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Omnibus environment law signed (new law)

Published (5/25/2012)
By Nick Busse
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Rep. Denny McNamara discusses the omnibus environment conference committee report on the House floor April 27. (Photo by Paul Battaglia)Fighting invasive species, helping business owners and improving water management are among the major themes of this year’s omnibus environment and natural resources law.

Effective July 1, 2012, the law establishes an advisory inspection process to help businesses proactively comply with regulations. Rather than find out the hard way that they’re in violation of state laws or rules and face financial penalties, businesses can contact state agencies and request an advisory inspection.

If an inspector identifies violations, the business can avoid any penalties as long as they’re corrected within 60 days. Several agencies are exempted from the provisions, including the Department of Revenue. The law also states that the exemption from penalties does not apply to conduct involving fraud and various other circumstances.

Another focus of the law is combating the spread of aquatic invasive species. It increases civil penalties for transporting certain aquatic invasive species and doubles the fines for repeat offenders. Conservation officers will also be granted authority to order watercraft and other equipment to be removed from waters when necessary, and the DNR can require mandatory inspections at water access sites.

The law will also establish a new aquatic invasive species prevention program that includes educational courses and testing. Beginning July 1, 2015, the law will require that all watercraft trailers display an “aquatic invasive species trailer decal.” (Failure to do so will be punishable only by a warning, however.)

To improve watershed management in the state, the law includes a number of provisions that will allow the Board of Water and Soil Resources to better coordinate with local entities and create “comprehensive water management plans.”

Other provisions include:

• allowing local governments to establish alternative standards for subsurface sewage treatment systems, under certain conditions;

• requiring the balance of the minerals management account in excess of

$3 million be distributed proportionally to certain counties as well as the permanent school fund and the permanent university fund; and

• establishing a number of requirements for agencies to make reports and recommendations to the Legislature on various subjects.

The law takes effect Aug. 1, 2012, except where otherwise noted. Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings) and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) are the sponsors.

HF2164*/ SF1830/CH272

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