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Environment bill advances to House

Published (3/30/2012)
By Bob Geiger
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The full House could vote on permit streamlining, environmental deregulation and aquatic invasive species measures all contained in the omnibus environment bill approved by the House Ways and Means Committee March 29.

Sponsored by Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings), HF2164 would define aquatic invasive species control measures, including conservation officers’ authority to order water-related equipment off a lake if the Department of Natural Resources commissioner determines that action is needed.

Other aquatic invasive species measures in the bill are decontamination equipment of boats and other watercraft, inspection stations and adequate enforcement capacity to minimize wait times at contamination stations.

Like other bills introduced this session, this one lays out contingency plans in case of a government shutdown. It would provide for state park and recreation areas and the Minnesota Zoo to remain open.

Among other provisions, the bill would require the Pollution Control Agency commissioner to approve or deny permit applications within 60 days. Failure to deny applications for a minor permit or permit amendment within that time frame would mean the permit is approved.

Appropriations contained in the bill include $32.2 million for environmental enforcement by state agencies; $11.3 million for lands and minerals management; and $3.4 million for renewable energy projects.

The House Ways and Means Committee amended the bill to require the Environmental Quality Board to analyze whether mandatory assessments should be modified, eliminated or unchanged and recommend improvements to the environmental review process by Nov. 15, 2012.

Other provisions in the bill include:

• transferring Minnesota’s water management from a county-by-county basis to a watershed-based program;

• making water supply reduction programs voluntary for municipalities serving 1,000 people or more;

• adding recruitment and retention of anglers and hunters to the DNR’s mission, and outlining a wolf-hunting season;

• prohibiting the DNR from buying land at more than 20 percent above assessed market value or 10 percent above its appraised market value;

• providing funding for electronic game and fish license sales; and

• expanding the use of general permits.

A companion, SF1830, sponsored by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), awaits action by the full Senate.

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