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A Good Year for Minnesota’s Environment—With some unfinished business.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
The 2013 Minnesota legislative session produced some great results for Minnesota’s clean energy future and Great Outdoors but pushed some work off to future sessions.
Clean Energy & Jobs: A Good Start for Solar Energy; a Step Toward Minnesota’s Clean Energy Future.
Minnesota’s legislature passed a solar energy standard (SES) requiring investor-owned utilities to generate 1.5% of their electricity from solar by the year 2020, and established a state goal of 10% solar by the year 2030.
Minnesota’s solar industry will expand as the amount of installed solar electric capacity in Minnesota rises from 13 megawatts (MW) to 450-500 MW in just seven years.
“Made-in-Minnesota” incentives in the law mean that certain Minnesota solar manufacturers will likely expand, as well.
Only investor-owned utilities need meet the new SES; co-operative and municipal electric companies are excluded from the SES, as are large timber, paper, and mining industrial facilities.
Unfinished Business: The legislature failed to increase Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES) from its present requirement of 25% renewable by 2025.
Clean Water Accountability: Effective System to Track, Address Nonpoint Pollution Finally In Place.
The legislature passed the Clean Water Accountability Act to track and address pollution from nonpoint sources – primarily runoff from agricultural operations that discharge sediments, fertilizers, pesticides, and fecal coliform bacteria into Minnesota’s rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands. Nonpoint pollution accounts for 86% of water quality impairments in Minnesota.
The legislation requires water clean-up plans to include clear identification of nonpoint pollution sources; criteria for ranking on-the-ground clean-up projects by their predicted effectiveness; clear timelines; and benchmarks for carrying out clean-up plans.
The legislation also requires BWSR to prepare a statewide priority funding plan for expenditures from the Clean Water Fund addressing nonpoint source pollution. The plan will take into account water quality outcomes, cost-effectiveness, landowner financial need and the ability to leverage non-state funding sources.
Greatly Expanded Ground Water Monitoring and Management, Paid For with State General Funds.
The legislature appropriated additional general funds to add hydrologists, expand the number of groundwater monitoring wells in Minnesota from the current 800, as well as map and manage better the state’s groundwater resources. The DNR estimates 7,000 monitoring wells are needed.
MEP groups support using water fees or General Funds for this work, rather than Clean Water Funds.
Total General Fund Support Up For Minnesota’s Five Environmental Agencies.
General fund appropriations by the legislature to the Departments of Natural Resources, Agriculture, the Pollution Control Agency, and the Board of Water & Soil Resources (BWSR) rose by about $25 Million total for the coming biennium.
Trout Streams At Risk From Frac Sand Mining: Progress, But No Comprehensive Solution
Legislation providing a comprehensive approach of putting strong state regulations in place before the industry could move forward in the region was not adopted. Some frac sand mining provisions were adopted and will be helpful in protecting trout streams and other sensitive water resources if properly implemented and enforced by the Dayton administration. Notable among those is the requirement for a DNR permit for frac sand mines within a mile of a trout stream in southeast Minnesota.
Bicycling And Bicyclists Make Healthy Progress
The legislature clarified that an existing law prohibiting parking in travel lanes applies to bike lanes.
Safe Routes To School will receive $250,000 per year in state funding in the coming biennium, in addition to federal funding.
MnDOT will fund the MAP-21 Transportation Alternatives program at a higher level, which should result in about $20 Million per year in additional funding for bike/pedestrian projects.
The Old Cedar Avenue Bridge, which crosses the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and has been in disrepair and closed for years, will be repaired and reopened for bicycle traffic with funds appropriated by the legislature this session.
The legislature restored $20 Million in funding to the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), which supports increased walking, biking, and active transportation, and which suffered over $30 Million in budget cuts last biennium. The restoration brings total funding for SHIP to $35 Million.
DNR Authority Extended to Promulgate Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area Rules.
On the final day of the legislative session, lawmakers extended the MN Department of Natural Resources’ authority to complete rules that will ensure protection of the 72-mile corridor Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area. The legislature also provided a $100,000 appropriation to the DNR to conduct the rulemaking. The rulemaking extension was included in the Omnibus Legacy Bill.
Designated as a State Critical Area in 1976 and as a National Park in 1988, this stretch of the Mississippi River from Dayton to Hastings has waited decades for a consistent, science-based set of rules to protect the Corridor for generations to come.
Coal tar sealant banned
In a major victory for water quality and public health, the Minnesota Legislature phased out the use of coal tar sealants in Minnesota. Effective January 1st 2014, the sale and application of coal tar sealants for asphalt-paved surfaces will be unlawful.
State Agencies Banned From Purchasing Triclosan-containing Products
Governor Dayton signed a March 4th executive order requiring state agencies to stop buying products that contain triclosan. Legislation to completely phase out the sale of household products containing triclosan was introduced but did not pass this session
Unfinished Business: Transit Funding - Missed Opportunity Disappoints Metro and Greater Minnesota.
The legislature failed to pass Transit For a Stronger Economy legislation which would have provided consistent and greatly expanded transit funding in the Metro and Greater Minnesota, for the purpose of completing a modern transit system with 15 years.