Pollution regulation in Minnesota

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The League of Women Voters in Minnesota (a MEP member group) released a study last January on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (800k PDF) that is still worth examining, if you haven’t already.  A local League chapter recently hosted a panel discussion on the report in Park Rapids – both of which offer some interesting insights into the agency and its current culture. 

Here are a few selections from both:

During the panel discussion in Park Rapids, a former regional manager for the MPCA, Willis Mattison, was quite critical of changes in the agency over the last few decades.  He raised a number of concerns about the agency management, its relationship with the companies that it is supposed to regulate, and the changing political climate. “Employees who took the mission seriously…were pushed to the side, forced out or it was clear their star would not rise.”  Other panelists were more kind to the agency.

The LCVMN LWVMN report looks in-depth at a wide range of issues within the agency, including the role of the Commissioner as chair of the “Citizens’ Board,” which came into practice in the mid ’90s.  Both the report and the panel indicated that this is detrimental to the operation – and citizen involvement – of the Citizens’ Board.  As an aside, Senator Ellen Anderson and Reps. Joe Mullery and Sheldon Peterson have authored legislation (SF 1876/HF294) that would prohibit the Commissioner from serving as chair.

One of the more interesting section of the reports for me was the look at the MPCA’s funding, a good portion of which comes from permitting fees.  With a growing percentage of pollution in Minnesota coming from non-point sources, relying on point-source fees will not produce adequate funding.  There is also a problem with shifting the burden of funding away from the sources of pollution.  From the report:

“Because of the strong agriculture, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, and other business and industry lobbies, MPCA appears to have been moving away from ‘polluter pays’ and towards ‘public pays.'”

This despite the MPCA’s own survey showing 90 percent of Minnesotans agreed that, “those who pollute should directly pay the cost to clean up and prevent pollution.”

Other topics include environmental justice, “good government,” and the key areas of the agency’s work.  There are also case studies on Reserve Mining, mercury reductions, and the Heartland tire burner.

One Response to “Pollution regulation in Minnesota”

  1. Stephanie Henriksen

    The paragraph beginning with “The LCVMN report looks in-depth” should be corrected to LWVMN (not to be confused with League of Conservation Voters). Thanks for an otherwise good message. I am told the bill that would return the Citizens’ Board to original structure did not move forward for this year. That is unfortunate.

    As member of the government agency study committee that wrote this report, I recommend a close look at the last section, “Complicated Issues: Ethanol.” The streamlining of the environmental review process by MPCA/DNR for new ethanol plants has been troubling.


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