include recommendations on protecting and increasing natural wild rice stands. An environmental impact statement will be required before anyone is allowed to plant genetically modified wild rice strains. For more information, contact with White Earth Land Recovery Project at 218.375.2600 and www.welrp.org.