Bill to require legislative approval of Pollution Control Agency fee increases heads to the Senate floor

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On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee approved a bill that requires legislative approval of certain Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) water-related fees. These include fees for water and subsurface treatment personnel training, water supply system and wastewater treatment facility application review and certification, wastewater laboratory certification, and water permitting.

Under current law, many of the agency’s fees are adjusted through agency rulemaking, a process that involves a standard rulemaking process and includes input from the public. The agency is considering rule amendments that could alter a variety of water-related permits, including municipal industrial wastewater permits, storm water permits, feedlot permits, septic systems, and others.

According to the MPCA, fees charged by the agency for water-related permitting cover only 17% of the cost of delivering programs associated with the fees, and fees charged across programs are inconsistent, with some regulated parties covering more than their share than others. These fees have not been comprehensively increased for more than 25 years, while the cost of doing the work covered by the fees has risen.

The bill’s author argues that proposed MPCA fee increases should come before the legislature for scrutiny and approval, as do many DNR fees increases such as hunting and fishing license fee increases. This position is backed by the Agrigrowth Council, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, and the League of Minnesota Cities.

Opponents of the bill include the agency itself and environmental organizations. They argue that state agencies are required to collect fees for regulatory and licensing work that reflect the actual costs. This bill limits the agency’s ability to recover the costs of its program and micromanages its ability to do the work.

The bill will be heard next on the Senate floor.  (SF. 2637)