By Steve Morse, Executive Director
Our coalition is disappointed today that the Minnesota House passed the Omnibus Environmental Bill (H.F. 2164) without addressing the some serious problems identified by our nonprofit members and Governor Dayton’s agencies. Troubling provisions of this bill include:
Loss of wetlands
- Instead of following the current Wetland Conservation Act that replaces any wetlands that are lost, this provision would increase exemptions and allow more wetlands to be destroyed without any replacement. This is wrong for Minnesota, since wetlands provide habitat for Minnesota’s wildlife, help filter runoff, retain flood waters and help keep our waters clean.
Auto-approval of permits
- This illogical proposal requires that if state agencies like the Pollution Control Agency don’t act on a permit within 60 days, the permit would be automatically approved. Besides the obvious consequences with granting auto-approval to permits, this provision would put great strain on agencies’ staff and could hurt their effectiveness on larger projects. The legislature’s relentless desire to “accommodate business” is trumping Minnesota’s common-sense processes that are in place to protect our water, air and health.
State water standards can’t be stronger than Federal policies
- Instead of allowing Minnesota to enact water quality standards that properly address the needs of our state’s unique native plants and resources, this provision prohibits Minnesota from adopting water quality standards that are more protective than Federal policies. Minnesota needs the ability to enact water quality standards that are appropriate for our state, and not be subject to challenges based on weaker federal guidance.
Land exchange in the BWCA
- A provision requires that 100% of the School Trust Lands (more than 86,000 acres) in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness with federal lands, which disregards the approach endorsed by the Permanent School Trust Advisory Committee. Intensively logging, mining or developing the School Trust Lands for short-term financial gain is not wise stewardship of our natural resources, and does not provide long-term benefit to our school children.
Limiting citizen input
- We are troubled by the provision that eliminates the Pollution Control Agency Citizens’ Board’s authority to make the final decision on permit variances, and prevents the public from requesting environmental reviews of local projects from the Citizens’ Board. Minnesotans should be allowed to maintain their current access to important policy decisions affecting their communities.
Because Legislative leaders refused to fix these problematic provisions, the members of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership support the Dayton Administration’s opposition to this bill and look forward to Governor Dayton’s veto.