Environmental Legislation Update

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The 2007 legislative session is darn near a week old now and the bills are rolling onto the assembly line.  Here are a few highlights and some information on what may be happening in the next couple of weeks.

Renewable Energy
The forth bill introduced in both the House and Senate (thus they are known as HF4 and SF4) creates a Renewable Electricity Standard for Minnesota.  This would ensure that 25 percent of our electricity comes from clean, renewable sources – such as wind and biomass – by 2020.  The Senate bill’s chief author is Sen. Ellen Anderson (DFL, St. Paul) and has 4 co-authors.  The House bill’s chief author is Rep. Aaron Peterson (DFL, Madison) and has 26 other co-authors.  I find it an odd little quark of our legislature that the House allows for many more co-authors (35 max I believe) than the Senate does, but that’s the way it is.  A Renewable Electricity Standard is part of the Clean Energy Minnesota platform, which is part of the Protect Minnesota’s Great Outdoors initiative for MEP (click this link for a PDF of the MEP fact sheet). 

There are hearings galore in the works related to energy in the next couple of weeks. They start off this week with a House Energy committee hearing on the Governor’s initiative.  Next week there will be Senate hearings on the Renewable Energy Standard bills (I am under the impression that there will be a couple of other versions introduced in the near future).  There may also be some hearings related to Global Warming before the month is out.

Clean Water Legacy
The bulk of action related to cleaning up and protecting our lakes and rivers will be a part of the budget bill process this year (which won’t get into full swing until a new economic forecast is released in late February) – thus no bills have been introduced yet for Legacy.  But that’s not to say things aren’t happening.  The House Environment Finance committee is scheduled to discuss Clean Water Legacy on Thursday morning. (here’s the link for MEP’s fact sheet PDF)

Long-term Funding for the Environment
Often shorthanded as dedicated funding – or as we like to concisely call it, Invest To Protect Our Great Outdoors – there are a large number of funding proposals floating around the legislature already that would involve amending the state constitution to designate a portion of sales tax revenues to conservation and environmental programs.  The Senate has already seen three versions introduced:

  • SF 6 – dedicates 3/8 percent of a sales tax increase to a range of environmental areas and also includes funding for arts programs and public broadcasting
  • SF 20 – dedicates 1/4 percent of a sales tax increase for most of the same programs as SF6, but without the arts and broadcasting
  • SF 37 – dedicates 1/4 percent of sales tax increase, but with the exact same percentage allocation as SF 6 (in other words, same bill but with less money). 

I am under the impression that SF6 is the bill that will most likely be the one to see any action (or in wonk terms, it is the vehicle).  I can understand why SF 20 was introduced (to please those who are not interested in arts funding), but I don’t know why SF 37 was introduced with almost the exact same authors as SF 6 and mostly similar language, but with less money.  Representative Hackbarth also introduced a bill, HF 27, that dedicates 1/8 percent of existing sales tax revenues to Game and Fish purposes, but I wouldn’t expect it to be the “companion” of any of the above bills nor for it to get much attention in committees. 

MEP member groups are developing their own proposal, with authors and timeline yet to be determined (here’s a link for a PDF version of the MEP fact sheet).

Great Lakes Protection
Also introduced this week is Senate File 38, the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, here after referred to as the Compact.  The Compact is an agreement reached by the eight states that border the Great Lakes over how to manage the water that flows into the Lakes (more information is available in this 1MB pdf fact sheet).  Now the agreement needs to be approved by the legislatures in each state and then congress.  The Senate File has high level, bipartisan co-authors and the support of the Governor’s office, so the outlook is positive for a smooth process. 

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