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EQB changes in policy bill

Published (5/6/2011)
By Sue Hegarty
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Reductions in the Environmental Quality Board’s duties, introduced in HF1360, sponsored by Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Nelson Township), were successfully removed from an omnibus environment policy bill.

Torkelson offered the amendment to remove the EQB references because he said a fiscal note suggested higher costs than he anticipated, though he does not intend to drop the issue, he added. He sought to transfer many of the board’s responsibilities to the Clean Water Council.

The omnibus bill, HF1097, sponsored by Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings), was approved May 3 by the House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee and May 4 as amended by the House Ways and Means Committee. It now goes to the House floor. A companion, SF692, sponsored by Sen. Dan Hall (R-Burnsville), has been rolled into a Senate omnibus environment policy bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria).

Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau) successfully offered another amendment that would increase from 25 to 100 the number of signatures required to petition the EQB for an environmental assessment worksheet and require that petitioners reside within the same or adjacent county as a proposed project.

Air pollutants can travel farther and impaired water can flow downstream further than the next county, said Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls). Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) also said the proposed policy does not give credence to those who temporarily spend time near a proposed project, such as in child care centers and group homes.

Rep. Bill Hilty (DFL-Finlayson)unsuccessfully offered an amendment to delete the county residency and 100 required signatures. The Fabian amendment passed 8-6 along party lines; Rep. David Dill (DFL-Crane Lake) abstained.

Other environmental policy provisions in the bill include:

• developing an “Adopt-a-WMA” program;

• reducing the non-state matching grant amount for trail construction from 50 percent to 25 percent; and

• allowing Lutsen Resort to increase the amount of water it may take from Poplar Lake stream for snowmaking.

The allowance would be contingent upon meeting water flow standards within the trout stream. John Lenczewski, Minnesota Trout Unlimited executive director, cautioned that lower water levels may result in fish kill if the stream freezes due to snowmaking activities.

Dill, who sponsored the water consumption amendment, said due to the extreme vertical grade of the trout stream, few fish are found along the two-mile section where water could be drawn. Also, the ski resort must meet minimum flow standards before being allowed to withdraw water.

In all, more than 15 bills are rolled into the omnibus bill, including the use of pesticides on land and new regulations to control the spread of aquatic invasive species.

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