The 2012 Environmental Permitting Bill, which included important forestry and mining permitting provisions authored by State Senator Tom Saxhaug, was signed into law on April 2. In addition to streamlining the environmental review process, Senator Saxhaug’s legislation will help Minnesota’s timber and mining industries.
Senator Saxhaug’s provision will help sustain Minnesota’s forest products industry by leveling the playing field for producers interested in using Minnesota’s abundant timber resources to create value added products. “Unless a wood based facility produces 120 million gallons of cellulosic bio-fuels, they won’t be subject to an EIS, the same as corn based ethanol,” Saxhaug said. Cellulosic bio-fuels are the next generation of ethanol technology that will produce fuel from wood. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, one of the benefits of cellulosic ethanol is that it reduces greenhouse gas emission by 85 percent over reformulated gasoline. “In addition to developing a cleaner fuel, this bill provides our timber industry with a much-needed economic boost by expanding the market for wood.” said Sen. Saxhaug. “We are trying to create good paying jobs that are badly needed after the shutdown of the Ainsworth OSB mills in Bemidji, Grand Rapids and Cook.”
Magnetation is the process where tailing ponds and old mine dumps are recycled to produce a concentrate that is 60 percent iron ore. The concentrate can then be used to make taconite pellets that are 62 percent iron and nuggets that are 95 percent iron. “The language for Magnetation will speed up the permitting process without reducing our environmental standards,” said Saxhaug. “In fact, the pilot project may allow an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in as little as ten months without sacrificing any environmental protections or the opportunity for public input.” The Department Natural Resources will be the Responsible Governmental Unit and will work with the Pollution Control Agency. In 2016, the departments will report to the Environmental Quality Board on the outcomes of the project and make recommendations for potential changes to state law.
“This is good legislation that will take a practical look at the environmental permitting process. It will go a long way towards helping our timber and mining industries by adding value to their products and creating good paying jobs,” said Saxhaug.
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