A Clean & Healthy Minnesota (Environment & Climate)

Note: Most provisions below were passed as part of the 2024 Omnibus Environment bill (HF 3911). The SF or HF listed with each provision corresponds to the standalone bill each provision came from.

Packaging Waste and Cost Reduction Act

This program establishes a new statewide recycling initiative that requires product producers to form a product stewardship organization funded by producers and regulated by the Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). The new model will reduce environmental impacts of the packaging choices for consumer products, incentives sustainable packaging choices by producers, and require producers to share the financial burden of recycling these products, which is currently paid for by taxpayers and local units of government.

Producers will pay into a management organization called a producer responsibility organization (PRO), which will use these funds to manage the collection, sorting, reuse, recycling, and composting of packaging and paper products. The PRO will also fund infrastructure and market development for these materials and reimburse local governments running recycling programs. The costs of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program must be internalized by the PRO, which is prohibited from charging point-of-sale fees.

This framework is anticipated to provide sustainable funding for reuse and recycling programs, including for infrastructure development and system expansions, and it aims to increase reuse and recycling rates statewide. The program includes comprehensive consumer education, encourages sustainable sourcing of materials, and promotes green jobs and business development opportunities in Minnesota. (SF 3561)

Additional waste reduction efforts

Boat wrap product stewardship:
Establishes a statewide product stewardship program financed and operated by producers of boat wrap to collect and recycle boat wrap sold in the state. Modeled after the existing paint stewardship program, producers would be required to provide educational materials on the program and how boat wrap purchasers can recycle the product at the end of its useful life. (SF 3427)

Banning fluorescent lighting:
In an effort to decrease pollution from toxic chemicals – such as mercury – in landfills, Minnesota follows the lead of seven other states by banning the sale of most fluorescent light bulbs in the state, beginning Jan. 1, 2025. (SF 3345)

Critical materials recovery taskforce:
Requires the MPCA to establish a Critical Materials Recovery Advisory Task Force to advise the PCA on policy and program options designed to increase the recovery of critical materials from end-of-life products. The task force will report back to the Legislature with their findings on or before Dec. 30, 2025. (SF 4523)

A clean and healthy environment

Nitrate pollution in southeast Minnesota
In addition to funding in other issue areas, the 2024 Omnibus Environment Supplemental Finance bill included $850,000 for manure management activities, with priority for these funds to be spent in areas with vulnerable groundwater and in the karst region of the state.

For additional information on funding to address nitrate pollution in southeast Minnesota, see Agriculture and Legacy sections. (SF 3527)

Growing Minnesota’s tree canopy
Following up on the investments made by the Legislature in 2023, this year’s supplemental funding bill includes nearly $12 million in additional grants for community tree replacement. (HF 3911)

Public waters
In response to a 2022 Minnesota Supreme Court decision, the Legislature provided statutory clarification to the definition of a “public water” by indicating that the state’s Public Water Inventory (PWI) is not the sole resource for determining whether something is – or is not – a public water. But to ensure that the public will always be able to rely on the PWI to provide an accurate list of public waters in the state, this year’s Legislature provided directive to and funding for the DNR to update this critical resource, which hasn’t been fully updated in nearly a decade. (SF 3558)

Environmental permitting and regulatory enforcement

Regulatory enforcement authority:
Several provisions in this year’s Environment Omnibus bill aimed at enhancing agencies’ ability to respond to pollution violations and hold bad actors accountable.

MPCA is directed to develop a protocol that can be utilized to bring noncompliant air permit holders into compliance, and in the event that a permittee is engaging in repetitive and ongoing violations, the PCA can now step in to temporarily halt their operation until violations are corrected.

Maximum violation penalties for certain activities and for repeat offenders have been increased, which will allow environmental agencies like PCA and BWSR to compel corrective actions more effectively, particularly for organizations that chose to pay a fine instead of ceasing noncompliant behaviors. (SF 3867, SF 4379, SF 4433)

Air monitoring for vulnerable communities:
In addition to requiring the PCA to develop protocols for air permit violations, the Legislature also provided nearly current and ongoing funding for installing stationary air monitoring equipment within communities that have historically been burdened with high levels of industrial air pollution. (HF 3911)

Coordinated project planning:
Applicants for a major environmental permit will now be able to request that all state agencies with permitting authority over the project develop a coordinated project plan that would coordinate all state agency efforts and project timelines. (SF 3887)

Helium regulatory framework
Requires the DNR to work with other state agencies in conducting an expedited process for establishing a new regulatory framework for Minnesota’s emerging helium industry. The interim regulatory framework will be sent back to the Legislature for review and approval, after which the state may begin seeing projects to tap into the historic levels of helium discovered in northern parts of the state. (SF 5048)

Tax forfeited lands

Changes to the tax forfeiture process:
Establishes a new procedure for selling tax forfeited lands and distributing the proceeds of the sale. With these changes, former landowners who have had their properties forfeited will now be entitled to any surplus proceeds generated by the sale of the land, after outstanding debts and balances have been resolved.

In addition, the state will also expand access to housing support resources, particularly for historically impacted communities and for those who have forfeited their properties; counties will be required to make targeted efforts to list notice of tax forfeited land sales within diverse communities, and for the first 30 days of a public auction for a tax forfeited parcel, only individuals who intend to own and occupy the property as a residence/for noncommercial use will be permitted to submit bids.

The need for this bill arises from the May 2023 United States Supreme Court decision in Tyler v Hennepin County, as well as subsequent litigation related to tax-forfeited land. The question before the Court in Tyler looked at whether the failure to return surplus sale proceedings constituted an unconstitutional taking without just compensation, in violation of the Fifth

Amendment of the US Constitution. The Legislature’s response with this legislation not only provides the state with a constitutional process for handling tax forfeitures, it also brings a new focus on equity into the process by providing additional housing support and an emphasis on homeownership for Minnesotans.

Additional information about provisions related to the Tyler v. Hennepin proceedings can be found under the ‘Taxes’ section. (HF 5247)

Tribal right of first refusal for certain tax forfeited lands:
Aligning with existing state practices, this would require counties to offer tax-forfeited land parcels located entirely within Indian reservation boundaries to the appliable Tribal Nation first.

In the late 1880s, reservations nationwide were allotted into individual parcels (Dawes Act of 1887), which were sold to various public and private entities over generations, leading to a patchwork of tribal and non-tribal public and private ownership of reservation lands that is still seen today. The DNR largely already follows this process, so this codification would make it an official part of the tax forfeited process by giving Tribal Nations the right to purchase any lands existing within the historical boundaries of their reservations. (SF 3557)

2024 Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) projects

In 1988, a constitutional amendment establishing the environment and natural resources trust fund (ENRTF) was approved by 77% of Minnesota voters. The purpose of the ENRTF is to provide a long-term, consistent, and stable source of funding for activities that protect, conserve, preserve, and enhance Minnesota’s air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources for the benefit of current and future Minnesotans. These projects are reviewed annually by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), and their recommendations are submitted to the Legislature for approval.

This year’s bill provides a total of $79.644 million for 101 projects across the entire state. (HF 3377)

Did Not Pass

Outdoor Schools for All

A Senate DFL priority from this session would have established the Outdoor School for All grant program under the DNR. Accredited overnight outdoor school providers and regional nonprofit learning centers with similar experiences would have been eligible for funding to expand access

to these programs, which aimed at providing students with opportunities to directly experience and understand nature and the natural world.

Though this new grant program did not make it across the finish line this year, the DNR has been directed to review their current programs designed to connect youth with outdoor opportunities and report back to the Legislature on their statuses, including highlighting any gaps in existing programs that could be filled through future legislative actions. (SF 3347)

Electronic waste

A Senate DFL bill this year sought to establish a framework for collecting and recycling all electronic waste in the state. Over 266 million pounds of electronic waste are available for recycling in Minnesota each year, but only 23.7% gets captured under our current waste management system, according to a 2023 pilot study conducted by a group of recycling advocates and university researchers. Though this specific bill did not advance this session, the work to advance e-waste recycling efforts is anticipated to be continued by the Critical Materials Recovery task force that did pass this session. (SF 3940)

Returning land to Minnesota Tribal Nations

Though the 2024 Environment Omnibus did include two provisions aimed at returning land to Tribal Nations – the return of a parcel of land in Mille Lacs County and establishing a statutory right of first purchase for certain tax-forfeited properties – there were two land return requests not passed that received a significant amount of media coverage during the session.

The first sought to return tax-forfeited properties in the White Earth State Forest to the White Earth Nation; the land transferred to the Tribe would remain open to recreational activity by non-Tribal members. The White Earth Nation has been in discussions with the DNR over initiating the return of these lands to Tribal ownership, and these discussions are expected to continue. (SF 3480)

The second proposal sought to return state-owned land to the Red Lake Nation, which would include the remaining portion of Red Lake not currently included in the boundaries of the reservation and a 1-mile buffer of the land around that section of lake. The Red Lake Nation seeks this land return in order to reflect tribal boundaries in accordance with 1889 treaty negotiations with the Federal Government. (SF 5080)

Supporters of efforts to return lands to Indigenous Nations (increasingly referred to as the “Land Back Movement”) have argued that these are opportunities to right historical wrongs and provide reparations for state and federal policy decisions that disposed Tribal Nations of their lands. Those who have voiced concerns raise the potential negative impacts the loss of lands will have on tax revenues for the local community/county as well as a desire to maintain legal access to certain lands, particularly when private, non-Tribal landowners will have to continue accessing them.

Senate DFL Media