A new law aims to help preserve air, water, land and wildlife. It also makes advances in battling emerald ash borer, chronic wasting disease and aquatic invasive species, and eliminates PFAS from food packing beginning in 2024.
Sponsored by Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), the omnibus environment and natural resources law is effective July 1, 2021 unless otherwise noted.
It spends $1.66 billion, of which $367.08 million is General Fund spending, $35.09 million over base.
It funds, in part, the Department of Natural Resources, Pollution Control Agency, Board of Water and Soil Resources, Explore Minnesota Tourism, Conservation Corps, Minnesota Zoo and the Science Museum of Minnesota.
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2021 First Special Session: SSHF5/SSSF20*/SSCH6
Pollution Control Agency
Of the $224.24 million going to the Pollution Control Agency, $179.38 million is from the Environmental Fund, $29.1 million from the Remediation Fund and $15.62 million is General Fund dollars.
New General Fund spending includes just under $2 million to implement a water infrastructure grant program for local governmental units and tribal governments; $600,000 in fiscal year 2022 to develop an initiative to reduce sources of PFAS in the environment that are eventually conveyed to municipal wastewater treatment facilities; and $350,000 in fiscal year 2022 to complete the St. Louis River mercury total maximum daily load study. (Art. 1, Sec. 2)
The law statutorily appropriates $4.5 million annually from the Closed Landfill Investment Fund to the PCA to conduct activities under the Closed Landfill Program. An additional $9 million is allocated each biennium for the PCA to address releases or threatened releases from closed landfills. These appropriations expire June 30, 2025. (Art. 2, Sec. 97)
Department of Natural Resources
The DNR is to receive $256.08 million in General Fund money in the 2022-23 biennium. Of that, almost $25.77 million is new spending, including an operating adjustment of $3.98 million.
Other General Fund increases include:
• $7 million to respond to chronic wasting disease;
• $2.5 million for accelerated tree planting and increasing seed collection and conservation-grade tree seedling production at the state forest nursery and providing cost-share incentives to increase tree planting;
• $2.4 million for emerald ash borer response grants to local communities;
• $500,000 for a flood study of the Cannon River dam system;
• $400,000 for the No Child Left Inside program;
• $400,000 for information technology security and modernization;
• $400,000 to construct the Historic Bruce Mine Park and Mesabi Trailhead and access in Chisholm;
• $300,000 to address aquatic invasive species in and around Upper and Lower Red Lake;
• $300,000 to complete renovation of the Lanesboro Dam; and
• $225,000 to complete Phase II of the restoration of the Hofmann Apiaries honey house and wax shed in Waseca County. (Art. 1, Sec. 3)
No increases in state park fees or hunting and fishing fees are in the law.
Board of Water and Soil Resources
To continue its mission of improving and protecting state water and soil resources by working in partnership with local organizations and private landowners, BWSR is to receive $34.79 million from the General Fund, of which $5.04 million is new spending. Of that, $2 million is for a water quality and storage program for installing pollinator-friendly native plantings in residential lawns; $1.4 million is for septic replacement grants; $1.35 million for soil health practice adoption purposes; and a $291,000 operating adjustment. (Art. 1, Sec. 4)
Other new spending
The law includes $7.73 million for salary increases and retroactive raises for conservation officers and supervisors represented by the Minnesota Law Enforcement Association, effective June 30, 2021. The soil and water conservation district supervisor compensation maximum is upped from $75 to $125 per day.
It also includes $1 million in one-time funding for a recovery grant program, including grants to local and tribal governments for tourism, meetings, conventions, and events assistance and promotions. (Art. 1, Sec. 9; Art. 2, Sec. 79; Art. 4, Secs. 1-6).
Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund
The law also provides a $70.88 million appropriation in fiscal year 2022 and nearly $61.39 million in fiscal year 2021 from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, a constitutionally dedicated fund supported by state lottery proceeds. The dollars will be for 165 projects across the state including land acquisition, data collection and research, invasive species management and habitat restoration. All projects are aimed at protection, conservation, preservation and enhancement. (Arts. 5-6)
PFAS out of packaging
The law will, beginning Jan. 1, 2024, prohibit the manufacturing, use or distribution of food packaging containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — better known as PFAs, and provides $600,000 in fiscal year 2022 to identify and reduce sources of PFAs.
PFAS are man-made chemicals used for things like preventing grease and other liquids from seeping into packaging. Example of their usage would be a French fry container or coffee cup. However, such chemicals resist breaking down and have been linked to negative health effects in humans. They’ve also leaked from landfills and have been shown to contaminate state waters. (Art. 2, Sec. 105)
Fishing and hunting policy
In addition to requiring daily and possession limits for gar, the law will:
• prohibit a person in possession of night vision or thermal imaging equipment convicted of certain violations from obtaining a hunting license or hunting wild animals for five years;
• prohibit a person from shooting a firearm or arrow from a motor vehicle at a decoy of a wild animal placed by a licensed peace officer;
• allow the use of crossbows when hunting deer, bear or turkey during all firearm seasons except the muzzleloader season;
• add to the methods that turtles cannot be taken to include firearms, bow and arrow, crossbow, spears, harpoons or any other implement that impales turtles;
• add additional possession limits for certain turtle species; and
• make various changes to statutes that define fish diseases. (Art. 2, Secs. 2-17, 56, 64-65, 74-76)
Driving under the influence
It will be a crime to authorize or allow an individual a person knows or has reason to believe is under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or intoxicating substance to operate an off-road recreational vehicle or motorboat.
Existing laws that require revocation of a person’s driver’s license for failing or refusing to take a test to determine if the person is under the influence of intoxicating substances will extend to motorboats and off-road recreational vehicles. The same is true of provisions that require revocation of a person’s driver’s license upon conviction of operating under the influence of intoxicating substances. Persons the ignition interlock program cannot operate a motorboat or off-road recreational vehicle unless the boat or vehicle is equipped with an ignition interlock system. (Art. 3, Secs. 1-2, 4-5, 7-13)
To help with chronic wasting disease, the law gives the DNR and Board of Animal Health “concurrent authority to regulate farmed white-tailed deer,” and the DNR “may inspect farmed white-tailed deer.” Additionally, effective June 30, 2021, the importation of any cervidae carcass into Minnesota is prohibited.
The laws also:
• allows the DNR to convey conservation easements on state-owned land;
• effective June 30, 2021, lets the DNR convey easements for trails, highways or roads to federally recognized Indian tribes;
• allows bond proceeds to provide a match for money in the critical habitat private sector matching account and lets the DNR spend $2 for every $1 of match put into the account;
• provides administrative authority to the DNR to issue courtesy warnings for state park permit violations;
• allows the DNR to develop reasonable policies for special use permits to use state parks, recreation areas, waysides, trails and water access sites;
• provides a free annual state park permit to any member of the 11 federally recognized tribes in the state;
• statutorily establishes Riverlands State Forest;
• extends the Sustainable Forest Resources Act until June 30, 2028;
• requires BWSR to establish a program to provide financial assistance to local units of government to control water volume and flow rates;
• lets the DNR lease state-owned land for conservation planning purposes;
• requires the DNR to establish goals and strategies for increasing carbon sequestration in public and private forests, and report to the Legislature by Jan. 15, 2023; and
• lets the DNR prescribe conditions and issue permits to breed, propagate and sell snakes, lizards and salamanders. (Art. 2, Secs. 2-17, 21-22, 26, 33, 36, 38, 41-42, 45, 48, 54, 80, 118, 132)