Letter to the Governor: Request for veto of Jobs Growth and Energy Affordability Bill (SF1456)

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May 26, 2017

Dear Governor Dayton,

We, the undersigned organizations and the thousands of Minnesotans we represent, ask you to veto SF 1456, the Jobs Growth and Energy Affordability Bill.

We greatly appreciate all you have done to improve this bill over its predecessor, SF 1937. Many onerous provisions were removed and we are enormously grateful for this.

On many fronts, this session was unlike any in recent memory. The global budget agreement, which was reached late Monday night, was broken. The legislature passed budget bills that the public could not track, falling far short of Minnesotans’ documented expectations and in some cases causing long term harm to our state. With regard to the environment, this Jobs & Energy bill neither “grows jobs” nor makes “energy affordable.” Indeed it moves Minnesota backward on both of those points, while establishing statewide policy that prevents us from making progress on issues of great importance.

The following are serious concerns remaining with SF 1456:

  • Prohibiting local governments from banning plastic bags.

    Plastic bags haven’t always been part of American life. But the single plastic bag used for an average of just 12 minutes will continue to harm the water, people and wildlife of this planet long after our grandchildren’s grandchildren have come and gone. Citizens have worked to convince some local governments that there is a better way for our future. Overturning this progress would be another unjustified preemption of local government control.

  • Eliminates Public Utilities Commission (PUC) safeguards from price gauging by utilities serving rural residents who want to use solar or wind power.

    Right now, customers are challenging fees as much as $83 a month to connect their renewable energy sources to the utilities. This bill will remove their ability to have those fees reviewed by independent experts at the Commission. You have already vetoed this provision twice.

  • Enables Xcel to use $54 million in Renewable Development Fund money to buyout biomass and poultry power supply contracts.

    Years ago, Xcel agreed to a 20-year biomass mandate in exchange for being able to store nuclear waste at Prairie Island. If Xcel wishes to buyout the biomass contract, it should use other funds – not funds designated for energy innovation.

  • Weakens 1.5% Solar Energy Standard for medium sized utilities.

    This change discourages investment in smaller projects by raising the cap on the size of solar projects that would count toward the standard. The current size is 20 kilowatts, and the new standard would be double that. It also allows Minnesota Power and Ottertail Power to meet the standard by counting only utility-owned “community” solar gardens, overturning a clear decision by the PUC.

  • Exempts small utilities from participating in energy savings and efficiency programs.

    This provision denies rural customers and other ratepayers receiving energy from small utilities the ability to participate in programs including the Conservation Improvement Program (CIP), on-bill repayment for efficiency investments, and low income programs.

  • Eliminates the popular Roof-top/ Made in Minnesota Solar rebate program.

    This program has created more than 495 jobs since its inception in 2013. The number of Minnesota-made manufacturers has increased from two in 2013 to five in 2017, and provided support for the growth of an estimated 500 supply-chain companies across the state.

  • Repeals Minnesota’s goal, framework, and planning strategy for a 100% renewable energy future.

    This bill significantly undercuts Minnesota’s leadership in addressing climate change and moving to a sustainable energy economy. Current law requires the state to develop a framework to make Minnesota the first state in the nation to end the use of fossil fuels and use only renewable energy.

    With the urgency of addressing the climate crisis, repealing this goal and planning process is a huge step backwards and extremely shortsighted. This goal is not only necessary, it is achievable if we keep moving in the right direction.

    While the repealer may be largely symbolic at this time, it epitomizes the direction of energy policy in this budget bill.

Governor Dayton, at a time when we should be accelerating our efforts to increase renewable energy use and adopt sustainable practices, this bill moves us backward. It is not deserving of your signature.

Please veto SF 1456.

Sincerely,

Steve Morse
Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Alliance for Sustainability
Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis
Center for Biological Diversity
Clean Water Action
CURE (Clean Up the River Environment)
Friends of Minnesota Scientific & Natural Areas
Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest
Friends of the Mississippi River
Institute for Local Self Reliance
Izaak Walton League – Minnesota Division
Land Stewardship Project
League of Women Voters Minnesota
Lower Phalen Creek Project
Minnesota Conservation Federation
Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light
Minnesota Native Plant Society
Minnesota Ornithologists Union
Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter
MN350
Pesticide Action Network
Pollinate Minnesota
Renewing the Countryside
Save Our Sky Blue Waters
TakeAction – Minnesota *
Transit for Livable Communities
* denotes not an MEP member

 

 

Letter to the Governor: Request for veto of Environment and Natural Resources Omnibus Bill (SF844)

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RE: Request for veto of Environment and Natural Resources Omnibus Bill (SF844)

May 25, 2017

Dear Governor Dayton, Thank you for your commitment to justice and fairness, your strong work on behalf of Minnesota’s environment and natural resources and your unyielding interest in the public good.

On many fronts, this session has been unlike any in recent memory. The global budget agreement, which was reached late Monday night, has not been followed. The legislature is now adrift, passing budget bills that the public cannot track, falling far short of Minnesotans’ documented expectations and in some cases causing long term harm to our state. With regard to the environment, proposals to defund programs, weaken protections, limit public participation and subvert municipal efforts to move forward are numbered in the dozens.

Citizens across the state worked tirelessly throughout the session to stop these provisions at every turn, but ultimately many still reached your desk. We are grateful for your veto of the first Environmental Budget bill, the positions you articulated in your veto letter and the negotiations which dropped many of these harmful provisions from the second Environmental Budget bill (SF 844). Thank you.

As you know, the Environment and Natural Resources Bill currently before you still retains many detrimental provisions. While SF844 is better than its predecessor (HF888), it raises serious concerns and chips away at the protections and resources that fund our Great Outdoors. This bill

  • Cuts $22 million in operational funding to local Soil and Water Conservation districts resulting in a raid on the Clean Water Fund.1 This reduction is backfilled with Legacy Amendment Clean Water Fund dollars, amounting to a 10% raid for the second biennium in a row, resulting in defunding drinking, ground and surface water protections across the state. We believe that, taken together, this reduction, as contained in Environmental Budget Bill (SF 844) and the Legacy bill, constitutes a clear violation of the commitment made in law by the 2015 budget and violates the intent of the Legacy Constitutional Amendment. We are greatly concerned about what this means for the long term integrity of the Clean Water Fund and the overall Legacy Amendment.
  • Limits citizen rights based on property ownership. Since 1969 participating in a contested case petition has been a right of citizens, guaranteeing public participation in important decisions that affect the whole state. This provision would appear to limit this legal tool for mine permits to only those people who own property affected by the proposed operation.
  • Jeopardizes rare calcareous fens. Allowing DNR to approve irrigation permits that draw down important ground waters sustaining rare calcareous fens weakens the protections these sensitive ecosystems have had since the Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act was passed more than a quarter century ago.
  • Removes the PCA requirement to adopt air quality standards and environmental review standards for frac sand operations. Long-term low level exposure to silica dust can cause silicosis, which is fatal. This provision removes the mandate passed in 2013 that the “commissioner of the Pollution Control Agency shall adopt rules pertaining to the control of particulate emissions from silica sand projects.”
  • Begins the permit review process before the evaluation of environmental impact data is complete. This is especially risky when paired with the provision that allows corporations to draft their own Environmental Impact Statements (listed below).
  • Allows corporations to prepare their own draft Environmental Impact Statement. Aside from letting the fox guard the hen house, when the preparer of the EIS is the industry seeking the permit, the Data Practices Act protects as private the data used as a foundation for the EIS. That data and the assumptions used in its collection will therefore not be available for public review or scrutiny. This reduces the public transparency and the accountability of permitting.
  • Allows permit applicants to buy their way into an expedited permit. This disadvantages smaller businesses that may not have the resources to pay an expedited fee and are then put behind other businesses that do.
  • Interferes with science-based forest management at Sand Dunes State Forest. This end run around the existing well-established, science-based forest planning process will delay efforts to restore the forest to native oak savannah, of which less than 1% of Minnesota’s original oak savannah forest remains.
  • Places a 2-year prohibition on the adoption of rules limiting lead shot. Science establishing the harm of lead shot (and lead bullets) to non-target wildlife and birds (including Bald Eagles) is well-established. Other options are readily available for similar cost. Minnesota should be using its existing authority to get lead out of our environment.
  • Delays actions to clean-up polluted water. This provision exempts cities that build new facilities from future technology updates to meet new standards for clean water for up to 16 years. We can’t clean up our waters if we can’t ask facilities to meet standards when developed.

These provisions move Minnesota backward. Governor, with the utmost respect, this bill does not deserve your signature. Please veto SF 844.

We would be happy to meet to discuss our concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact me at any time should you have any questions.

Sincerely,
Steve Morse
Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Alliance for Sustainability
Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis
Center for Biological Diversity
Clean Water Action Minnesota
CURE (Clean Up the River Environment)
Friends of Minnesota Scientific & Natural Areas Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest
Friends of the Mississippi River
Institute for Local Self Reliance
Izaak Walton League – Minnesota Division
Land Stewardship Project
League of Women Voters Minnesota
Lower Phalen Creek Project
Lutheran Advocacy – Minnesota Minnesota Native Plant Society Minnesota Ornithologists Union Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter MN350
Pesticide Action Network
Pollinate Minnesota
Renewing the Countryside
Save Our Sky Blue Waters
Sierra Club – North Star Chapter
Transit for Livable Communities
Water Legacy

 i We are very glad to see a provision in the Tax Bill that would use future surplus general fund balances to repay the Clean Water Fund for this raid.

Press Statement: Legislative Session Delivers Rollback, Raids to Minnesota’s Environment

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Press Statement
May 23, 2017
Media Contact: Sara Wolff
651-491-1229

Legislative Session Delivers Rollback, Raids to Minnesota’s Environment

This legislative session is a disappointment for Minnesota’s environment.

Steve Morse, Executive Director of Minnesota Environmental Partnership, said, “Unfortunately, the 2017 legislative session was about backpedaling. The legislature passed raids, rollbacks and restrictions to public participation that will further challenge our ability to protect and restore our state’s waters and lands.”

Dozens of provisions detrimental to the environment were advanced. Through a tremendous effort by citizens across the state, many were dropped. But many of the harmful provisions are still moving forward. For instance:

  • Raiding $22 million of Legacy Amendment funds to fund local government operations. That shift cuts $22 million in drinking, ground and surface water protections across the state.
  • Limiting a citizen’s right to participate in contested case hearings on proposed mining operations to those individuals who own land.
  • Exempting cities that build new facilities from future technology updates to meet standards for clean water for 16 years.
  • Prohibiting local governments from banning plastic bags.

And one provision, already vetoed twice by the Governor, eliminates safeguards from price gauging by power companies serving rural residents who want to use solar power.

The legislature also missed opportunities to make needed investments and policy changes. Proposals to protect pollinators, invest in cover crop research, and fund transit and transportation all fell critically short.

Morse said, “At the same time the public is eager to move forward to support our Great Outdoors, our legislature is dodging major challenges to the quality and health of our water, air and habitat.”

74% of Minnesota voters say they are concerned about environmental rollbacks, and 62% think environmental laws need to be made tougher.1 “But instead of moving forward, or even standing still, this legislative session moves us back. This is not what the public wants,” Morse added.

 

1According to a statewide phone poll conducted February 1-5, 2017 by the bi-partisan polling team of Public Opinion Strategies and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.

News Watch: May 22

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May 22, 2017

Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food, Clean Energy, Conservation, Mining, Oil & Pipelines, Pollinators, Transportation, Water, Wildlife & Fish

Events and Advocacy News:
Check out the newly launched #KeepMNClean website for Daily Action Alerts

Featured Letter
Star Tribune: Letter – Pay heed to public’s concerns about the environment

Agriculture & Food
West Central Tribune: Southwest Minnesota’s Tru Shrimp venture builds on region’s crops

Clean Energy
St. Cloud Times: Clearwater woman recognized nationally for work to cut coal
Winona Daily News: Power from the sun to be harvested from Winona County solar gardens
Midwest Energy News: In Minnesota, utilities and regulators plan for the grid of the future

Conservation
Star Tribune: Anderson: Political assault on state’s natural resources demands a united response
MPR News: Man gets probation for cutting trees from Chippewa forest

Mining
Winona Daily News: DNR green lights Monroe County frac operation; permit allows Meteor to fill 16 1/4 acres of wetlands
Grand Rapids Herald Review: Sportsmen: sulfide mining puts jobs/economy at risk

Oil & Pipelines
Detroit Lakes Online: Is the 2010 BP oil spill killing Minnesota’s loons?

Parks & Trails
Rochester Post Bulletin: Lake Shady replaced with growing park
Brainerd Dispatch: Two Minn. counties taking unique step forward to promote recreation, quality of life
Pioneer Press: Dakota County’s new 4.3-mile river trail offers scenic views, “incredible landscape”

Pollinators
Winona Daily News: Rollingstone Community School received 125 pollinator friendly seedlings
Crow River Media: Monarchs and more at York Farm

Pollution
Winona Post: Hog farms ok’d, Kovesci dissents

Transportation
Star Tribune: Minneapolis improving crosswalk visibility at thousands of intersections
Rochester Post Bulletin: Cyclists hope to connect the dots on area trails
St. Cloud Times: State opens bike route between St. Paul, Canada

Water
Duluth News Tribune: Massive restoration project in works for Grassy Point, Kingsbury Bay
Mankato Free Press: Le Sueur River erosion moves closer to homes
Walker Pilot-Independent: Water quality monitoring to begin on Leech Lake
Alexandria Echo Press: Editorial: Who will pay for clean water?

Wildlife & Fish
West Central Tribune: Biologists trying to determine northeast Minnesota River’s muskie population
Pioneer Press: Hunting, fishing and state park permits to rise under budget plan
 

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News Watch: May 18

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May 18, 2017

Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food, Clean Energy, Conservation, Mining, Oil & Pipelines, Pollinators, Transportation, Waste & Recycling, Water, Wildlife & Fish

Events and Advocacy News:
Sign up for the ongoing Water Action Daily events at Governor Dayton’s Residence 
Check out the newly launched #KeepMNClean website for Daily Action Alerts

Agriculture & Food
Austin Daily Herald: ‘An incredible tool’; Conservation program opens another chapter in Mower County
Albert Lea Tribune: The start of a new venture

Clean Energy
Utility Drive: Minnesota Gov. Dayton vetoes energy omnibus bill opposed by green groups
Star Tribune: NRG reveals its first Minnesota community solar projects

Conservation
The Timberjay: Prescribed fire season now underway
Pioneer Press: St. Paul: City council approves $450,000 to fight emerald ash borer

Mining
Duluth News Tribune: Polymet dam permit applications advance
The Timberjay: (opinion) Nolan and Twin Metals

Oil & Pipelines
City Pages: Enbridge pipeline report ignores alternatives (like not building a new one)
Color Lines: US Bank pulls funds from all oil and gas pipeline construction

Parks & Trails
Star Tribune: Twin cities muscles D.C. from top of nation’s most fit regions

Pollution
Fox 9: Investigators: Something in the air?

Transportation
MinnPost: Investing in mass transit helps communities lower their obesity rates, study suggests
Star Tribune: Mail call: Transit advocates will deliver pro-transit postcards to Gov. Dayton
Duluth News Tribune: Free coffee for cyclists on Friday
West Central Tribune: Mayor’s bike ride scheduled Friday, Yellow Biker program starts up
Rochester Post Bulletin: Comment sought for downtown transit study

Water
Rochester Post Bulletin: $20M federal grant supports new Great Lakes research center
The Timberjay: Tower, Breitung water supplies meet safety standards, but just barely
Stillwater Gazette: Column: Minnesota communities join forces to launch water education campaign
Austin Daily Herald: Looking for help: Wastewater treatment upgrades could top $70M

Waste and Recycling:
Austin Daily Herald: SKB could resume plans for site after new ordinance
International Falls Journal: Letter: Support local control over water, protect Rainy Lake

Wildlife & Fish
MPR News: Early spring brings out ticks ahead of schedule
Austin Daily Herald: Council OKs hunt to curb deer population
Detroit Lakes Online: Stop the spread: Efforts continue to control aquatic species
 

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Letter from the Governor: Veto of Agriculture Omnibus Bill

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May 12, 2017

The Honorable Michelle L. Fischbach
President of the Senate
Room 2113, Minnesota Senate Building
95 University Avenue W.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155

Dear Madam President:

I have vetoed and am returning Chapter 41, Senate File 780, a bill related to agriculture finance.

In my budget, I invested $9.940 million in general funds and $2.564 million in dedicated funds in the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. These investments are necessary for the Department to carry out its mission of ensuring the integrity of our food supply, the health of our environment, and the strength of our agricultural economy. This bill includes $0 in additional investment.

The flexibility in the Agriculture Growth, Research, and Innovation (AGRI) Program has allowed the MDA to respond to the needs of Minnesota’s agricultural sector at the speed of business and to take advantage of unique opportunities to leverage funds from other sources. This bill, unfortunately, earmarks 88 percent of the AGRI funding, restricting the department’s ability to respond to the needs of Minnesota’s agricultural industry.

I am further disappointed that you have included language that places the agency in conflict with federal law and strips the agency of existing pesticide enforcement authority. The verification of need language is untenable because it conflicts with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Under FIFRA, the label is the law and if a pesticide label requires verification of need prior to use, then the State must also require verification as part of its enforcement authority. I will not sign into law any provision that rolls back the Department of Agriculture’s existing pesticide enforcement authority.

Agriculture is not a partisan issue-all Minnesotans want a strong agricultural industry-and the Agriculture Omnibus Finance bill provides an opportunity for us to work together and make commonsense investments that support our farmers and ensure the growth of our agricultural economy. Your proposal makes no investment in agriculture which will negatively impact the competitiveness of this important industry in our state.

Two days ago, I presented the legislature with my second proposal for a compromise agriculture budget. This proposal called for an additional $4.970 million in funding and meets the legislature halfway between my original proposal and your targets. As you will recall, my proposal included the following items:

  • Operating adjustments for the Department of Agriculture, Board of Animal Health and Agricultural Utilization Research Institute
  • Establishment of an MDA Pollinator Protection Account, focused on pesticide research and education, supported by General Funds and a Pollinator Protection Fee
  • The creation of a Certificate of Free Sale Account
  • An increase of the Waste Pesticide Collection Fee

My administration has consistently met with your Agriculture Finance Chairs to outline concerns about the lack of investment in this bill. I urge legislative leaders to immediately rejoin the end of session negotiations and develop an agriculture finance bill that appropriately invests in agriculture and can gain my support.

I remain confident that we can work out these differences and end the legislative session on time. The people of Minnesota expect that we work together to keep our state competitive.

Sincerely,
Mark Dayton
Governor

cc: Senator Paul E. Gazelka, Senate Majority Leader
Senator Thomas M. Bakk, Senate Minority Leader
Senator Torrey N. Westrom, Senate
Representative Kurt Daudt, Speaker of the House Representative Melissa
Hortman, House Minority Leader
Representative Rod Hamilton, House
The Honorable Steve Simon, Secretary of State
Mr. Cal R. Ludeman, Secretary of the Senate
Mr. Patrick Murphy, Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives
Mr. Paul Marinac, Revisor of Statutes

Letter from the Governor – Veto of Jobs and Energy Omnibus Bill

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May 15, 2017

The Honorable Michelle L. Fischbach
President of the Senate
2113 Minnesota Senate Office Building
St. Paul, Minnesota 55155

Dear Madam President:
I have vetoed and am returning Chapter 64, Senate File 193 7, a bill appropriating money for jobs and economic development and making changes to commerce, telecommunications, and energy policy. The bill insufficiently funds the Departments of Employment and Economic Development, Labor and Industry, Commerce, and the Bureau of Mediation Services and contains policies that will limit workforce and economic development opportunities throughout Minnesota, as well as erode the clean energy progress we have made over the last decade.

Our state’s economy continues to grow and thrive, with Minnesota’s private sector attaining over 2.5 million jobs for the first time in state history earlier this year. It is thanks to hardworking Minnesotans and businesses that our economy continues to prosper. However, that improvement does not mean we should retreat from the progress we have made. Indeed, too many Minnesotans are not sharing in the benefits of this growth. For example, the unemployment rate for Itasca County stands at 9.9 percent, far exceeding the state unemployment rate of 4.4 percent. And the unemployment rate for black Minnesotans at 8.4 percent is more than double the white unemployment rate at 3 .1 percent. Now is the time to ensure our economy works for everyone, everywhere in our state.

Senate File 1937 disinvests in Minnesota. With only $15 million for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant program, t~e bill fails to provide the funding needed to expand broadband access to strengthen our rural communities, attract and retain businesses, and improve student success. Further, the bill provides only $2 million each for the Minnesota Investment Fund and Job Creation Fund, economic development incentives that can play a key role in business expansions. Since 2014, the Minnesota Investment Fund and Job Creation Fund helped to create or retain over 10,600 jobs and led to $1.96 billion in private investment throughout the state.

I am exceedingly disappointed that with a $1. 5 billion surplus you would choose to eliminate the equity grants funding we agreed to on a bipartisan basis just last year. If Minnesota’s economy is to continue to improve, we must address economic disparities in our communities for people of color, veterans, youth, women, and people with disabilities. Cutting funding from organizations before they’ve had a chance to deliver their services is short-sighted.

Further, Senate File 1937 fails to provide the funding needed to ensure Minnesotans with the most significant disabilities receive employment training and counseling to ensure they are able to find and keep a job and live as independently as possible. Vocational Rehabilitation Services supports access to competitive and integrated employment opportunities for Minnesotans with disabilities, yet the bill does not include the recommended $7 million increase for this program.

I believe that a strong economy means Minnesota workers are paid the wages they have earned and Minnesota business compete on a level playing field. Yet the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry estimates that 39,000 Minnesota workers experience wage theft in our state each year and lose out on an estimated $11.9 million in wages. Senate File 1937 includes only $250,000 to combat wage theft and fails to include the increased financial and criminal penalties for employers who steal from their employees that I have proposed.

Student success is also critical to our future economic prosperity. Over 9,000 children are identified as homeless or highly mobile in school districts across the state and face barriers to educational success due to housing instability. It is disappointing that the bill fails to include funding for the. Homework Starts with Home initiative which would build on the success of the Rental Assistance for Homeless and Highly Mobile Students Initiative. This pilot has proven successful, with 90 percent of students achieving housing stability while having better attendance at school.

In addition to these budgetary concerns, I find it baffling that the bill includes extraneous policy language that I have made clear I find objectionable. For example, Senate File 1937 includes a ban on fire sprinkler requirements for single and two-family homes and accessory structures, language that was added to the bill as a political ploy. The bill also unnecessarily prohibits the transfer of funds between programs and among agencies, contains duplicative reporting requirements, deregulates Voice-over-Internet-Protocol service, prohibits local governments from enacting plastic, paper, or reusable bag bans, and requires legislative approval of a proposed rule if it will increase the cost of residential construction by $1,000 or more per unit which would create delays in adopting changes to the Minnesota Residential Code and harm homeowners. They are just some of the concerning policy provisions in this legislation, which are so varied and broad as to clearly violate the Minnesota Constitution’s Single Subject Rule.

Perhaps the most controversial policies proposed in this bill focus on energy. Taken together, these policies would have the cumulative impact of removing citizen input in energy infrastructure decisions, jeopardizing hundreds of solar industry jobs across the state, setting back the state years of energy efficiency progress, endangering Minnesota’s ability to receive $47 million from the Volkswagen settlement, and rewriting the. intent of the Renewable Development Fund, which has been a core component of the nuclear waste storage agreement with the Prairie Island Community for nearly twenty years. These policies are polarizing individually, but have all been included in this bill with minimal public discussion.

We must work together to build Minnesota’s economy throughout the state for all Minnesotans. I seek your commitment to fund important economic development programs and services to support Minnesota workers and businesses. For these reasons, I am vetoing this bill.

Sincerely,
Mark Dayton
Governor

cc: Representative Kurt Daudt, Speaker of the House
Representative Melissa Hortman, House Minority Leader
Representative Pat Garofalo, House of Representatives
Senator Paul E. Gazelka, Senate Majority Leader
Senator Thomas M. Bakk, Senate Minority Leader
Senator Jeremy Miller, Minnesota Senate
The Honorable Steve Simon, Secretary of State
Mr. Cal R. Ludeman, Secretary of the Senate
Mr. Patrick Murphy, Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives
Mr. Paul Marinac, Revisor of Statutes

News Watch: May 15

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May 15, 2017

Today’s Topics: Agriculture & Food, Clean Energy, Conservation, Mining, Oil & Pipelines, Pollinators, Transportation, Waste & Recycling, Water, Wildlife & Fish

Events and Advocacy News:
Sign up for the ongoing Water Action Daily events at Governor Dayton’s Residence 
Check out the newly launched #KeepMNClean website for Daily Action Alerts

Agriculture & Food
Rochester Post Bulletin: Walz listens as Land Stewardship outlines “Our Farm Bill”

Clean Energy
Mesabi Daily News: Allete powers up, renews focus on all things energy

Climate Change
MinnPost: Disrupting climate change offers opportunities for healthier living

Conservation
Austin Daily Herald: Minnesota Ikes hold annual meeting
West Central Tribune: Surveillance and early detection critical in controlling palmer amaranth
Winona Daily News: Big strides made in Buffalo County land conservation

Mining
Saint Cloud Times: Consultant concerned about PolyMet’s funds
Walker Pilot-Independent: DNR to hold metallic minerals lease sale

Oil & Pipelines
MN350/Honor the Earth Press Release: U.S. Bank to stop financing pipeline construction
Detroit Lakes Online: Residents look to join environmental groups in Enbridge dispute
Duluth News Tribune: Reader’s view: Pipeline is about profits for oil execs
Mankato Free Press: Environmental review due for Enbridge pipeline replacement

Pollinators
Pioneer Press: Super bees that can survive St. Paul winters? You bee-tcha. This couple breeds ’em
West Central Tribune: North Dakota offers money for honey bee research
Saint Cloud Times: Helping bees doesn’t take an entire hive

Pollution
Rochester Post Bulletin: Winona board approves expansion of two hog farm sites

Transportation
MinnPost: How transportation and infrastructure became political footballs at the Minnesota Capitol
Star Tribune: The Drive: You may live longer if you bike to work
Star Tribune: Millennials are all aboard for passenger rail

Water
Woodbury Bulletin: Watershed district recruits 10 water stewards
Star Tribune: (editorial) Lakes with zebra mussels are goners. Lock the trouble there.

Waste and Recycling:
Austin Daily Herald: Final vote on solid waste ordinance on the horizon

Wildlife & Fish
Star Tribune: Stopping traffic in downtown Rochester
Austin Daily Herald: Back on the perch: Nature center welcomes back the presence of hawks
Alexandria Echo Press: Questions and Answers about the Governor’s Fishing Opener
Star Tribune: Jurisdictions struggle over how many deer are enough
Austin Daily Herald: Council to vote in deer hunt Monday
Walker Pilot-Independent: Modest license fee increase needed to sustain Minnesota’s great fishing
 

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Letter from the Governor – Veto of Environment & Natural Resources Omnibus Bill

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May 12, 2017

The Honorable Kurt Daudt
Speaker of the House
State Office Building, Room 463  
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155

Dear Mr. Speaker:

I have vetoed and am returning Chapter 42, House File 888, a bill relating to state government, appropriating money for environment and natural resources.

Our environment and natural resources are central to our economy, culture, and wellbeing. House File 888 puts at risk core values that define our state’s identity of practical and common sense protections supported by efficient government programs that guarantee a clean, healthy environment where all Minnesotans can thrive.

In a time of surplus, and after years of implementing improvements to our permitting and environmental review systems, this bill leaves a significant funding gap and makes unwarranted policy changes that would thwart the progress we have made together. Ultimately, this bill would lead to a significant reduction of environmental services and layoffs of public servants.

Outdoor enthusiasts are passionate constituents unwilling to see their outdoors experience diminished. My proposed budget includes reasonable operating and fees increases for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to ensure state programs and services are maintained. Hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation – in a clean environment and with open public access – defines us as a people. While the conference committee proposal does include fee increases for state parks, it does not include fee increases for hunting and fishing licenses and for certain recreational vehicle registrations. Neither does it include operating adjustments. Without these funds, services and facilities will be reduced. Some state park campgrounds will be closed or their seasons shortened. Fewer lakes will be stocked with fish. DNR’s ability to coordinate and collaborate with lake associations and conservation clubs will be reduced. The refusal to invest in Minnesota’s outdoor heritage is an affront to all who hunt, fish, boat, use A TVs, and snowmobile.

My administration has strived to improve the efficiency of the permitting and environmental review process to ensure that our state is competitive and supportive of business. We have worked to balance this with the need to protect, manage, and restore the air, water, and land that make the quality of living so great in Minnesota.

Lack of funding for operating adjustments will mean slower decision times for businesses seeking permits from DNR and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). This bill also discontinues the funding of an effort to modernize the Environmental Review program through the Environmental Quality Board (EQB). As a further attack on the EQB, it shifts all of its base funds into the MPCA’s Environmental Fund, thereby funding one office exclusively through the fees collected by a separate agency. Moreover, the policies included in this bill add on layers of unneeded procedural steps and oversight, undermining the abilities of the agencies to swiftly do their work and make timely decisions.

The MPCA is the messenger of information that can be a challenge to address, and this has clearly made it a target in this bill. The agency mission to protect and restore our air, land, and water is critical for public health and natural resource management. This bill will hamstring the agency by diminishing needed flexibility to address emerging problems for emergency response or legacy pollution cleanup by making unwarranted changes to the Environmental Fund. The bill cancels more than $5 million of the fund, sending it back to the General Fund. It caps transfers to the Remediation Fund at $34 million, reducing resources available to cleanup Superfund and brownfield sites, and other programs. Further, the bill transfers almost $11 million of program costs from General Fund into Environmental Fund without adding resources to pay for them, putting the fund and critical programs at risk of going into the red, and eliminates all General Fund fro in the agency.

In my travels across the state, I have heard a common reaction to the buffer law – locals know best how to protect and restore their lakes and rivers. Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) are at the front lines, working with landowners to support practices that protect our water and soils. However, they do not have fee or levy-generating mechanisms to support their capacity for staff or the matching funds required for grants. That is why I am so concerned about the elimination of $22 million for capacity building from the General Fund. While this funding appears as a two-year appropriation in the Legacy Bill, the proposed shift does not provide the stability the 2015 Legislature decided was needed when it established General Fund base support starting in FYI 8. Further, the shift creates a series of domino effects, cutting funding for projects approved by the citizen councils that recommend appropriations from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Fund and the Environment and Natural Resource Trust Fund.

In addition to the shifts and cuts noted above, the bill contains the following om1ss10ns:

  • Minimal funding without an operating increase for DNR enforcement will result in a zero net increase in enforcement officers.
  • Lack of an operating adjustment will impact the DNR’s Forestry program, resulting in reduced forest inventory, forest stand improvement and forest road management.
  • No operating adjustment for the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR). • No appropriation increase for MPCA’s air quality services, totaling $453,000 for FY2018-19 biennium, is included, putting MPCA in violation of state and federal law.
  • No funds to address groundwater contamination at demolition and construction landfills.
  • No funds to conduct a study of the Pineland Sands area, which could better prepare the state and businesses for activities in this area.

In addition to the objectionable budget cuts and shifts, this bill is full of controversial policy provisions, despite my repeated statements in opposition to policy being included in the budget bills. This bill violates the single-subject rule as directed by the State Constitution. My concerns with these myriad policy provisions, in no particular order, are:

  •  Numerous polices that effectively gut the Buffer Law and delay it.
  •  Restricting the Environmental Quality Board jurisdiction, and adding unreasonable criteria for all citizen applicants to participate.
  • Transferring final decisions on contested case hearings from an agency Commissioner to the Office of Administrative Hearings.
  • Transferring final decisions on science underlying all water-related decisions by the MPCA Commissioner to the Office of Administrative Hearings.
  • Allowing contested case hearings on draft impaired waters list.
  • Putting Minnesota tax payers on the hook for cleaning up the Freeway Landfill without providing a path forward to condemn the landfill or give the state access to clean up the site.
  • Slowing down permitting, banning guidance and other forms of assistance to permittees, and creating new “hoops” that make the expedited permitting process more complicated and restrictive.
  • Requiring legislative appropriation of the VW Settlement funds (estimated to be $47 million for Minnesota), which may risk our state’s eligibility to receive the funds.
  • Preempting local government decisions on solid waste management, specifically preventing plastic bag bans.
  • Removing protection of calcareous fens.
  • Eroding DNR’s ability to manage groundwater supplies by automatically transferring water permits
  • Allowing the importation of golden shiner minnows, presenting a serious risk of introductions of environmentally devastating invasive species.
  • A lead shot rulemaking prohibition that limits the DNR’s authority to provide wildlife health protections on state land.
  • Delaying permitting and create significant fiscal burden by determining that guidance documents are unpromulgated rules.
  • Prescribing Sand Dunes State Forest Management Plan.
  • Allowing two line fishing.

With less than two weeks remaining in this legislative session, I urge you to return to work to craft a bill that demonstrates to Minnesotans a shared commitment to our outdoor heritage, natural resource management, and preserving our environment for future generations.

Sincerely,
Mark Dayton, Governor

cc: Senator Michelle L. F1schbach, President of the Senate
Senator Paul E. Gazelka, Senate Majority Leader
Senator Thomas M. Bakk, Senate Minority Leader
Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, Minnesota Senate
Representative Melissa Hortman, House Minority Leader
Representative Dan Fabian, House of Representatives
The Honorable Steve Simon, Secretary of State
Mr. Cal R. Ludeman, Secretary of the Senate
Mr. Patrick Murphy, Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives
Mr. Paul Marinac, Revisor of Statutes

Letter to the Governor on Pipeline Provisions in Energy Omnibus

Posted by

May 12, 2017

Dear Governor Dayton and Lieutenant Governor Smith,

We, the undersigned organizations, respectfully request you veto any version of the Jobs and Energy Omnibus bill that contains provisions

• removing pipelines from the current Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Certificate of Need (CON) process (including a newly defined category, replacement pipelines) (lines 189.32-190.2 and 190.11-190.13 in CCRSF1937) or
• exempting certain pipeline alternate routes (in PUC language – “system alternatives”) from environmental review (lines 195.11-195.15)

As you know, citizens and tribal nations are actively engaged in the process of determining the need and route for future pipeline projects proposed for Minnesota. The undersigned are united in their beliefs of protecting our remaining clean water, indigenous and treaty rights, protection of wild rice beds, the right to full and informed consent, the recognition of the lack of corridor analysis in the past, fact based scientific decision making, protection of MEPA, and /or the urgency of climate change. We are determined to have a full and fair process in assessing the need for this and all future pipelines. The granting of eminent domain must require the justification of a genuine public need, not a need for additional corporate profit.

We recognize the important role you play in this intense legislative process and the sheer number of objectionable provisions contained in these omnibus bills. We appreciate and are grateful for your statements to actively block the greenlighting of the Line 3 project and to resist weakening of the independent oversight of the PUC. We request you veto SF1937, and any subsequent Jobs and Energy Omnibus bills that contain either of these two pipeline provisions.

On the first provision – removing pipelines from PUC Certificate of Need process.

Article 10, Section 26, lines 189.32-190.2 and lines 190.11-190.13.

Current PUC rules that guide the Certificate of Need process at the Commission (7853.0130) are not ideal; they are weak, industry biased and based on an underlying electrical facility statute, not a pipeline statute (§ 216B.243). A stronger statute was deleted years ago, and the remaining language is ambiguous.

However, the current PUC rules, based on the electrical statute, do provide for independent oversight of some factors, including;
• the applicant’s demand forecast;
• existing and efficient use of pipeline availability;
• reasonable alternatives; and
• environmental impacts and consequences given the state and region’s energy needs.

While a new rigorous pipeline statute is needed in Minnesota, these PUC rules are the only process we currently have to provide independent oversight of pipelines.

A strengthening of pipeline oversight occurred in August, 2015, when Friends of the Headwaters, with an amicus brief by the Carlton Co. Land Stewards, unanimously won their case at the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The Minnesota Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal. As a result, an Environmental Impact Statement for a crude oil pipeline is being written. We are awaiting the Draft EIS from the Department of Commerce (DOC) on May 15.

The Omnibus Energy bill provisions removing pipelines from the CON process would entangle this EIS process and the Department of Commerce in a political battle and subject Enbridge and the PUC to MEPA litigation challenges. Changing the current process at this point will involve more delay and cut off public input. Removing the CON requirement for pipelines does not remove the routing permit requirement. Line 3 is currently under contested case review at the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). If these policy provisions become law, the unwinding of the process at the OAH back to the PUC would take months and be vulnerable to litigation. This would have the potential to tie the whole process up for another year, effectively subverting the very goal of the authors. All scenarios would involve uncertainty and delays.

On the second provision – certain routes exempted from environmental review

Article 10, Section 38,

For the first time, Minnesota has a chance to evaluate a best corridor for steel pipelines with an expected life of 50 or more years. A lot of leaks can occur over this timeframe. If Minnesota needs a new pipeline corridor, then we need independent, scientific analysis to identify a corridor in the state. This provision would prevent this thoughtful process and establish a bad precedent. There are other pipelines, older than Enbridge’s Line 3, which will also likely be requesting replacement in the future.

There are many existing pipeline corridors already in our state. MEPA demands we consider connected and related actions, such as the origin and ultimate destination for the oil or gas. If we allow this policy provision to become law, our goal of assuring the least impactful, readily accessible, environmentally just corridor is lost

Thank you for the opportunity to document our very serious concerns with these provisions

Sincerely,

Steve Morse
Minnesota Environmental Partnership

Alliance for Sustainability
Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis
Association of Cass County Lakes*
Big Sandy Lake Association*
Carlton County Land Stewards*
Center for Biological Diversity
Clean Water Action
CURE (Clean Up the River Environment)
Friends of the Headwaters*
Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness
Friends of the Cloquet Valley State Forest
Friends of Minnesota Scientific & Natural Areas
Friends of the Mississippi River
Institute for Local Self Reliance
Izaak Walton League – Minnesota Division
Land Stewardship Project
League of Women Voters Minnesota
Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation
Lower Phalen Creek Project
Lutheran Advocacy – Minnesota
Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
Minnesota Conservation Federation
Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light
Minnesota Native Plant Society
Minnesota Ornithologists Union
Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter
MN350
Native Lives Matter*
Native Roots Radio*
Northern Water Alliance*
Pesticide Action Network
Pine River Watershed Alliance*
Pollinate Minnesota
Renewing the Countryside
Save Our Sky Blue Waters
Sierra Club – North Star Chapter
Take Action Minnesota *
Transit for Livable Communities
Water Legacy
Whitefish Area Property Owners Association*
Vote Climate*
* denotes not a member of MEP