The 'just say no to everything' Wild Rice bill
The Minnesota Legislature is racing to throw another obstacle into efforts to create a science-based standard to protect wild rice from the effects of sulfate pollution. Adding another chapter to a tortured history, industry and city lobbyists are pushing through a bill that will tie up the Pollution Control Agency (PCA) in knots.
If passed, the law will tell the PCA NOT to do what federal law tells them they MUST do. A recipe for litigation? Yes, indeed. The goal of this bill is to delay indefinitely any actual enforcement of a standard to protect wild rice, Minnesota’s state grain.
The bill would take a “just say no” approach to solving a complex problem. It would say:
No to letting the PCA do its job to protect wild rice and water
No to Minnesota tribes for whom wild rice carries spiritual importance
No to the science created when Minnesota spent $1.5 million on research
The bill has now passed three committees in the Senate and two in the House. What is missing in this discussion is good old-fashioned science, since industry has taken to giving out incorrect information on the science behind the sulfate standard that PCA has been developing.
We urge you to call your legislator, and let them know you want to see a valid, science-based standard in place that is actually enforced so that wild rice will be protected. Tell them to vote against the anti-wild rice bills, HF3280/SF2983, when they reach the House and Senate floor.
The Chamber of Commerce's dirty water bill
The annual bill from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, HF3120/SF2705, is traditionally a wish list from industry looking to weaken environmental protections. This year's bill is no different and contains a number of pro-pollution provisions.
Dirty water provision number one: Remove a permit requirement to transfer waters from one water body to another. This is bad because it leaves lakes exposed to potential contamination or infestation with aquatic invasive species.
Dirty water provision number two: Allow polluters to have a nearly two decade break from meeting water quality standards after they make upgrades. This doubles down on a bad idea from last session, allowing the 16-year “holiday” for cities. The "holiday" allows industrial polluters to have a long vacation from water quality standards, even if new contaminants are discovered in the meantime. An Administrative Law Judge agreed with MCEA and ruled this approach violates the federal Clean Water Act. If this legislation passes, the Legislature is guaranteeing more litigation. Not exactly the “regulatory certainty” that they are promising to the cities and industries.
Dirty water provision number three: Prevent the Pollution Control Agency (PCA) from raising fees for permit holders without legislative approval, which will leave key water programs without needed funding. Agency funding shortfalls have resulted in a backlog of permitting and underfunded pollution monitoring. Micromanaging the PCA makes it difficult for the agency to do its job, politicizes fee increases, and increases the work backlog.
We urge you to call your legislator and tell them to vote against the Chamber’s dirty water bill, HF3120/SF2705. Ask them to vote NO to giving industrial polluters or cities a “water quality holiday" in the Chamber bill and anywhere else, as similar language can be found in HF2802/SF2807.
Oppose the legislature's interference in the judicial process
The Legislature continues to try to interfere with legitimate decisions of the courts and administrative law judges. One example of this is HF4003/SF3573, which aims to prohibit the Department of Natural Resources from spending money to enforce a court order. The proposed bill would prohibit the DNR from taking actions on water appropriation permits that would implement the recent court order to restore White Bear Lake water levels. The District Court found the DNR violated the law based on its permitting of high capacity groundwater pumping. MCEA supports the District Court order in this case, you can read more about it here.
This bill is premature and inconsistent with current attempts to sustain and protect White Bear Lake and groundwater. We urge you to call your legislator on this issue and tell them to vote against this bill and support the completion of the legal process and the protection of groundwater.
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