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Omnibus environment and natural resources policy gets division OK

A House division approved legislation Friday that would, among other things, ban TCE industrial solvents and perc dry cleaning solvents, study so-called “forever chemicals” in groundwater, require wipes labeled “flushable” to actually be flushable and give a $350,000 shot in the arm to the Minnesota Zoo.

The House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division approved HF4554, as amended, on a party-line vote and referred it to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Additional funding for the zoo is concerning to Rep. Steve Green (R-Fosston), who’d like to see more fairness.

Although he understands the zoo is having financial problems, he said “so are a whole lot of businesses” and if the state is going to be “sticking money” into the zoo, it should do so for businesses too.

Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL-Roseville), who favors the funding, said the zoo is under “incredible financial stress” and the state is at risk of losing it.

The omnibus environment and natural resources bill contains a number of agency policy and funding requests, and bills that had been considered earlier this session, including:

  • $64 million for environmental projects from the voter-approved Environmental and Natural Resource Trust Fund comprised of most of the preliminary recommendations considered by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources;
  • $2 million in fiscal year 2021 to provide onetime state incentive payments to enrollees in the federal Conservation Reserve Program during the continuous enrollment period;
  • $492,000 in fiscal year 2021 to adopt rules establishing water quality standards for perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid by July 1, 2023;
  • $400,000 in fiscal year 2021 for a cost-share program to reimburse dry cleaning facilities for the cost of moving to alternative solvents to perchloroethylene;
  • a ban on insecticides from the neonicotinoid class in a wildlife management area;
  • a ban on taking turtles within the seven-county metropolitan area under a turtle seller's license;
  • creation of an Advisory Council on Water Supply Systems and Wastewater Treatment Facilities to advise the Department of Health and the Pollution Control Agency regarding water supply systems and wastewater treatment facilities;
  • a ban on trichloroethylene, or TCE, an industrial solvent, by facilities with air emissions permits beginning June 1, 2022;
  • a ban on personal care disposable products from being labeled as “flushable” unless they meet certain industry standards;
  • a ban on perchloroethylene as a dry-cleaning solvent beginning in 2022;
  • requiring the Department of Natural Resources to develop recommendations for establishing a safety program for watercraft operators;
  • extending the deadline for making a land use decision and holding meetings under drainage law during the coronavirus peacetime emergency; and
  • allowing the PCA to acquire solid waste disposal facilities to prevent a threat to public health and the environment related to closure or post-closures.

[MORE: View the spreadsheet]

Greta Gauthier, PCA assistant commissioner, said some of the agency’s highest priorities are the TCE ban, the advisory board, and the funding for the PFAS study, that’s part of the trust fund provision, to see how fast they move in groundwater and are taken up in crops.

Representing the Minnesota Deer Farmers Association, Tim Spreck opposed a provision that would allow hunters to take deer or elk that escape from farms or preserves, which supporters say is part of an effort to deal with the Chronic Wasting Disease epidemic. Some Republicans on the panel said they also oppose the provision.

A companion, SF4499, sponsored by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), awaits action by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.


What’s in the bill?

The following bills have been incorporated in part, or completely, into the omnibus environment and natural resources bill:

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