With all apologies for the delay, here are some quick updates from the capitol and a few other tidbits.
Electronics Recycling – The legislature has now officially passed one of the strongest e-waste bills in the country. The Senate officially passed it on Monday. The bill will create a system in Minnesota that makes manufactures responsible for recycling a certain weight of electronics based off the weight of TVs and other electronics that they sell in a given year. Thus, the less lead and other heavy metals they use in building new products, the less they need to recycle. We get better products and less toxic waste in our landfills. Garth Hickle at the MPCA has been working on this issue for a long time to get it to this point and Sara Rummel at Clean Water Action helped a lot to finally get it through. Congratulations to them and to the Minnesota legislature.
Biofuels – The Minnesota legislature had the opportunity to help shepherd in the next generation of ethanol – made from native, perennial plants that uses much less water in processing, is much more energy efficient, and would benefit our dirty lakes and rivers – and they decided to do almost nothing instead. The conference committee crafting the Agriculture finance bill over the weekend took out almost all of the beneficial Senate language that could have moved Minnesota forward in developing this new, innovative market. Representative Al Juhnke (DFL-Willmar) seems to be the one most responsible for these good provisions’ demise.
Clean Water – Not so soon. Conference committee members have been putting in long amounts of times to finalize the Environment finance bill. And despite their best efforts to call this a bill to clean up our water, it actually only has around 1/4 of the identified need for creating a true Clean Water Legacy. To make it worse, the House had at least indicated that their funding level should be assumed in future budgets (i.e. it was in the base), but that won’t be true in the conference committee report.
Dedicated Funding – The Senate Tax Committee voted it down last Thursday, which is not to say that it is dead, just delayed there. The House version is awaiting (and awaiting and awaiting) a hearing in the Environment Policy committee, where the chairman, Rep. Kent Eken (DFL, Twin Valley) is reportedly not too keen on the idea. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, so I will note that he has been a good supporter of a number of our other issues – hopefully he’ll let this one keep on its way soon. We are also doing some paid media work on this issue. For example, this radio ad.
License Plates – All excited to have a leaping walleye on your critical habitat license plate? Too bad. The new plate has been delayed in coming out, because they decided to change the plate from a walleye to a large mouth bass.
Rock-Tenn – Surprising actions happening around the issue of repowering the Rock-Tenn paper recycling facility in St. Paul. Provisions related to it are coming in and out of legislation at the capitol. The Pioneer Press also had a recent editorial on it. If done correctly, this would be an ideal situation to demonstrate how we could use native, perennial plants to create heat and electricity on site, keep hard working union folks at their jobs of recycling paper, and also demonstrate how these same plants can improve water quality and diversify crops in a given watershed. Lots of folks are concerned about keeping the jobs and many others concerned about the fuel source at the plant and its effect on the neighborhood, so the situation is right for strong political leadership to find the best solution.