The Ominous Environmental Bill

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I know, let’s sell Split Rock Lighthouse State Park! Think how much tax income we could secure if it was private condos along those six miles of shoreline!

All those pesky citizens around Ely and Isabella, asking the state’s executive council to protect their private property from mineral leases underneath? Let’s cut them off.

And, do we really have to write that report on how Minnesota can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions? Some folks really liked this freaky warm winter.

These provisions and more are in the current Minnesota House Environment Omnibus bill, HF 2164. Or, as some are calling it, the “Ominous” Environmental bill. As one clever writer from the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) put it, these provisions “need to get buried somewhere in a very dark place.”

Sure, I’m oversimplifying some complex legislative concepts. My point is that there has been a fundamental shift in our policy making, away from proactive, high-quality standards for our state’s natural resources, and toward shortcuts and national political agendas.

This is not just election year sloganeering. It’s a movement of deeply-held beliefs from elected representatives intent on moving Minnesota in a direction very different from what the majority of Minnesotans want.

Environmental policy-making used to be about safe limits for drinking water quality or about adequate funding for land protection. Now environmental policy-making has become a series of proposed shortcuts to make it easier for private companies to impact and extract natural resources, even those resources like parks and rivers we have worked hard in the past to protect.

It reminds me of a question posed long ago by Henry David Thoreau, “What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”

If you’re concerned about the policy precedents this bill would set, read more about it at MCEA or at Minnesota Environmental Partnership . The bill is working its way through the House and Senate and a final version will be headed to Governor Dayton soon. We all want clean Minnesota water and clear Minnesota air…and clear Minnesota policy-making as well.

This blog entry originally appeared in Hindsight 2020, the Minnesota 2020 Blog

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