Trichloroethylene (TCE) Ban
On a near-unanimous vote of 61-1, the Senate passed the “White Bear Area Neighborhood Concerned Citizens Group Ban TCE Act” banning the use of trichloroethylene (TCE), a volatile organic compound that is known to cause cancer and other detrimental health effects. The ban begins on June 1, 2022, with some exceptions, and requires the chemical replacement for TCE to be less toxic to human health and approved by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). Additionally, the MPCA’s Small Business Assistance Program will provide use of its $250,000 interest-free loan program to help small businesses evolve away from the use of TCE.
This legislation came in response to the revelation that the company Water Gremlin had been using TCE to create lead battery terminals and lead fishing sinkers and was also violating MPCA air emissions standards to a point where it would threaten human health up to a 1.5-mile radius around its facility. This violation had been occurring since 2009 and the long term-health impact to the White Bear Lake township is yet unknown. In response, legislators and others worked closely with the “Neighborhood Concerned Citizens Group,” which played a pivotal role in bringing agreement on a ban that could be signed into law. (SF 4073)
Outdoor Heritage Fund/Legacy Appropriations
Nearly $118 million is appropriated from Outdoor Heritage Fund to various conservation projects, as part of the Legacy Finance bill that passed the Senate unanimously. The 41 projects funded this year were carefully vetted by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC) over the past year, through its competitive public process. To reflect an updated budget forecast, the projects amounts have been reduced 14.2% from the Council’s original recommendations.
These funds will be used to protect native prairies, restore wetlands, enhance lakes and public lands, prevent forest fragmentation, and acquire land. The projects break down as follows:
• $35.8 million for prairie projects (reduced from LSOHC recommendation of$41.8 million);
• $13.7 million for forest projects (reduced from LSOHC recommendation of $15.9 million);
• $12.6 million for wetlands projects (reduced from LSOHC recommendation of $14.7 million);
• $55.4 million for other habitat projects and the conservation partners legacy grant program (reduced from LSOHC recommendations of $64.7 million).
A one-year extension is given to the availability of appropriations or grants from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, Clean Water Fund and Parks and Trails Fund that would otherwise cancel on June 30, 2020. A two-year extension is given to the availability of appropriations or grants from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund that would otherwise cancel on June 30, 2020, with more flexibility given to assist these grantees in maintaining financial sustainability during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency, to the extent permitted by the Minnesota Constitution. (HF 2682)
Provisions not passed
Omnibus Environment Bill
This bill includes various environmental policy initiatives that were considered this year, as well as the recommendations of the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) for environmental spending from the lottery-backed Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Provisions include:
- Certified salt applicator program — Seeks to reduce the amount of salt used by those who treat driveways, sidewalks and parking lots. Requires the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to develop a training program that promotes best practices for snow and ice removal and deicer application. Allows commercial applicators to obtain certification as a “water friendly applicator” if they successfully complete the program and pass an exam.
- Repeal of Car emissions standards authority — Removes authority of the MPCA to adopt maximum allowable standards for emission of air contaminants from motor vehicles, removing the agency’s ability to adopt Governor Walz’ proposed Clean Car Standards.
- PCA fees, effluent limitations, etc. – Makes numerous changes, including:
- Unadopted rules — Bars agencies from imposing or requiring a “policy, guideline, bulletin, criterion, manual, standard, interpretive statement, or similar pronouncement that has not been properly adopted” under Chapter 14 rulemaking.
- MPCA training fees – Requires the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to get legislative approval to increase training fees for water pollution control or subsurface sewage treatment system staff, and for wastewater laboratory certification.
- Effluent limitation compliance – To the extent allowed by federal law, allows that an industrial or state permit holder who constructs a treatment facility to comply with modified standards does not need to make further capital investment in the facility for 16 years.
- MPCA water permit fees – Requires MPCA to have legislative approval to increase water permit fees.
- Clean Air Act state implementation – Requires the MPCA to seek approval from the federal Environmental Protection Agency for a modification of the state’s Clean Air Act Implementation Plan to prohibit MPCA from applying an ambient air quality standard in permits issued solely to authorize operations to continue at an existing facility with unmodified emissions levels.
- Wake surfing on state waters regulation – Imposes restrictions on wake surfing, as follows: 1) prohibits individuals from wake surfing at greater than slow-no wake speed within 200 feet of a shoreline, dock, swimmer, swimming or diving raft, or a moored, anchored, or nonmotorized watercraft, and 2) prohibits wake surfing unless the watercraft is powered by a propeller located forward of the boat’s transom or swim platform, or by a jet drive.
- Water appropriations, wells and permitting– Modifies a number of conditions for water appropriations and wells.
- Cervidae carcass importation ban – Imposes a total ban on importing Cervidae carcasses. Current law bans importation of hunter-harvested carcasses; this bill extends the ban to importation of carcasses procured by any means.
- Antler point restriction prohibition — Ends antler point restriction in southeast Minnesota’s Series 300 deer permit areas.
- Metropolitan landfill abatement fund modification – Changes provisions that guide the metropolitan landfill abatement fund. Requires 95% of the money credited to the Metropolitan Landfill Abatement Account to be used for grants to counties for local recycling development.
- SWCD district supervisor compensation – Raises daily compensation for soil and water conservation district supervisors from $75 per day to $125 per day.
- Minnesota river water quality and storage — Establishes a Minnesota River Basin water quality and storage program to provide financial assistance to local units of government in the basin for projects that control water volume and rates but does not appropriate funds.
Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund Appropriations (LCCMR)
- $61.4 million for projects to be funded by the constitutionally dedicated Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). Project funding includes:
- $30 million for land acquisition, habitat and recreation projects that help maintain and improve parks, trails and recreation areas.
- $10.4 million for research and management of aquatic and terrestrial invasive species, including emerald ash borer and carp.
- $8.6 million for foundational data on such items as pollinator habitat, healthy prairies and hydrology for wetland protection.
- $3.6 million for water resource protection and management projects, such as developing certain strategies for managing per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
- $4.2 million for projects that protect or restore land, water, and habitat. SF 4499
First special session update
COVID-19 provisions passed:
Solid waste management tax exemption – The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Department of Revenue are authorized to provide an exemption from the solid waste management tax for a specific period when waste haulers had nowhere to take recyclables or compost because of COVID-19 restrictions. The shutdown of some composting and recycling facilities caused haulers to take materials to landfills instead, resulting in a disruption of the state’s solid waste management tax levy. Those facilities are now back online. Without the exemption, additional costs would be passed on to cities and, ultimately, taxpayers. (HF 37)
Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund Appropriations extension – A one-year extension is authorized, to June 30, 2021, for the availability of appropriations or grants from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund that would otherwise lapse June 30, 2020. This allows 50 projects to advance to completion. (HF 37)