www.mnaction.org Monday, July 28, 2014  

Special Exemptions for Corporate Special Interests & Disproportionate Cuts to Water Protection Programs

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Issue

Special Session will be Underway Soon - Take Action Today to Protect Our Water

Background

DISPROPORTIONATE CUTS TO WATER PROGRAMS
The legislature was unable to pass an environmental budget bill that did not include disproportional cuts to our Great Outdoors and our water. These cuts were inconsistent with the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. Governor Dayton vetoed the bill (H.F. 1010), which also included a number of harmful policies that threaten Minnesota’s wild rice, water, forests and clean air. Tell your legislators not to weaken any water protections to all of Minnesota's waters - from the Mighty Mississippi to the waters that grow our native wild rice.

The legislature did not identify any additional revenue sources to maintain traditional funding for Minnesota’s Great Outdoors, as outlined in the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment. And they did not ensure that Legacy funds were not used as a substitution.

LEGACY BILL - DID NOT PASS (YET?)
The Legacy Bill (H.F. 1061) made it through conference committee but was rejected by the House due to a public meeting provision and the percentages of dollars to state parks, regional metro parks, and outstate local and county parks. This bill is expected back in special session.

All four “pots” of money from the legacy funds are in this bill, including the conservation and habitat legacy funds, the clean water dollars, the parks and trails dollars, and the arts and history dollars. The bill appropriates the $170 million over two years of clean water dollars raised from the dedicated sales tax funds. There is money for local governments and hopefully nonprofit organizations to continue to clean up our lakes and streams.

MEP and many other organizations are concerned over the deep cuts in environmental and conservation general funds in the budget bills and the possibility that the Legacy dollars could be used to “backfill” the gaps created by the deep general fund cuts. This is not what the voters expected when they voted strongly in support of the Legacy Amendment in 2008! We are working to see that this backfilling does not take place.

We must protect our water and our Great Outdoors for future generations. To do that, we must raise additional revenue to maintain our current levels of protection. This could be helped by increasing user fees on hunting, fishing and boat licenses. These fees will provide additional funds to the game and fish fund and for Aquatic Invasive Species. And the legislature must increase their budget targets overall to protect our water and our Great Outdoors for future generations.

SPECIAL EXEMPTIONS FOR CORPORATE SPECIAL INTERESTS
This session, the Legislature charted a disturbing course, granting businesses and special interests their own special exemptions from laws that protect Minnesota’s Great Outdoors – whenever those protections become inconvenient. Among the entities and industries that were allowed special exemptions this session were:

· Lutsen Ski Resort, which received a special exemption to extract water from the Poplar River, a designated trout stream already undergoing a clean-up plan, further endangering the trout and the health of the river (S.F. 1115);
· Spiritwood coal plant in North Dakota, which received a special exemption to allow coal-fired electricity to be imported into the state, without having to reduce excess pollution (S.F. 1197);
· PolyMet non-ferrous mining company, which received a $4 million dollar loan after the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board was granted a special exemption from environmental review (H.F. 1);
· The Ethanol Industry, for which mandatory environmental review on expansions is no longer required (S.F. 1115); and
· Excelsior Energy’s Mesaba Power Plant, a stalled natural gas project, which had previously received $41 million federal and state tax dollars, this session received additional special permitting exemptions (S.F. 1197).

More Info

Message To Be Sent To
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Governor
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Message
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Special Session Assignment: Protect Our Water


Dear Governor,

Please stay vigilant in your commitment to protect Minnesota’s water and Great Outdoors. I urge you to pass a fair environmental budget bill, without disproportional cuts to important water programs and without damaging policy provisions that endanger our lakes, rivers, and streams.

When you reconvene, I implore you to pass the Legacy bill and maintain the traditional funding in the general fund budget to abide by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.

We must protect our water and our Great Outdoors for future generations. To do that, we must raise additional revenue to maintain current levels of protection. This could be helped by increasing user fees on hunting, fishing and boat licenses. These fees will provide additional funds to the game and fish fund and for Aquatic Invasive Species.

Disproportionate budget cuts to water protection programs and policies that weaken existing laws put our Great Outdoors at risk. Please ensure our water is protected for future generations.

Sincerely,

Your name and address here


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