www.mnaction.org Thursday, October 30, 2014  

Action Needed TODAY to Keep Environmental Review Strong in Minnesota.

You can take action on this alert by reading the information below and following the directions at the bottom.

Issue

Legislation quickly headed to Gov. Dayton weakens environmental review and needs his veto. TAKE ACTION BELOW.

Background

Corporate special interests have made weakening environmental review a top priority. It is expected this legislation (Senate File 42/ House File 1) will be on the Governor’s desk very soon.

Environmental review is a critical tool in ensuring that large and potentially harmful projects are built in ways that minimize harm to our health, the environment and natural resources. These projects include such developments as hazardous waste facilities, paper and pulp processing mills, large-scale mining operations, highway projects, marinas, and industrial scale feedlots. The best way to minimize harm to the environment from this type of development is to ensure projects are built right in the first place. This is what environmental review was designed to do.

Environmental review also allows for public participation and comment. In many cases, it is the only opportunity for neighbors—those most directly impacted by a proposed large development—to have their voices heard in the process.

Status of legislation: Senate File 42 passed in the Senate on Thursday, February 24. It is possible that the House may concur with this bill. That would mean that there would be no conference committee and the bill would go directly to the Governor’s desk. If the House does not concur then the Senate and House version (House File 1) would go to a conference committee to reconcile the differences in the two bills.

Key ways these bills weaken environmental review:
· Bars access to district courts for citizens who chose to challenge an environmental review decision in court. Requires that a court appeal of an agency decision on environmental review must be made not in the local district court but in the Court of Appeals. This is especially onerous on rural citizens who then must travel to St. Paul to view the hearing. Appellate court has costlier filing fees and there is less flexibility in briefing and scheduling appearances. (Senate File 42 only. House File 1 has been amended to address this concern in most situations.)

· Creates a ‘fox guarding the hen house” situation by allowing the project proposer to prepare the draft of the Environmental Impact Statement. This proposal compromises the fairness of the process. Taking the responsible government unit (RGU) out of the initial process makes the underlying information and analysis unavailable to the public, which compromises the critical public participation part of the process. (Senate File 42 and House File 1.)

· Exempts the Iron Range Resource Board from environmental review requirements. The IRRRB is a regulatory agency and must abide by Minnesota law as would any agency that represents Minnesota at large.

· Undermines Minnesota’s authority to create state rules tougher then federal minimum standards to protect our state’s air and water. It is already the case that if a state agency proposes to adopt state standards more stringent than any similar federal standard they are required to state the reasoning. However, this bill requires that the agency document that the federal rule “does not provide adequate protection.” This has the potential to create a new standard for judicial review of MPCA air, water, and hazardous waste rules. In essence this changes the burden of proof and creates tremendous potential for litigation and delay during standards setting. (House File 1 only)

Governor Dayton's Recent Executive Order
Gov. Mark Dayton signed an Executive Order on Monday, Jan. 24, instructing the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources to implement provisions of House File 1 and Senate File 42. Gov. Dayton’s Executive Order calls on the MPCA and the DNR to:
· Establish a goal of issuing environmental permits within 150 days;
· Explain the reasons for proposing state rules that are tougher than federal standards, and compare them with rules of neighboring states;
· Issue permits within 30 days after an Environmental Impact Statement is completed; and
· Explore whether in some situations construction can begin before permits are issued.

Gov. Dayton has said that he believes he can meet these goals without jeopardizing the quality of environmental review or the ability of citizens to participate meaningfully in the process. However, the goals are aimed exclusively at meeting the concerns of big business interests and are a significant concession. This should be the extent of the “streamlining” done on environmental review this legislative session.

More Info

Message To Be Sent To
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Governor
Message
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Veto Environmental Rollbacks That Will Harm Minnesota (SF42/HF1)


Dear Governor,

Protect Minnesota! Veto Rollbacks on Environmental Review (SF 42/ HF 1).

I urge you to stand up for the majority of Minnesotans who support keeping our existing environmental protections in place with strong enforcement. Veto HF1 and let your Executive Order take care of making permitting and environmental review more efficient.

Now that HF1 is headed for your desk, we ask that you use your veto power to stop this legislation. We oppose the following components of HF1:

·We oppose allowing the project proposers to draft their own Environmental Impact Statements. That is the "fox guarding the hen house”, and will make citizen access to complete information more difficult.

·We oppose exempting the Iron Range Resource Board from environmental review requirements. The IRRRB is a regulatory agency and must abide by Minnesota law as would any agency that provides for Minnesota at large.

·We oppose switching environmental appeals to the Court of Appeals. This change would be especially onerous on rural citizens who then must travel to St. Paul to view the hearing. Also, appellate court has costlier filing fees and there is less flexibility in briefing and scheduling appearances.

·We oppose undermining Minnesota’s authority to create state rules tougher then federal minimum standards to protect our state’s air and water.

Environmental review that allows for strong citizen participation is a bedrock principle in Minnesota, These provisions undermine environmental review, create obstacles for agencies wanting to adopt public health and environmental standards, and provide an outright exemption for a single state agency without adequate justification.

Your Executive Order on environmental review addressed the major concerns of corporate interests with environmental review. Your Executive Order should be all the "streamlining" that happens on environmental review this session.

Your name and address here


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