Drought, fracking could top environment agenda

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With the somewhat controversial decision to include agriculture under the jurisdiction of the House Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance committee, the issue was raised during the body’s first meeting.

However, for the most part, members took the time to introduce themselves and discussed the issues important to their constituents.

Committee Chairwoman Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls) told the 20-member committee it had a lot of work to do and not much time to get it done, warning her colleagues to expect extra meetings as the session moves forward.

She outlined four issues she believes are coming at the committee “whether we want to deal with them or not:”

  • the impact of the drought on both agriculture and natural resources;
  • aquatic invasive species;
  • fracking; and
  • complying with federal regulations on fine particulate matter in ozone.

Because of the issues’ complexity, Wagenius told the committee its first few meetings would be spent hearing from experts on a variety of issues — including groundwater and air quality — who would “bring in some science” to better inform decision making when the governor’s budget is available in a few weeks.

Other issues committee members said they’d like to address during the session include streamlining government red tape, public access to private land and modernizing some agriculture education and training materials.

Continuing the discussion that began on the House Floor Tuesday, Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau) asked about the Democrats’ decision to include the agriculture finance on a committee that also oversees environment and natural resources, noting there was “some unease” among his constituents with the decision.

He also questioned why Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa), who requested to be a member of the committee, had not made the roster.

After Wagenius told him that the question was better addressed to the House speaker, Fabian asked her directly whether she’d had any input into the makeup of the committee with regards to Drazkowski, to which she replied “No.”