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Reaching clean energy goals an aim of omnibus environment bill that also includes fishing license, other fee hikes

Rep. Rick Hansen introduces HF2310, the omnibus environment, natural resources, climate and energy finance bill on the House Floor April 17. (Photo by Catherine Davis)
Rep. Rick Hansen introduces HF2310, the omnibus environment, natural resources, climate and energy finance bill on the House Floor April 17. (Photo by Catherine Davis)

— UPDATED at 11:39 p.m. following vote

Omnibus bills sometimes are criticized for being too large, too unwieldy and ­— in some quarters — too expensive.

At 473 pages, the omnibus environment, natural resources, climate and energy finance bill is big, but it is big for a reason, said Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul), who sponsors HF2310.

“This is a problem-solving bill, problems that have been around for a long time,” said Hansen, adding many of the solutions have been proposed before.  

Hanson said longtime issues would be addressed, citing the $93 million appropriation to replant trees in the wake of emerald ash borer devastation, money to replenish the metropolitan landfill trust fund, programs to fight aquatic invasive species, provisions to regulate perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances and funding for Lawns to Legumes, one of the most popular pollinator habitat programs in the country.

The bill was passed 69-59 by the House, as amended, late Monday and sent to the Senate.

It would authorize approximately $1.7 billion to fund operations at the Department of Natural Resources, Pollution Control Agency, Board of Water and Soil Resources, parks and trails managed by the Metropolitan Council, and the Minnesota Zoo.

It would also provide $356.7 million in funding for energy-related programs, with an emphasis on transitioning to renewable energy sources.

The bill includes provisions to help Minnesota reach its clean energy goals while addressing reliability and affordability, said Rep. Patty Acomb (DFL-Minnetonka), who chairs the House Climate and Energy Finance and Policy Committee. She said the state needs to rapidly transition to a clean-energy economy, which requires bold action and a multisector approach.

House Republican Press Conference 4/17/23

The bill would use onetime funding to make large investments in environmental infrastructure and jumpstart a move toward renewable energy. It would also increase certain fees to fund ongoing operations.

A lifetime fishing license for adults would go from $574 to $689, registration for a boat bigger than 40 feet would go from $90 to $209, and a one-day state park parking pass would go from $7 to $10.

“A theme of this bill is increased fees and increased costs, and not just small increases,” Rep. Josh Heintzeman (R-Nisswa) said during a press briefing earlier in the day. “According to [Minnesota Management and Budget], Minnesotans have 11% less disposable income and a $17.5 billion surplus. And Democrats are raising fees massively, making the outdoors less accessible. It’s just the wrong approach.”

Legislators adopted four amendments offered by Republicans, that would:

  • place income limits on those eligible for rebates on electric vehicle purchases;
  • ban the use of clean energy technologies that employ slave labor;
  • require the manufacture of those technologies to exceed Minnesota wage and labor standards; and
  • establish a task force to investigate conditions in mining facilities in China and the Congo.

Many Republicans argued that regulations it would authorize are overly burdensome and a major push to renewable energy distorts the market.

"Investors are rushing to Minnesota and buying up our land which should be concerning to everyone in this body,” said Rep. Pam Altendorf (R-Red Wing), who unsuccessfully offered an amendment to fund a study on solar power plants on prime farmland

Environment and natural resources

The bill calls for approximately $1 billion in General Fund spending for outdoor recreation, natural resource management and pollution control programs, including about $673 million in new biennial spending. Hansen called it an historic investment in the environment.

It would also authorize spending $79.3 million on about 85 projects from proceeds of the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, which receives money from the lottery.

[MORE: Download detailed environment and natural resources budget, change items and Environmental Trust Fund appropriations]

The DNR could also see an additional $25 million to $40 million per year through fee, license and reimbursement proposals in the bill.

Among the new appropriations would be:

  • $65 million for the Department of Natural Resources Get Out More program, which aims to improve outdoor recreation opportunities by, for example, updating fish hatcheries and campsites;
  • $40 million for resilient communities grants and technical assistance;
  • $25.9 million for waste prevention and reduction grants and loans;
  • $25 million to address PFAS in drinking water; and
  • $9 million for the Science Museum of Minnesota to retire debt and rehire staff.

Some policy provisions would:

  • require labeling of products containing PFAS and prohibit their use in things such as children’s products, cookware, dental floss, cosmetics, and ski wax;
  • require consideration of cumulative impact of pollutants in some disadvantaged areas;
  • prohibit the use of lead sinkers in metro area native swan habitats and lead shot for small game in some wildlife management areas;
  • simplify snowmobile registration decals;
  • phase in watercraft operator education and permitting for adults;
  • increase fencing requirements for white-tailed deer farms; and
  • transfer state-owned land within the boundaries of Upper Sioux Agency State Park to the Upper Sioux Community for no cost.

Provisions that would increase fines for anyone who kills wild game with malicious intent and would prohibit managing the wolf population by recreational hunting were added by amendments Monday.

[MORE: Details of the environment and natural resources portion of the bill]

Climate and energy provisions

In order to align the omnibus bills more closely with those that will come out of the Senate, the House omnibus climate and energy finance bill was merged into the omnibus environment and natural resources finance bill in the House Ways and Means Committee last week.

The largest climate and energy appropriations in the bill would fund:

  • grant programs for pre-weatherization and workforce training;
  • the Solar on Schools program;
  • the Prairie Island Indian Community’s efforts to become a net-zero energy community;
  • creating a Minnesota Climate Finance Authority for funding smaller renewable energy projects;
  • electric vehicle rebates;
  • air source heat pump rebates;
  • distributed energy resource system upgrades; and
  • a solar rewards program.

[MORE: Details of the climate and energy portion of the bill]

The bill would also set sustainable building guidelines for state buildings, and set Public Utilities Commission policy for the implementation of customer-owned distributed generation facilities, energy storage systems, a building energy benchmarking system, and dealing with customer disputes.

It would also establish a new greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal for the state, increase the maximum capacity of community solar gardens, alter the definition of “low-income households” to qualify for energy conservation assistance, and make it so homeowners associations couldn’t block residential solar installations.

Funding for the bill’s energy programs would come chiefly from the state’s General Fund and the Renewable Development Account. That account was set up in 1994 when Xcel Energy was given permission to store nuclear waste at its Prairie Island plant in southeastern Minnesota, with its Monticello plant added in 2007. The fund is earmarked for grants for the development of renewable energy sources in Minnesota.

Unsuccessful amendments in the energy area included proposals to institute a moratorium on motor vehicle emissions rulemaking, and eliminate sustainable building guidelines from the bill.

— Session Daily writer Rob Hubbard contributed to this story.


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