Consideration of $800 million environment omnibus bill begins


There’s $50,000 for commercial manure applicator manuals, $28.9 million for grants to county recycling efforts, and dozens of other appropriations proposed by HF976 — the omnibus environment, natural resources and agriculture finance and policy bill. Together, they total $837 million in expenditures for the coming biennium.

The House Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance Committee began its review of the 181-page bill Tuesday morning as Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls), the committee chair and bill’s sponsor, walked members through its finance sections.

Much of the money would fund environment and natural resources programs and initiatives ($755.1 million), while the remaining $82.4 million is dedicated to agriculture.

The Department of Natural Resources would receive $476.5 million for the biennium in the bill, while the Pollution Control Agency would get $171.7 million and the Department of Agriculture $67.3 million.

Several high-profile issues heard earlier this session are funded by HF976. The Environmental Quality Board would receive $1.4 million in fiscal year 2014 and $1.3 million in fiscal year 2015 to lead an advisory team providing technical assistance to local governments on the issue of silica-sand mining.

The DNR would receive $13.2 million during the biennium to fight invasive species, and $20.4 million in appropriations are designated for the Department of Agriculture to, among other things, fund businesses and organizations working to produce bioenergy.

What’s in the bill?

The following are selected bills that have been incorporated in part or in whole into the omnibus environment, natural resources and agriculture finance and policy bill.

Other financial highlights of the bill include:

  • $14.2 million to the DNR’s forestry division for the prevention, pre-suppression and suppression costs of emergency firefighting;
  • $7.2 million for the PCA to administer a program that protects land from leaking underground petroleum storage tanks;
  • $3.9 million for the PCA to distribute to counties to administer their feedlot programs;
  • $1.2 million for the Department of Agriculture to continue grants for dairy development, profitability and business planning that help improve the quality of milk produced in the state; and
  • $1 million for grants to Second Harvest Heartland to purchase milk for distribution to Minnesota’s food shelves.

The committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday evening and again Wednesday morning for testimony on the bill, as well as amendments, before a vote is taken.

A companion bill, SF1170, sponsored by Sen. David J. Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.