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Wide-ranging environment policy, spending bill passed by House

CORRECTION at 9:53 a.m. — $2 million in incentive payments to Conservation Reserve Program enrollees is not in the bill

A plethora of environment policy and funding provisions are part of a $61.4 million bill that aims to, in part, protect and enhance the state’s natural resources.

HF4554 contains items selected by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, the lands bill and the Department of Natural Resources and Pollution Control Agency policy bills, said Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), the bill sponsor.

Passed 74-59 late Saturday, the bill goes to the Senate where Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) is the sponsor. The Senate passed SF4499, its omnibus environment and natural resources bill, 41-26 earlier Saturday.

The largest price tags are $29.95 million for various land acquisition, habitat, and recreation projects that will help maintain and improve parks, trails, and recreation areas. More than $11.8 million would be dedicated to research and management of aquatic and terrestrial invasive species, including emerald ash borer and carp;

Hansen said the bill, in part, includes a $400,000 supplemental appropriation from the remediation fund in fiscal year 2021 to the Pollution Control Agency for a cost-share program to reimburse dry cleaning facilities for the cost of moving away from perchloroethylene to solvents that are environmentally preferred alternatives.

The bill would also appropriate $492,000 from the environmental fund to the agency to adopt rules establishing water quality standards for perfluorooctanoic and perfluorooctanesulfonic acids. The agency would also need to adopt rules establishing PFOA and PFOS water quality standards by July 1, 2023.

However, the bill does not include $1.5 million in wastewater treatment grants to small towns that Republicans sought from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.

“It includes a compromise that we put forward for the Senate to consider for renewable energy grants to go to wastewater treatment facilities so that they could reduce their energy costs and help the environment,” Hansen said.

Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau) unsuccessfully offered an amendment to strip the authority of the Pollution Control Agency to adopt vehicle emission standards.

Among the policy and funding requests in the bill are:

  • $8.59 million for projects that collect foundational data and information about Minnesota’s natural resources;
  • $2.74 million in technical assistance, outreach, and environmental education;
  • $699,000 to study the ability of coronavirus to travel through wastewater systems to drinking water sources;
  • $350,000 from the natural resources fund to the Minnesota Zoo, which is struggling financially during the coronavirus shutdown;
  • 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 requirement that the DNR hold a public meeting prior to issuing a water-use permit for more than 250,000 gallons per day average over a 30-day period;
  • a requirement for the DNR to issue free annual state park permits to members of the 11 federally recognized tribes;
  • a ban on personal care disposable products from being labeled as “flushable” unless they meet certain industry standards;
  • requiring the DNR to develop recommendations for establishing a safety program for watercraft operators;
  • a requirement that the DNR prescribe conditions and issue permits to breed, propagate, and sell snakes, lizards, and salamanders;
  • 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.

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