By Allison Wolf, MCEA Legislative Director
Not only is my crystal ball cloudy, but it looks more like a snow globe today. Still, I will try to provide an update on the status of environmental issues at the Capitol as we enter the final days of negotiations, vetoes, brinksmanship, and further negotiations.
The 2017 session has been a veritable feeding frenzy for those seeking to undo environmental protections. You may be thinking “Hey, this is Minnesota! Things like that don’t happen here!” Yes they can, and as my good friend the Lorax says “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”
Who are these folks who want to undermine protections for air, land, and water that are strongly supported by all of us?
Well, the anti-environment ideas arise from three places. One is legislators whose constituents disagree with a state agency and seek an end-run around the agency decision. The other two sources for bad ideas are more organized: the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.
CGMC is a well-funded group (spending over $900,000 lobbying the Minnesota Legislature in 2016) seeking additional chances to challenge agency clean water actions through bills they've pushed at the Legislature. To put it another way, they want the Legislature to stop their losing streak in court, since courts have repeatedly ruled against their challenges to Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) water quality standards. CGMC is aligned with the law firm that represents cities challenging the MPCA, at taxpayer expense.
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, flogging its tired “streamlining” talking points, is pressing to undermine environmental permitting and environmental review. Much improvement has been made in increasing the speed of permitting and review during the past several years. These are really solutions in search of problems.
Several budget bills are chock-full of bad ideas from all three sources. At this writing, the Governor has promised to veto all of the budget bills that are on their way to his desk, including these ugly specimens:
What to do? Please THANK the Governor for his strong stance and his plan to VETO these anti-science, pro-pollution, pro-delay bills.
You can call the Governor's Office at 800-657-3717 or use the contact form at the Governor's website to send a message of support. Phone calls have the greatest impact.
Still in conference committee at this writing, the Legacy Bill will allocate $529 million in Legacy funds. We hope it moves to the Governor without the $22 million raid on the Clean Water Fund for Soil and Water Conservation Districts, an administrative expense never contemplated when citizens asked for new and innovative investments to clean up water. This one budget issue, involving nearly ten percent of the $211 million Clean Water Fund two-year appropriation, is the key to a fair environmental budget solution. If the raid is not removed from the Legacy Bill, the Governor should veto it.
As the winter snow becomes a memory and my snow globe clears up, we hope to see a budget for Minnesota that promotes clean water. Please, raise your voice to help us clear this up.