The Environment and Climate bills passed by the Senate DFL this year reflect our commitment to being responsible stewards of our state’s natural resources by investing in popular programs and services that protect and enhance our environment, reduce the burden of pollution on our families and within communities of historic concern for environmental injustices, and make sweeping investments in the infrastructure that allows Minnesotans across the state to enjoy the outdoor spaces we all cherish. This budget reflects Minnesota’s shared value: a love and appreciation for our outdoor spaces and healthy communities that help our friends and families thrive.
ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE PROVISIONS
Cumulative Impacts Analysis Requirement for Certain Permits
Requires a cumulative impacts analysis to be undertaken by an applicant for a major air permit for a facility located within a mile of the seven-county metropolitan area or a city of the first class. The MPCA is also authorized to consult with Tribal governments for facilities located within Indian Country, at the request of a Tribal government. This provision applies to new, modified, and reissued permits, and it requires community benefits agreements to be reached between impacted communities and permit holders in areas that it is determined the permit would have adverse impacts on a community.
Community Air Monitoring System Grant Program
Provides $5 million for a pilot program at the MPCA to award grants to nonprofit organizations located in the seven-county metropolitan area to measure the level of air pollutants in multiple locations using a variety of low-cost air monitoring technologies, including mobile and sensor-based handheld devices. Funding priority is given to proposed projects in neighborhoods whose residents experience high rates of illness associated with exposure to air pollution.
PCA Settlement Funding for Community Health Boards
Requires the PCA, when recovering more than $250,000 from litigation or a settlement agreement regarding a permit violation, to transfer 40 percent of the money to the community health board in the area where residents may have been exposed to the pollution that was the subject of the litigation or settlement. The community health board is required to meet with the residents and develop a plan for the use of the funds that will benefit the residents.
Air Toxics Emissions Reporting
Requires facilities located in Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, and Washington Counties emitting air toxic compounds to annually report the amount and type of those emissions to the PCA. The PCA is also required to develop and adopt rules governing the regulation of these facilities. The new regulations will require the agency to monitor the impact of pollution on environmental justice areas.
Non-Expiring Permits – Public Meeting Requirements
In the event of an enforcement action from permit noncompliance, this allows the MPCA to require the holder of a non-expiring state individual air permit to hold in-person meetings with residents of the community where the facility is located.
Amara’s Law and New PFAS Provisions
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS, are an enormous and emerging family of manmade chemicals that are now pervasive in the environment. Referred to as ‘forever chemicals,’ this is a class of nearly 5,000 chemicals that do not break down and can accumulate in humans and other living organisms, water, soil, and air. PFAS have been detected across the entire state, and because they don’t break down, they will remain in our environment for generations.
Some studies have indicated exposure to certain PFAS chemicals in animals can cause reproductive and developmental defects, as well as liver, kidney, and immunological impacts, pregnancy complications and birth defects, thyroid disruption, and cancer. And because of the prevalence of PFAS in everyday products, we’ve seen a measurable increase in PFAS levels in groundwater and drinking water, and subsequently PFAS in fish and soil.
This year, Senate DFLers worked with the House, MPCA, and a broad set of environmental and consumer product advocates to pass legislation aimed at reducing the amount of PFAS introduced into our lives. The final legislation includes a ban on nonessential PFAS use in consumer products and a prohibition of PFAS in firefighting foam. And we also included a new requirement for MPCA to establish water quality and health standards for PFAS/PFOS.
This section of law will be known as Amara’s Law, after 20-year-old Amara Strande who passed away from cancer in late April 2023. Amara’s activism around the dangers of PFAS exposure came after growing up drinking PFAS-contaminated water at sites contaminated by 3M and developing incurable cancer at a young age; she spent the last months of her life testifying in support of these bills before the Legislature and can be credited as one of the reasons these provisions finally made it into law after years of efforts.
Tribal Sovereignty and Tribal-Led Initiatives
Several of the funding provisions within this year’s Environment budget were requested by Tribal Nations within Minnesota – in some cases for decades.
- $2 million is provided to the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to begin transplanting elk from Kittson County in northwest Minnesota to northern Carlton County and southern St. Louis County in order to reintroduce and reestablish a wild, free-ranging elk heard
- $6 million is provided as a payment from the State of Minnesota to the tribal signatories of the 1854 Treaty Agreement – the Grand Portage and Bois Forte Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa (note: the Fond du Lac Band withdrew from this agreement). This one-time payment is made in addition to the base amount paid by the state, currently $1.6 million for each of the two Bands. The Legislature also directs the executive branch to renegotiate payment terms with the Bands to provide the Legislature with an updated base payment for future biennium.
- $5 million is available to facilitate the transfer of Upper Sioux Agency State Park lands back to the Upper Sioux Community. This funding can be used to replace the recreational land that is being transferred, and it is anticipated that it will be used for local recreation efforts versus purchasing enough land for a new state park.
Chronic Wasting Disease and Farmed Cervidae Regulation
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a neurological disease affecting the cervid family – deer, elk, moose, reindeer, and caribou. The disease can be spread from both direct (animal-to-animal) and indirect (environmental) contact with infected deer, and deer that are infected with CWD can appear healthy and normal for a very long period of time. But unfortunately, there are no vaccines or treatments for CWD, and it is always fatal.
The 2021 Legislature issued concurrent authority over farmed white-tailed deer regulation to the DNR and Board of Animal Health. This change gave the DNR more authority to work directly with the BAH on the ongoing challenges associated with managing CWD, whereas previously the DNR was largely managing CWD with little authority over the farms that have contributed directly or indirectly to many of the CWD cases in the state.
This year, Senate DFLers worked extensively on new regulatory reforms for cervid farms, bringing together officials from all industries – the DNR, MDA, BAH, deer hunters advocates, deer farmers and advocates, elk farmers and advocates – to craft a proposal that is strong and reflects feedback from all impacted groups. The resulting language will eliminate the 2021 concurrent authority over deer farms and will instead shift the entire management over to the DNR.
In addition to regulations aimed at curbing the spread of the disease such as new requirements to prevent physical contact between farmed and wild cervidae and a moratorium on new white-tailed deer farms in the state, we also funded $1.6 million for research and contingency planning at the Minnesota Center for Prion Research (MNPRO) in the event CWD is detected in humans, and we are implementing a new CWD testing schedule for farmed cervidae upon USDA certification of a live animal test for CWD.
These regulations are accompanied by over $13.7 million for the DNR and partner agencies to cover every aspect of CWD and farmed cervidae management – both inside and outside the fence.
In 2000, the Legislature dedicated 97% of the payment in lieu of sales tax on lottery tickets to outdoor projects; this percentage was cut several times since 2003 likely due to budget deficits/concerns, until it reached its current percentage at 72.43% in 2014. This percentage is dedicated to five accounts:
- 50% to the heritage enhancement account, which is dedicated to improve, enhance, and protect fish and wildlife resources
- 22.5% for state parks and trails
- 22.5% for metropolitan parks and trails
- 3% for local trail grants
- 2% for zoos, which include the Minnesota Zoo, the Como Zoo, and the Duluth Zoo
This year, the Senate DFL passed legislation to rededicate a higher percentage of LIL funds back into these accounts, up from 72% to 81.56%. In addition to increasing the percentage going to existing accounts, we created two new accounts that will receive 1.5% apiece – one that will fund parks and trails in Greater Minnesota, and another that will connect diverse and underserved Minnesotans to cultural environmental experiences and activities.
2023 LCCMR Package and Environment Trust Fund Constitutional Reauthorization
With DFLers in charge of both chambers of the Legislature, for the first time in years, we were able to pass the LCCMR’s recommendations for Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund spending with no modifications. In addition to the standard, annual appropriations for recommended projects, we also passed certain reforms to capital projects funded by the ENRTF in order to bring these projects into closer alignment with the requirements of capital projects funded through the bonding process.
We also passed reforms that would modify the operations of the LCCMR to help streamline the approval process, reduce gridlock, and prevent conflicts of interest from driving decision-making. Included in these new changes:
- 8-year term limits for citizen members and bans on registered lobbyists from serving
- Increased guaranteed representation on the LCCMR by members of Minnesota Tribes
- Reducing the threshold for the LCCMR making recommendation to the legislature, from 12 votes to 11 votes
- Prohibiting members from voting on the final recommendations package if they have a conflict of interest with any of the projects within the package
This year, Senate DFLers also brought forward legislation to reauthorize the dedication percentage of lottery proceeds that goes to the ENRTF. Originally passed by Minnesota voters in 1988 and reauthorized in 1990 and 1998, this is set to once again expire in 2025 if not reapproved by voters in the 2024 general election. Unlike previous reauthorizations, however, this year’s bill makes slight modifications aimed at bringing equity into the ENRTF appropriations process.
If next year’s constitutional amendment is approved by Minnesotans, we will see a new community grants program using up to 1.5% annually from the ENRTF, in addition to the existing LCCMR process. This new grant program is designed to target smaller grant applicants that typically do not have the resources to go through a lengthy and labor intensive LCCMR process, especially within diverse communities and those harmed by pollution; specifics on the grant program’s operations will continue to be built out during the 2024 legislative process.
Lead Drinking Water Service Line Removal
Following the water crisis in Flint, Michigan and continued research on the harmful impacts of lead contamination in water, there is a strong push to remove and replace lead service lines that are the primary contributor to lead contamination in water. The Minnesota legislature passed a $240 million investment to supplement federal funding from the IIJA to set the state on a path to map, remove, and replace all lead service lines in the state.
The legislature passed $240 million appropriation for grants to remove and replace lead service lines for drinking water. The grants would be distributed by the Public Facilities Authority to community public water suppliers, municipalities, and other suppliers of residential drinking water. The Minnesota Department of Health would also receive funds for grants and technical assistance to municipalities to support work to map and inventory lead service lines within their jurisdiction.
The bill also sets a goal to remove all lead service lines by 2033. The bill requires workers be paid the prevailing wage and would ensure grant funds provided by the bill support the full cost of replacing privately owned portions of lines.
While the dangers of lead contamination have been known for some time, research continues to identify new dangers of lead poisoning. Exposure through drinking water is now the most common source of lead exposure, with lead service lines the largest source of lead in drinking water due to the amount of surface contact with water and degradation in service lines over time. Babies, children under six years, and pregnant women are at the highest risk. Lead service lines have been identified as the largest source of lead in drinking water and of lead exposure, as significant work has previously gone into educating and remediating the effects of lead-based paint.
Lead pipes are most commonly found connected to homes built before 1940, though lead continued to be used in plumbing parts up to 1986. Pre-1940 homes are found throughout Minnesota, and many do not have sufficient property records to determine the material of the service line. Funding and technical assistance for mapping work will identify all homes that currently have a lead service line.
This investment makes Minnesota a leader in tackling lead contamination in drinking water nationally and will support the health and well-being of Minnesotans across the state. It also has the benefit of creating good paying jobs to perform the removal and replacement work and is a critical support for smaller communities with higher proportions of older housing stock.
Climate Risk Disclosure Survey
The Commerce budget requires state-chartered banks and credit unions with $1 billion or more in assets to annually complete and submit a climate risk disclosure survey to the commissioner of commerce.
Protecting Pollinators and Pesticide Use
Pollinators are an integral part of ecosystems that support wildlife and ecological benefits such as carbon storage and improved water quality. The Ag budget invest $1 million in the next two biennium for pollinator research. This funding is aimed to improve pollinator habitat and pest management practices that reduce the effects of pesticides on pollinators while retaining the economic strength of Minnesota’s agriculture. The Ag budget also creates new pollinator friendly labeling requirements for plants and other nursery stock.
Several new provisions in this year’s environment budget and policy bill aim to strengthen our safety and understanding of interactions between pesticide application and our environment. Among those changes:
- $737,000 is being spent to study the impacts of neonicotinoid exposure on the reproduction and survival of Minnesota’s game species, including deer and prairie chicken
- Codifying existing DNR practices by preventing the application of neonicotinoids on WMAs, state parks, state forests, aquatic management areas, or scientific and natural areas
- Allowing cities of the first class to adopt city ordinances regulating pesticides, up to and including those that would ban the application of certain pesticides
- Clarifying statutes around the disposal of waste seed treated with pesticides by prohibiting disposal in certain places and situations and requiring state agencies to undergo rulemaking to clarify regulatory jurisdiction over treated seed