ST. PAUL, Minn. – Bipartisan legislation passed unanimously off the Senate floor today in response to the toxic release of Trichloroethylene (TCE) at the Water Gremlin Company. This legislation, SF 2307, creates a new TCE response account in the Environmental Fund which will be used to address the effects of this exposure on communities affected by its release.
“The TCE exposure that our communities went through led to a record-setting fine, and it’s of the utmost importance that these stakeholders and community members have a say in how the proceeds of this fine are used,” said Senator Jason Isaacson (DFL-Shoreview) who was a co-author on both bills. “This exposure never should have happened, but now we must make sure that our response puts those affected first.”
The account consists of the net proceeds of the civil penalty paid to MPCA as part of the settlement and earnings on the investment of money in the account. The money may be invested through the State Board of Investment. Money in the account may be spent to assess and address the effects of unlawful emissions of TCE in the “TCE area of concern.” The company is to pay a civil penalty of $4.5 million, and the TCE response account is expected to included approximately $2.2 million of this penalty.
The MPCA commissioner must work with stakeholders to identify and recommend to the legislature projects to receive funding from the TCE emission response account. Stakeholder recommendations may include:
- The broad purposes or projects for which money should be appropriated
- The need for additional testing, investigations, or research
- Ways to improve communication between state and federal officials and local governments, citizens, and businesses when hazardous chemicals are (or may be) leaked into a community
- Policy or law changes that would facilitate a better response to future releases of hazardous chemicals
The bill now awaits action in the House.