For Immediate Release
Thursday, January 25th, 2018
St. Paul, MN – Six leading candidates for Governor of Minnesota faced tough questions about the state’s environment at Hamline University on Wednesday night. Over 250 Minnesotans attended the event in person, and thousands more participated remotely by proposing and voting for questions on Minnesota’s air, water, land and environmental legacy. The forum gave voters the rare chance to get candidates on the record before the February 6th caucuses.
Moderators Elizabeth Dunbar (Minnesota Public Radio) and Dave Orrick (St. Paul Pioneer Press) fielded questions both from policy experts and from members of the public. Questions ranged from candidates’ plans to address agricultural runoff –by far the state’s biggest source of water pollution– to the disproportionate impact of pollution on Minnesota’s people of color. Speaking to agriculture runoff, Representative Paul Thissen emphasized incentivizing more cover crops and perennials, but also called for better regulatory solutions. Representative Tim Walz, however, cautioned that farmers have to be at the table when regulations are discussed.
The forum also addressed Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment –a key source of funding for clean water, clean air, and public parks around the state– and state funding of environmental protection and infrastructure, generally. Representative Erin Murphy promised to make clean water infrastructure a bonding priority every session, while State Auditor Rebecca Otto and Representative Paul Thissen promised to restore environmental spending to traditional levels.
The forum covered controversial proposals like Enbridge’s Line 3 crude oil pipeline expansion and PolyMet’s Hoyt Lakes sulfide-ore mine. The moderators asked candidates to take clear positions on these projects, but also to provide voters with insight into the reasoning behind their positions. Representative Walz and former St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman expressed some support for the PolyMet mine, while Representative Tina Liebling and State Auditor Otto were firmly opposed.
The candidates did find one area of consensus: each agreed that climate change is real and requires immediate action, with Representative Liebling firmly stating that “climate change is an emergency.” Participants also agreed that environmental equity is a fundamental problem in Minnesota. “We have to make the case to our neighbors that the environment and environmental justice are central,” said Representative Walz.
The night concluded with an informal audience poll, asking participants to pick the candidate who best reflected their environment and conservation priorities. Due to limited bandwidth and the potential for duplicate votes, however, the event’s partners and sponsors cannot endorse the results.