ENVIRONMENT FINANCE BILL PASSES HOUSE
St. PAUL – A bill that will address Minnesota’s environment and natural resources priorities for the next two years passed with bipartisan support Friday by a vote of 78 to 52.
“This is a responsible bill that meets the needs of our state agencies such as the DNR and MPCA,” said State Representative Denny McNamara (R-Hastings), who chairs the Minnesota House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee. “The bill also includes a number of policy reforms and initiatives that have bipartisan support.”
The nearly $245 million bill funds state agencies such as the Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), Minnesota Zoo, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Metropolitan Council – Regional Parks, Minnesota Conservation Corps, Board of Soil and Water Resources (BWSR), and the Science Museum of Minnesota.
Highlights of the omnibus environment and natural resources finance bill (HF846) include:
- A new grant program for cities with a population of less than 45,000 in Greater Minnesota to incentivize single stream and other recycling programs.
- Increased funding for Soil and Water Conservation districts to fund more “on the ground” projects.
- A new, independent peer-review process (modeled after the U.S. EPA’s) for the MPCA to use when it develops water quality standards that are anticipated to have a financial impact to affected permittees of more than $50 million within the first five years of implementation.
- Much-needed reforms to the Wetland Conservation Act, which were developed over the past year and are a consensus of interested parties (such as groups representing farmers and environmentalists).
- Repealing the current ‘Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Trailer Sticker/Decal’ law, and replacing it with a requirement that the boat owner sign an affirmation stating they will abide by AIS laws.
- $3 million in new funding for shooting and archery sports facilities grants.
- Modifications to the MPCA’s Citizens Board, which will put permitting and environmental review decisions solely before the commissioner (like every other state regulatory agency). The bill would also create an earlier time in the permitting/environmental review process for the Citizens Board to hold public hearings on a proposed action, which will allow projects to be more easily modified, if necessary, in response to public comments.