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Lengthy discussion ends with House passing omnibus environment, natural resources bill

Rep. Rick Hansen, chair of the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee, speaks during floor debate on the omnibus supplemental environment and natural resources finance and policy bill April 28. (Photo by Paul Battaglia)

Issues that received plenty of debate in committee meetings continued to receive lengthy discussion, but the House nonetheless passed its omnibus environment and natural resources bill Thursday.

Following the 70-59 vote, HF4492/SF4062*, as amended, next goes back to the Senate, which passed its version 37-29 April 21. A conference committee is expected to be needed to work out the differences.

Sponsored Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), the bill contains fiscal year 2023 supplemental budget appropriations for the Pollution Control Agency, Department of Natural Resources, Board of Water and Soil Resources and other organizations. It also includes statutory and other changes related to the environment and natural resources, including the DNR’s policy and technical proposals.

[MORE: View the spreadsheet]

“The bill is righting past wrongs, makes a significant investment in conservation, addresses contaminants; like PFAS, forever chemicals, lead, cadmium and other contaminants,” Hansen said. “And then it also addresses climate change. It has various programs that have a dual effect, conservation and helping out with climate change.”

Checking in at about an additional $240 million, the bill would appropriate $68.92 million to the Board of Water and Soil Resources, $58.54 million to the Pollution Control Agency, $54.73 million to the DNR, $13.09 million to the Metropolitan Council and $10.47 million to Explore Minnesota Tourism.

The bill would also create a Minnesota Outdoor Recreation Office with a $1.75 million appropriation.

“I think this bill is kind of a huge, missed opportunity,” said Rep. Spencer Igo (R-Grand Rapids), who offered a pair of amendments, one adopted and one that was ruled out of order. “This bill, I think, is spending somewhere around $260 million and a lot of the money is just kind of getting spread about to public policies and programs that may or may not work. We don’t really know. But what I do know is we could have taken some steps for some policy that could have started making a difference a little bit more, a larger, global scale.”

Major appropriations to the Board of Water and Soil Resources include:

  • $30 million to purchase and restore conservation sites through easements, and treat and store water on the lands to improve water quality;
  • $10 million for water storage and management to control water volume and improve water quality;
  • $10 million for onetime payments to enrollees of the federal Conservation Reserve Program;
  • $8 million for an accelerated conservation plant program;
  • $5 million to accelerate the adoption of soil health practices; and
  • $5 million for the lawns to legumes program.

Pollution Control Agency appropriations include:

  • $10 million toward projects to withstand local flooding;
  • $10 million for a waste prevention and recycling grant program;
  • $9.08 million for environmental justice efforts;
  • $5.6 million to the agency for operating adjustments;
  • $5 million for a pilot project to promote composting at multifamily buildings;
  • $5 million for a statewide air quality monitoring program;
  • $2 million to prevent prohibit perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination;
  • $2 million for testing groundwater, surface water, public drinking water and private wells for microplastics and nanoplastics;
  • $1.8 million for assessment and cleanup of the Pig’s Eye Landfill;
  • $1.5 million for the zero-waste grant program;
  • $1 million to create for a community-based brownfield cleanup program; and
  • $1 million for an outreach program to exchange and dispose of lead tackle.

Major appropriations to the DNR for fiscal year 2023, unless noted, include:

  • $25 million for modernizing and enhancing infrastructure, lands and water to respond to climate change;
  • $11 million to replace trees removed to address emerald ash borer infestation;
  • $5 million to enhance grasslands and restore wetlands;
  • $3.3 million for improved maintenance at scientific and natural areas;
  • $1.84 million to manage aquatic invasive plant species;
  • $1.4 million for designating swan resting areas and swan protection;
  • $1.38 million added to the base beginning in fiscal year 2025 for implementing the transition of the farmed Cervidae program from the Board of Animal Health;
  • $1 million for grants to schools to plant trees on school grounds;
  • $1 million for water use permit requirements; and
  • $1 million to Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa for expanding wild elk population and range.

As Hansen has noted, the bill would also right past wrongs in reinstating funding to the Metropolitan Landfill Contingency Action Trust and would increase the percentage of the lottery in lieu tax to go towards the environment. Hansen said the tax, which is a percentage of sales of lottery tickets, originally had 97% dedicated to the environment.

The percentage was previously cut to 72% with the remainder of the tax going to the General Fund. The bill would reinstate the percentage at 97%.

The bill would add provisions to combat chronic wasting disease, including a requirement for white-tailed deer farms to test captive deer for the disease. It also would prohibit importation of farmed deer from areas where the disease is found and transfer the authority to the DNR.

“We’re not blaming the farmers,” said Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL-International Falls). “We just want to work with the farmers to make sure this is done right. I have no desire to shut down the cervid industry. It can provide valuable input to our economy around the state, but let’s do it right.”

House Floor debate on the omnibus environment and natural resources bill 4/28/22

The bill also contains an article that would prohibit perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in carpet and textiles, cookware, cosmetics, juvenile products and ski wax.

“This is a prevalent chemical,” said Rep. Ami Wazlawik (DFL-White Bear Township). “It’s pretty much everywhere at this point, in everyone’s bodies. It’s very toxic and harmful, and we’re making an attempt here to ban it in a lot of products so that we don’t have the continued negative health impacts and the environmental risk.”

Other major statutory changes would include:

  • creating and instituting policies for the proper use and disposal of seed treated with a neonicotinoid pesticide;
  • prohibiting seed treated with neonicotinoids to be used or sold as feed, food, oil or ethanol production;
  • prohibiting insecticides from the neonicotinoid class from usage on state lands;
  • creating a goal protecting and restoring peat lands;
  • changing watercraft operator requirements, including issuing a permit to a person at least 12 years of age who completes a water safety course and written test. Adult operators must also have a permit;
  • creating a water safety course and testing program; and
  • making nontoxic shot required for taking small game in farmland zones.

Amendments adopted include:

An amendment to allow all legal firearms to be used during regular firearms deer season was not adopted after much debate.

“This doesn’t have to be a big partisan thing,” said Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R-Ghent), who offered the amendment. “I think this is just some common sense. Let’s modernize our laws, let’s allow people to have the choice, let’s let young people have the opportunity not to have a shotgun kick.”

Other amendments not adopted would have:


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