Environment and Natural Resources
PASSED AND SIGNED INTO LAW
Sophia’s law – HF 3755
In 2016, the Legislature passed the first comprehensive carbon monoxide law for boaters in the United States in response to the tragic death of seven-year-old Sophia Baechler, who passed away from carbon monoxide poisoning while boating with her parents in 2015. “Sophia’s Law” requires certain boats that have an enclosed accommodation compartment to have a CO detector installed. This year, the Legislature amended Sophia’s Law to allow the use of stand-alone carbon monoxide monitors along with current marine CO monitors. Making both types of monitors permissible under the law provides boaters with greater protection from CO poisoning.
3M settlement – HF 3660
The Legislature established a water quality and sustainability account in the state’s remediation to house the $850 million settlement the state reached with 3M. Settlement resources are financing water quality initiatives in east metro area communities, including Oakdale, Lake Elmo, Cottage Grove, Afton, Newport, West Lakeland Township, and Grey Cloud Island Township. Under the bill:
- The commissioners of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) must jointly submit an implementation plan by April 1, 2019; and specified periodic reports to the Legislature on spending from the fund.
- The MPCA and DNR commissioners must receive approval from the local unit of government before assuming control or otherwise operating an existing municipal water supply operation in the east metro area.
- The MPCA and DNR are directed to work with stakeholders to identify and recommend projects to be funded with money in the account, including representatives of the MPCA, DNR, east metro municipalities, and 3M. The commissioners must establish a process to solicit and evaluate the recommendations from municipalities in the east metro area.
- The MPCA commissioner must develop a webpage that includes the process for private and public per fluorinated chemical (PFC) well sampling in the east metro area, an interactive map allowing the public to view locations of well advisories and areas projected to be sampled for PFCs, and other information. Results of private well testing must be reported annually to east metro communities and to the legislature.
Environmental trust fund appropriations – Capital investment bill – HF 4425
The Legislature appropriated $45.7 million from the environment and natural resources trust fund for 61 projects in the bonding bill. The Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) recommended most of these projects, which fall under the following categories:
- Foundational natural resource data and information (12 projects) — $5.8 million
- Water resources (12 projects) — $5.8 million
- Technical assistance, outreach, and environmental education (12 projects) — $4.9 million
- Aquatic and terrestrial invasive species (6 projects) — $5.8 million
- Air quality and renewable energy (3 projects) — $1.2 million
- Methods to protect or restore land, water, and habitat (8 projects) — $2.5 million
- Land acquisition, habitat, and recreation (12 projects) — $17.4 million
- Debt service on Appropriation Bonds — $2.9 million (3% of total)
ENRTF-backed appropriation bonds
The Legislature appropriated $2.9 million in FY2019 and up to $7.8 million each year for 19 years to finance environment and natural resources trust fund-backed appropriation bonds. These appropriations are paid for with ENRTF proceeds available for annual spending. The bill takes the following actions:
- $98 million in appropriation bonds is provided to finance specific projects.
- The LCCMR’s governing statute is changed to allow for:
- Spending on principle and interest of appropriation bonds.
- Allowing ENRTF funds to be spent on municipal water pollution control for municipalities with populations under 5,000.
- Adjusting interest rates for water system improvement loans.
- The LCCMR is directed until 2021 to consider wastewater treatment system grants up to $10 million and wastewater treatment system loans up to 5% of the ENRTF corpus for municipalities with population under 5,000.
- The LCCMR is directed to consider recommending ENRTF funds in FY2020 to finance cleanup of the Burnsville Landfill.
Outdoor Heritage Fund appropriations – HF 3423
The Legislature appropriated $113.9 million from the Outdoor Heritage Fund to finance 47 projects recommended for FY 2019 by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. The bill includes $35 million for 14 prairie projects, $9 million for six forest projects, $28 million for six wetlands projects, and $50 million for 18 habitat projects. It maintains the recommendations of the Lessard-Sams outdoor heritage fund, which is part of Minnesota’s Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment approved by a majority of voters in 2007.
Regulatory certainty – HF 2802
Municipalities that construct wastewater treatment facilities in order to comply with a new or modified permit limit do not have to comply for 16 years with any new or modified limitation adopted after construction begins.
White Bear Lake groundwater appropriation – HF 4003
Until July 1, 2019, the DNR is prohibited from spending funds to suspend or revoke a water appropriation permit, issue an order requiring a violation to be corrected, assess monetary penalties, or otherwise take enforcement action against a permit holder if the violation is a result of the White Bear Lake Court Order. The bill temporarily provides that public water suppliers in the metro area are not required to take certain measures related to groundwater appropriation.
Solid waste/organized collection – HF 3095
Requirements are modified for cities or towns that would like to establish a system of organized solid waste collection. The bill allows for separate liability for haulers who work in an organized collection system, establishes a working group when cities undertake organized collection, and sets an agenda for working group meetings.
DID NOT PASS
Salt/chloride legislation – SF 3199
The MPCA is required to support a voluntary certification program for commercial salt applicators and provide liability protection for applicators who participate in the program.
Buffer law implementation waivers
The conditional compliance waiver for public water riparian protection requirements for individuals who filed a compliance plan by November 1, 2017 is extended by one year to July 1, 2019. Filing a compliance plan for public drainage system riparian protection by November 1, 2018 also provides a conditional compliance waiver until July 1, 2019. Republican lawmakers removed this policy from the supplemental budget (SF 3656) during the conference committee process in reaction to objections expressed by Governor Dayton.
Wild rice water quality standard
Governor Dayton vetoed two bills that change the existing sulfate standard for wild rice waters. He said both bills violated the federal Clean Water Act. Following the vetoes, the Governor issued Executive Order 18-08 to establish the Governor’s Wild Rice Task Force, to review the scientific literature concerning wild rice and sulfates, recommend a list of wild rice waters, and produce a report including recommendations for best practices.
- The first wild rice bill includes legislative findings about wild rice, nullification of the existing 10 mg/l sulfate standard as well as a proposed equation-based standard, and funds for wild rice protection and restoration. (HF 3280)
- The second wild rice bill does not contain language to strictly nullify the current rule, but it does include limitations to state’s ability to implement the current 10 mg/l standard. Those limitations would be lifted after rules get amended to refine the standard to consider all research. A work group with appointees from specific groups would submit a report that would propose restoration activities and evaluate the impact of sulfate and sulfur compounds on wild rice. The bill includes funds for wild rice protection and restoration, and for the working group. (HF 3422)
Supplemental budget – SF 3656
- Accelerated buffer strips. Modifies the purposes of the agriculture best management practices (AgBMP) loan program to include low- or no-cost financing to local units of government, including drainage authorities, watershed districts, and counties. It also modifies AgBMP loan program definitions to allow local municipalities or counties with taxing or special assessment authority, watershed districts, drainage authorities, and townships to be local lenders under the program.
- Muskie stocking moratorium. Imposes a five-year moratorium on the stocking of muskellunge in waters that are wholly located in Otter Tail County, except those located wholly within a state park. The DNR is required to convene a stakeholder group to examine the effects of muskellunge stocking in Otter Tail County. It appropriates $100,000 from the game and fish fund for a grant to the University of Minnesota to conduct a statewide survey and analysis of Minnesota anglers’ attitudes toward fish stocking.
- Chronic Wasting Disease. Creates a Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) task force to examine whether and how the legislative auditor’s CWD-related recommendations should be implemented, methods to improve the coordination and effectiveness of CWD prevention and response, and whether it is possible to develop new methods for CWD detection. It appropriates $1.3 million for CWD response and creates a Board of Animal Health task force to examine the board’s effectiveness, whether the structure of the board is optimally designed, and other related issues.
- Voter registration information/DNR website. Requires the DNR to include voter registration information on its website that allows residents to buy hunting and fishing licenses, with a direct link to the secretary of state’s online voter registration website. Also, voter registration information is required in the printed and digital versions of the DNR’s annual game and fish summary.
- External peer review. Requires the MPCA to facilitate external peer reviews of all new or revised numeric water quality standards. It establishes a process for conducting the peer review and the development of support documents for water quality standards.
- Forest inventory improvements. Requires the Minnesota Forest Resources Council to make recommendations for improving stand-level forest inventories, in cooperation with the Interagency Information Cooperative and the University of Minnesota.
- Clean Water Legacy Act. Makes updates and improvements are made to the Clean Water Legacy Act and local water management programs to achieve coordinated watershed management changes, moving toward “one watershed, one plan.”
- MPCA Small Business Loan Program. Makes updates to the MPCA’s small business loan program. Loan eligibility is expanded, and loan conditions are modernized by lowering allowable interest rates and increasing the maximum loan amount.
MPCA fee Increases – legislative approval – SF 2940
The MPCA is prohibited from increasing fees for water-related activities until it receives legislative approval.
MESERB review of MPCA water quality work – HF 4425
Governor Dayton line-item vetoed a $1 million appropriation in the bonding bill to finance additional review of the MPCA’s work on water quality standards and permits, to be performed by the Minnesota Environmental Science and Economic Review Board (MESERB). The board is composed of 48 joint powers board members, largely cities in Greater Minnesota.