Bipartisan bill to help dry cleaners is headed to the governor’s desk

A bill passed off the Senate floor this week would provide aid for cleaning up sites of former dry cleaners; it also establishes a ban on the use of perchloroethylene (perc) as a dry-cleaning solvent, which is a toxic air pollutant known to cause adverse health effects.

When dry cleaners shut down, the sites must undergo cleanup to remove traces of any toxic substances that may be lingering in the soil and air. The state’s Dry Cleaner Environmental Response and Reimbursement Account was created to provide financial assistance in these cleanup efforts, but recent years have left the account short of funds as fewer dry cleaners remain to pay into the account. The legislation passed this week would provide additional funds to assist in these efforts, and future priority for reimbursements from the account will be given to dry cleaner owners, which is a change from the fund’s first-come-first-serve model that previously allowed anyone doing site cleanup to have immediate access to the funds – regardless of whether or not they paid into the account.

The legislation also includes a future ban on the use of perc, which was commonly used as a dry-cleaning solvent until it was categorized as a likely carcinogen to humans and is known to cause damage to the kidneys, liver, and immune system. While most dry cleaners have already phased out their use of perc, between 20-22 dry cleaners in the state still use the solvent and will need to phase it out by Dec. 31, 2025. Funding in the bill is also provided to assist in making the switch because doing so can be an expensive endeavor for dry cleaners to pursue, especially as they already face financial hardship due to the pandemic.

The legislation passed the House and Senate unanimously and will be sent to Governor Walz for his signature. (SF 167)