Minnesota Public Radio radio reports that Environmental groups ask for veto, get cookies at the Governor's Residence--but the Star Tribune's board agrees with the groups in the paper's latest editorial, Put Minnesota water quality first by vetoing bill.
MPR's Elizabeth Dunbar writes:
Environmental advocates upset about a budget bill that includes several controversial policy provisions today picketed the governor’s mansion to demand a veto.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton surprised them all by coming outside with cookies and a listening ear. He said he is still looking at all the budget bills and hasn’t decided whether to veto the environment and agriculture budget bill. But he reiterated the same doubts he raised on Wednesday during a news conference.
“Those items that you find offensive — and I agree with you — they didn’t get in there by accident. They got in there because we have a Republican-controlled House and DFL-controlled Senate,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to come back with a DFL bill … We’re in an era where we’re going to have to deal with some of these things we don’t like.”
Bobby King, a policy program organizer with the Land Stewardship Project, responded that some of the provisions, such as the elimination of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens’ Board, were inserted in closed-door meetings without a public hearing. . . .
Read the rest at MPR. The Strib Editorial Board opines:
Gov. Mark Dayton has already vowed to veto education funding legislation, citing early education as a top priority. A governor who has also championed water quality should swiftly veto another budget bill — the agriculture and environment spending legislation.
Signing it would put the gubernatorial stamp of approval on multiple measures that would weaken protections for Minnesota’s treasured waterways. Dayton, serving his final term and looking to burnish his legacy, would tarnish it if he let this shortsighted legislation sail through. It needs a do-over in the looming special session. . . .
That these measures even reached the governor’s desk is frustrating when Minnesota was poised this year to make serious progress on water cleanup. In January, Dayton boldly called for strengthening the state’s “buffer” law, which requires vegetative strips along many waterways. The strips help filter out agricultural runoff, a key source of river and stream pollution, especially in the southwestern part of the state. . . .
But there’s little positive to say about other water-related measures in the bill. Among other things, the legislation calls for dissolving the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s long-standing Citizens’ Board. The move smacks of retaliation on behalf of special interests. In 2014, the board voted to require an environmental-impact statement for a proposed 9,000-head dairy operation.
The bill also undermines a promising biofuels compromise between agricultural and environmental groups that could have helped attract biofuels investment in the state while creating incentives for growing perennials and cover crops. These fight water pollution naturally.
Other backward water-quality measures in the bill are almost too numerous to list. Wastewater facilities in the Red River watershed shouldn’t get a pass on meeting new standards. Diverting money dedicated to landfill cleanup is lousy policy. So is a move that could harm wild rice by exempting some mining waste from water protection rules.
Bluestem attended; we were impressed by the energy of the crowd and the presence of so many children, who enthusiastically accepted cookies from the Governor. Dayton said that he'll be looking over the legislation and will mostly likely announce his decision on Friday or Saturday.
There's still time to call or email Governor Dayton and join your voice with those of the protesters and the paper's editorial board. Readers can contact the Govenor's Office via these numbers and email form:
Toll Free: 800-657-3717
Minnesota Relay: 800-627-3529
Fax: 651-797-1850 Staffed office hours are: Monday-Friday, 8a.m.- 4:30p.m.
Here are some of the tweets from the gathering:
The groups asking the governor to veto the bill have objected to the following provisions:
[T]he Legislature missed the mark on several key areas of the Agricultural and Environment Omnibus Budget Bill having final votes today, including:
- Abolishing the Citizens’ Board of the Pollution Control Agency: The Citizens’ Board has worked well and is a model we can be proud of. Eliminating it is simply bowing to special interests.
- Raiding Dedicated Environmental Funds: Even with $1 billion on the bottom line, this bill raids funds that are to prevent old landfills from contaminating our groundwater and surface water and clean up the pollution where it occurs.
- Breaks the Compromise Agreement on Biofuels: The signed agreement between energy, agriculture, and environment stakeholders would establish the next-generation biofuel industry in Minnesota. This bill violates that agreement, undercutting our ability to establish perennial crops for ethanol production and develop new beneficial agricultural systems to protect and restore our lakes, rivers and streams in some our most polluted watersheds in the heart of ag country.
- Provides Funding to Promote False Pollinator Labelling: The Legislature voted to allow deceptive advertising for “pollinator-friendly plants” that need only not kill bees upon first contact.
- Rolling Back Wild Rice Standards: This language defies the Federal Clean Water Act by limiting the PCA’s authority to enforce our state water quality standards.
Surprise Sulfide Mining Amendment: The bill exempts sulfide mining waste from solid waste rules. This amendment was never introduced as a bill or heard in any committee, and its future effect is unknown. Exempting as-of-yet unknown waste streams from potential sulfide mines is an unnecessary risk to water quality and public health.
- Red River Rules Suspension: Delays enforcement of updated nutrient pollution permits for wastewater treatment facilities in the Red River watershed until 2025, unless approved by the U.S. EPA, North Dakota Department Health, and EPA Regions 5 & 8.
- Polluter Amnesty: A polluter amnesty provision delays enforcement and waives penalties for regulated parties that self-report violations of environmental regulations. This provision needlessly strips the MPCA of its powers to hold polluters accountable for protecting our natural resources.
“Overall, the Ag and Environment Omnibus moves us in the wrong direction for Minnesota’s Great Outdoors, and it’s not what the people of Minnesota want,” said Morse. “Our coalition of 70 environmental and conservation nonprofits, representing over 450,000 Minnesotans urge the Governor to stand his ground for improving water quality and veto this bill.”
Photo: Children at the rally were charmed by Dayton and his cookies, while adults listened to Dayton's words about the bill.
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