House passes permitting bill

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A streamlined environmental permitting bill that would create independent “permit applicant professionals” was passed 79-49 by the House.

The bill, HF2095/ SF1567*, sponsored by Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau) and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) would streamline the environmental review process by creating a 150-day cycle to issue or deny permit applications; create a permit coordinator in the Department of Employment and Economic Development to serve the “permit applicant professionals;” and establish a pilot project to extract iron from ore in northern Minnesota.

As amended, the bill now returns to the Senate, where it was initially passed 47-16 on March 8.

“This bill is a jobs bill. We’ve heard some rhetoric on this floor the past few weeks about ‘Where’s the jobs bill?’ … There’s no silver bullet in anything we do for this economy. But environmental permitting is a first step,” Fabian said.

Rep. Tom Anzelc (DFL-Balsam Township) favored the bill and said, “The Mesabi Iron Range in northern Minnesota contains vast stockpiles of iron ore concentrate. In today’s marketplace, this concentrate is now valuable.”

Mining those stockpiles from decades of iron ore development on the Mesabi Range is the target of a pilot project contained in an amendment he successfully offered He said that he has been working with the Department of Natural Resources and the Pollution Control Agency on plans to help attract a plant.

Among the bill detractors is Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls). She said the bill favors companies that could pollute state water, air and reduce their property values of residents. “This bill treats Minnesotans just like Muppets.”