It’s no secret the new legislative majority has pushed a lot of environmentally unfriendly legislation this session. We’ve written about efforts to defund the DNR and the MPCA. Many in the progressive community have highlighted the move to cut back emissions standards on new coal plants in Minnesota-a focus of a current MN2020 piece. While those may be the most obvious attempts to cut environmental regulation, they are not the only ones.
The Minnesota Environmental Partnership (MEP), a coalition of over 80 Minnesotan environmental groups, has released a statement showing the slew of environmentally harmful legislation the new majority has introduced-and in many cases, passed. The state Senate’s environmental budget bill in particular contains many small pieces which would be quite harmful to the environment.
One of these is a lift on the sulfate pollution standards for Minnesota’s wild rice waters. It was this provision that inspired the MEP to ask voters to send wild rice hotdish recipes to state legislators, sending an “enjoy it while you can” message. Other environmentally unfriendly provisions include lowering water quality standards for Lake Pepin, repealing protections for the Mississippi River, and weakening permitting for feedlots while exempting review for ethanol plants.
The separate House and Senate environmental budget bills are now in conference committee, which will probably produce an even more damaging bill, as John Van Hecke predicts. As MEP director Steve Morse sees it, Governor Dayton may veto the final result but a compromise will have to be reached. Provisions may survive a compromise, which is “why we view all of these provisions as very real threats.”
This kind of short-sighted roll back of environmental protections is characteristic of the new majority’s priorities. Minnesotans as a whole will not benefit from more polluted water and poorly environmentally regulated industries. Indeed, Minnesotans voted overwhelmingly to fund clean water and environmental protection with the Legacy Amendment of 2008. This was a “clear vote on policy in Minnesota,” as Morse puts it, and according to polls conducted by the MEP, Minnesotans still oppose environmental cutbacks. A stronger, well protected environment is necessary for a stronger Minnesota.