Written by MEP Communications Intern Hanna Terwilliger
MEP’s Annual Members Meeting was a little more crowded than usual this year as we welcomed Governor Mark Dayton to discuss Minnesota’s environmental priorities. More than 100 people representing 43 of Minnesota’s most respected environmental and conservation came to hear the Governor speak and to ask him about his stance on a wide variety of issues ranging from this session’s buffer bill to the recently announced Clean Power Plan. Although the environmental community faced some hurdles this year, Governor Dayton was a strong supporter and we took the time to thank him for his support by reciprocating the cookies he handed out earlier this year during a rally outside his home.
Governor Dayton started things off announcing the establishment of the Governor’s Committee to Advise the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. After the disappointing abolishment of the MPCA Citizen’s Board during the last legislative session, this was a welcome event for the room of gathered advocates. In true Dayton fashion, he kept his remarks brief and opened up the room to questions from MEP members.
After this session’s victory on buffers, Governor Dayton was eager to expand on his clean water priorities for the next three and a half years when asked about future protections. The Governor expressed frustration with the status quo surrounding water quality issues, particularly in Southern Minnesota. “I just refuse to believe that we have to accept this kind of contamination because it’s farm country,” Dayton said. “We don’t accept it in mining country. We don’t accept it in the metropolitan area.”
Several MEP members expressed their concern with integrity of the environmental review process for Polymet and future sulfide mining practices and urged the Governor to take a look at the work of independent scientists who do not have a financial stake in the project. The Governor responded that he would make sure rigor was applied to the environmental review, but that he also had questions about the financial considerations, especially for a company that had a value of over $300 million. He noted that, “this will be the most momentous, difficult and controversial decision I will make as governor.” With the recent mine disaster in Colorado, we are reminded of how even when people have the very best of intentions towards protecting the environment, accidents still occur with catastrophic consequences for aquatic life.
At another point, the Governor responded to Kathy Hollander of MN350’s question on oil pipelines saying that to move oil without pipelines wasn’t a “feasible option.” For the advocates in the room it was a reminder that even with our environmental champions there is work to be done with issue education and public pushback.
The Governor also spoke on his support for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, saying that “the standards aren’t all that we can do or the most that we can do…my goal is to eliminate coal fired power plants before I die.” Let’s have coal fired power plants in Minnesota retired long before the end of the Governor’s lifetime. Our state certainly has the renewable energy resources to make this a reality.
Thank you Governor Dayton for your support of Minnesota’s environmental heritage, and we hope you enjoyed the cookies.
Click here for full video coverage of the event