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House passes $64 million in environmental trust fund appropriations

Rep. Rick Hansen, chair of the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division, comments during floor debate of HF2032, which appropriates funds from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Photo by Paul Battaglia

In what was likely the least contentious bill heard over the last nine days, the House approved a plan Wednesday to spend $64.3 million in appropriations from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.

As amended, HF2032, sponsored Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) directs how the dollars would be spent during the upcoming biennium for the “protection, conservation, preservation, and enhancement of the state's air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources.” Following the 120-10 vote, the bill now moves to the Senate where Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) is the sponsor.

According to the nonpartisan House Research Department, “This bill includes Fiscal Year 2019 and 2020 appropriations from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (a constitutionally dedicated trust fund funded by proceeds from the Minnesota State Lottery). The bill is largely based upon the recommendations for Fiscal Year 2020 approved by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.”

Only one issue of contention arose during the House debate.

Hansen successfully offered an amendment that would require a planned loon educational center that would receive trust fund dollars to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification or the Green Building Initiative Green Globes certification. The project would also be required to restore disturbed habitat along the shoreline due to dock construction.

The additions, he asserted, would help ensure the project met trust fund environmental requirements.

Rep. Josh Heintzeman (R-Nisswa) expressed concern over the possible impact those requirements could have on the project, potentially inhibiting the loon center’s educational mission.

Saying that energy efficiency was fundamental to any project in the state’s northern counties due to the cold climate, Rep. Dale Lueck (R-Aitkin) called the amendment, “unnecessary tinkering with a good project.”

The amendment amounted to unfairly singling out one project for the requirements, Lueck argued.

Proposed expenditures include:

  • $25.1 million for land acquisition projects;
  • $9.92 million for natural resource data and information projects;
  • $6.5 million for water infrastructure loans;
  • $5.07 million for water resources projects ($149,000 less than recommended);
  • $4.45 million for protection, restoration and enhancement projects;
  • $3.41 million to acquire, restore, enhance and provide landowner technical assistance for the Minnesota Native Prairie Bank;
  • $3.1 million for invasive species projects;
  • $1.54 million for contract administration expenses of the Department of Natural Resources and the LCCMR;
  • $1.4 million for air quality and renewable energy projects;
  • $886,000 for technical assistance, outreach, and environmental education projects;
  • $780,000 to accelerate DNR nongame wildlife study, management, education and promotion programming;
  • $636,000 for continuing the DNR native bee survey;
  • $500,000 million for wastewater treatment related projects;
  • $330,000 for a project records management system at the LCCMR;
  • $250,000 for internships and mentorships that encourage diversity in environmental careers; and
  • $200,000 for construction of ADA compliant access to Rainy Lake.

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