Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership
The 2021 Minnesota Legislative Session ended on Monday, May 17 with little fanfare. While the House, Senate, and Governor agreed on overall budget targets, they did not pass a budget bill, and numerous provisions are still on the table.
The Legislature will reconvene by June 14 for a special session, in which they intend to finish their work. There was a bright spot at the end of the session: strong bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate passed the Eco Act, a bill that updates the state’s Conservation Improvement Program and will lead to reduced carbon emissions by boosting energy efficiency. It’s one victory for our climate, for consumers, and for job creation in the energy sector.
But the Legislature’s unfinished work has significant implications for Minnesota’s environment. Funding for environmental agencies like the Pollution Control Agency, Department of Natural Resources, and the Board and Water and Soil Resources is on the table, but not assured.
Weeks ago, Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen said that the Senate will not pass an environmental budget unless the Legislature repealed the Walz Administration’s authority to enact Clean Cars rule. Later, this demand was changed to a two-year delay. The Clean Cars rule, which would provide Minnesotans with more electric vehicle options and reduce emissions from all new vehicles sold, is currently scheduled to take effect no earlier than January 2024.
If an environmental budget is not passed in the special session, Minnesotans could see state parks shut down in July, and numerous beneficial programs to improve habitat and water quality left unsupported.
And while they have budget targets for environmental agencies, House and Senate must also negotiate on policy provisions. Some proposals, like protections against pesticides, establishing a soil health goal for farmland, and enacting a new focus on environmental justice for new projects, should be included. Others, like rolling back the state’s ability to make pollution protection rules and delaying enforcement of water quality standards, should be left out. (Read MEP’s letter to the Legislature on these and other policy issues.)
Given the multiple challenges we face on climate, species loss, and water pollution, Minnesota can’t afford not to make investments in our natural resources or roll back the protections we have already. MEP and our partners will continue working to convince legislators to pass a budget that follows the science and meets our needs.
What you can do: Call or use our action system to contact your lawmakers and ask them to pass a clean environment budget that puts our people and ecosystems first.