May 22, 2018
Dear Governor Dayton,
We, the undersigned organizations and the thousands of Minnesotans we represent, ask you to veto the Supplemental Budget Bill, SF 3656. The following provisions remain of concern:
Listed in order of appearance within each subject.
Reducing Xcel Energy’s payment into the Renewable Development Account.
This provision restructures the formula for determining how much Xcel Energy should annually pay into the Renewable Development Account, changing it from a fee for each cask of dry storage of spent nuclear fuel to a flat fee. The net result of this change is a compounding reduction of Xcel’s contributions into the RDA from approximately $26 million a year today to $20 million in 2022 and thereafter. The RDA is meant to fund research and development in renewable electric energy technologies, grid modernization (including storage) and projects that decrease demand for and increase efficiency of electricity use. In addition, this provision allows Xcel Energy to recover payments made into the RDA under this statute by charging a “rider” or extra fee to rate-payers.
Eliminating financing options for participating in community solar.
This provision removes the word “financing” from the list of components a plan for community solar must include. Without this word, Xcel does not have to include reasonable financing options in their integrated resource plans, likely eliminating new residential or lower-income subscribers from participation in our most-successful-in-the-nation community solar programs.
Environment and Natural Resources
Transferring water from one water body to another without a permit.
This provision allows waters to be moved from one body to another or connected to each other without a permit. Some waters are polluted and have aquatic invasive species, others are pristine. Current law protects the state’s cleanest waters by requiring a permit for a water transfer between water bodies. Agencies should retain this authority in order to prevent transfers that harm Minnesota’s waters.
Degradation of Peer Review: Accepting conflicts of interest among peer review members.
This section codifies the acceptance of conflicts of interest among peer review members, so long as they are disclosed. This is an unacceptable degradation of independent peer review, which is supposed to rely on unbiased science.
Giving industry 16 years to meet water quality standards.
This provision allows an industry that has already constructed or made improvements to a water treatment facility in order to meet water quality standards a 16-year pass for meeting any other water quality standards that may be developed. Similar language was passed by the legislature last year (and again this year) – though only for municipalities, not industry.
An Administrative Law Judge rejected the rulemaking that resulted from last year’s legislation because it was not in compliance with the federal Clean Water Act. The provision returned this year adding the words “to the extent allowable under federal law,” and in this bill, also granting the 16-year holiday to industries as well. Water quality standards are developed to protect human health and the viability of our waters for important uses. If new water quality standards are established, polluters should be required to meet those new standards through the permitting process.
Limiting the definition of pipeline to weaken regulatory authority.
This provision did not receive any hearings, was not introduced as a bill and narrows the definition of pipelines to “a pipeline owned or operated by a condemning authority.” The provision could allow frac sand operations to avoid regulation for piping frac sand slurry.
Jeopardizing native species by delaying needed conversion back to pre-settlement condition of oak-Savannah, oak woodland or prairie.
This provision extends an unfortunate conversion moratorium put into law last year in Sand Dunes State Forest (SDSF) from two years to three years.
Sand Dunes State Forest is home to nearly 1/5 of all species identified as “Species in Greatest Conservation Need” by the State in the Minnesota Wildlife Action Plan. A few species are now believed to be extinct from the property due to prior lack of management for rare species. Converting a portion of the forest back to its pre-settlement condition is important to prevent further loss. In addition, the State and partnering organizations have already invested significant amounts of time and funding toward the restoration of SDSF. Extending the moratorium is financially irresponsible and jeopardizes previous investments by the State and conservation organizations.
Please veto SF 3656. Thank you for your consideration.
Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Alliance for Sustainability
Clean Water Action – Minnesota
CURE (Clean Up the River Environment)
Friends of the Mississippi River
Friends of Minnesota Scientific & Natural Areas
Izaak Walton League – Minnesota Division
Land Stewardship ProjectWomen’s Congress for Future Generation
Lower Phalen Creek Project
MN Center for Environmental Advocacy
Minnesota Native Plant Society
Minnesota Ornithologists Union
Pollinator Friendly Alliance
Save Our Sky Blue Waters
St. Croix River Association
Wilderness in the City