By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership
May 18 marked the final day of the Minnesota’s 2020 Legislative Session, but the third Monday of the month marked more of a pause than a conclusion to the Legislature’s work for the year – a comma, not a period. The Legislature plans to pick up its work where it left off in a special session starting June 12, and is continuing negotiations on what final bills will look like. This session will be legally required to convene if, as expected, Governor Walz extends the state’s COVID-19 state of emergency.
Ultimately, the House and Senate ran out of time to come together on most policy provisions relating to the environment before the end-of-session deadline, as COVID-19 issues understandably took most of their attention. They did pass the nation’s first-ever ban on using the harmful industrial chemical TCE. And they passed a Renewable Development Account spending bill with funding for four projects:
- Extending Xcel’s Solar Rewards program that pays incentives for qualifying residential and commercial solar systems into 2024
- Providing community transition grants to support economic development in communities with retiring coal plants
- Upgrading the Granite Falls Hydropower dam; and
- Funding the Prairie Island Community Net Zero Project
But so far the legislature has missed taking meaningful action to jump start our economic recovery and transition to a green economy through a robust and strategic bonding bill. Nor has it passed the recommended $64 million worth of scientific environmental research, education and habitat projects funded out of the constitutionally-dedicated Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.
We asked Minnesotans to speak up on key bills near the end of the session: on fixing our decaying water infrastructure and investing in public transit, passing a bill to keep Environment and Natural Resources projects alive, fixing the problematic Senate Environment Bill, and stopping the “Fossil Fuels Forever” bill masquerading as “Clean Energy First.”
These contacts have made a difference. And all of these issues are still relevant. The next few weeks present a great opportunity to call and email lawmakers before they reconvene.
Environmental problems aren’t on hold during COVID-19 – our economy is still running on fossil fuels, our water infrastructure is still aging and making people sick, and the EPA is even letting polluters off the hook (see Star Tribune article below.) But responsibly using bonding and our lottery-funded Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund to help invest in a cleaner Minnesota will make our state more resilient, more prosperous, and more sustainable. That’s what we’re working to get legislators to understand.
For a full breakdown of where legislation has temporarily landed, see our MEP End of Session Update, and check out other policy updates from the MEP organizations listed below:
Fresh Energy: 2020 Legislative Session Wraps Up: What happened?
Friends of the Mississippi River: 2020 legislative session ends with most bills “staying at home”
Land Stewardship Project: 2020 Legislative Session: What Happened & What’s Next