House passes expedited environmental permitting bill

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The House on Monday passed a bill that would expedite environmental permitting process.

Sponsored by Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park), HF2543 passed 92-39 and was sent to the Senate, where Sen. Bev Scalze (DFL-Little Canada) is the sponsor.

The bill would establish a two-tiered system of goals for the Department of Natural Resources and the Pollution Control Agency to approve permits. Tier 2 permits would remain at the 150-day goal that lawmakers enacted in 2011 as part of that year’s permitting-efficiency legislation. The new Tier 1 permits, which are regarded as simpler projects, would be moved down to a 90-day timeline.

Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau) unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would have moved the PCA’s goal from 90 days to 75 days, contending the agency “has the tools necessary to expedite this.”

Hortman, however, said the 75-day goal could hinder businesses who are going through the regulatory process. “If we were to go down as far as 75 days for a goal,” Hortman said, “the PCA, instead of accepting incomplete applications, would have to reject them and send them back to the businesses and say: ‘Start over.’” The amendment failed 67-65.

Other provisions include:

  • allowing trading of water quality credits;
  • allowing companies to reimburse the PCA for costs of expediting a permit; and
  • changing laws related subsurface sewage treatment systems.