Critics take aim at environment omnibus bill


Provisions in the environment committee’s omnibus bill were unveiled over two days of hearings, with more to come before the bill is readied for the House floor.

Sponsored by Committee Chairman Denny McNamara (R-Hastings), HF1010 contains controversial Environmental Trust Fund projects. No action was taken on the bill, which has no Senate companion.

McNamara successfully deleted several projects that had been recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources; he added projects that he said were higher legislative priorities, such as a $1 million two-year study of how wild rice may be affected by sulfate levels in air, water and soil. The Pollution Control Agency will establish new rules governing maximum sulfate levels in wild rice waters, but until the new rules are adopted, HF1010 would change the current 10 milligrams per liter maximum to 250 milligrams, which is the same standard as drinking water.

“I don’t think those who propose this understand” the significance of wild rice to the Native American culture, said Rep. John Persell (DFL-Bemidji). He said wild rice probably would not survive such levels, which would be equivalent to “stomping on a Bible” to the 60,000 Native American people who consider it a sacred gift.

Also, a provision approved March 16 that would have allowed using LCCMR money to supplant for General Funds was not included in the amended bill approved by the committee March 17. McNamara said he mistakenly thought the language was a recent addition to the law, when in fact it has been in statute since 1988. The issue of not supplanting the General Fund with constitutionally dedicated money is also linked to the Legacy and Outdoor Heritage funds. Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls) said one of the four Legacy funds, the Clean Water fund, appears to be “backfilling” rather than accelerating efforts to improve impaired waters.