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Permitting process could speed up

Published (3/9/2012)
By Bob Geiger
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The full House will decide whether to allow independent permit applicant professionals to draft environmental review applications.

Sponsored by Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau), HF2095 would allow licensed professional engineers with at least 10 years of experience on projects they are helping draft permit applications for to speed up the Pollution Control Agency’s permitting process.

The bill was approved March 5 by the House Ways and Means Committee.A companion, SF1567, sponsored by Sen. Bill Ingebrigsten (R-Alexandria), passed the Senate 47-16 on March 8.

Several DFLers objected to the bill because it would require PCA officials to approve or deny permit applications within 30 days. Agency officials have argued that a quick turnaround would force swift decisions on complex applications that sometimes take years to develop.

Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls) said that the proposed legislation is “not a bill that’s ready to go to the floor.” She claimed the bill should be returned to the House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee to clarify language.

Among language she claimed to be vague is that applications and draft permits submitted by permit application professionals “shall be deemed complete and approved unless the terms and conditions in the permit application and draft permit … fail to comply with applicable statutes and rules.”

Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia) disagreed. Rukavina said permits for developments in northeastern Minnesota often take up to five years to complete.

“You and I will be great-grandparents or dead before there’ll be a copper or nickel mine,” said Rukavina, referring to PolyMet Mining Corp.’s proposed copper, nickel and precious metals development on the Mesabi Iron Range.

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