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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL)

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Minnesota House approves Environment and Natural Resources budget

Thursday, April 22, 2021

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed its Environment and Natural Resources budget on a vote of 70-63. This legislation aims to protect and enhance Minnesota’s environment and natural resources for current and future generations. 

“Problem solving is not easy, but that is why Minnesotans elected us,” said Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL - South St. Paul), chair of the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee. “Minnesotans are proud of our state’s many natural resources, and we want current and future generations to be able to enjoy the great outdoors. This is a problem-solving bill that addresses unprecedented threats to our environment and protects our air, water, land, and wildlife.” 

Minnesota’s environment and natural resources are facing unprecedented threats, including climate change, pollution, chronic wasting disease (CWD), and invasive species. The budget delivers funding to address these threats and develop effective solutions. For example, it would help mitigate climate change by using forests to sequester carbon and establishing a climate adaptation and resiliency program to assist local and tribal governments. To prevent air pollution and drinking water contamination, the bill provides resources to help the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) ensure facilities are complying with permits and hold polluters accountable. It includes strong regulations, such as banning the use of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food packaging and establishing new water quality standards to regulate them, that would protect Minnesotans’ health and wellbeing. The legislation also includes funding and stronger regulations to prevent the spread of CWD, a fatal neurological disease that affects deer and similar species. Additional funding would help manage aquatic invasive species and terrestrial invasive species, including emerald ash borer.  

“All Minnesotans deserve clean air and water, and House DFLers are taking action to address the significant threats to our environment,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “Our budget includes innovative solutions to mitigate the impact of climate change, and we're addressing racial inequities that often place communities of color at the highest risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals and contaminated water. We must protect our environment and natural resources for generations to come.” 

The legislation contains significant investments to preserve and enhance Minnesota’s water, air, land, and wildlife. It invests more than $131 million from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund in dozens of critical projects across Minnesota. Funding for Soil and Water Conservation Districts, cleaning up landfills and other contaminated sites, water monitoring and storage, forest inventory and sustainable forestry, improving soil health, carpet waste reduction, and other important initiatives is included as well. The bill also invests in the popular Lawns to Legumes program, prohibits turtle harvesting, and allows cities to ban pesticides that are lethal to pollinators. 

“Minnesotans treasure our lakes, rivers, forests, and farmland. Minnesotans don’t treasure polluters that get to write their own rules,” said Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “Democrats are advancing policies that ensure current and future generations have clean land, air, and water. And we’ll block science-denying Republican politicians from selling out our environment to the highest corporate bidder.” 

The bill contains funding to operate and maintain parks, trails, and recreation areas across Minnesota. Economic relief for the industries and attractions that were impacted by COVID-19 is included, with support for the Minnesota Zoo, the Science Museum of Minnesota, Explore Minnesota, and Conservation Corps. Other measures, such as creating an Outdoor Engagement Grant Account to provide private funding for the No Child Left Inside Grant Program, aim to ensure every Minnesotan can access the outdoors and recreational activities, especially children and young adults.

Finally, the legislation addresses racial and economic disparities. Recognizing that communities of color, Indigenous communities, and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by exposure to hazardous chemicals and contaminated water, it directs the MPCA to establish environmental justice communities using U.S. Census data. The agency would be required to consider the community’s history of exposure and socioeconomic conditions when issuing new or modified permits. The bill also ensures that Minnesotans who work in or live near permitted facilities have a voice in the permitting process. If a facility exposes community members to hazardous chemicals or pollution, the residents will have a chance to be involved in the settlement process as well. 

The bill language can be accessed here, and a spreadsheet of the investments made in the budget can be accessed here. Video of the floor session will be available on House Public Information Services’ YouTube channel