Legislature passes, Governor vetoes wild rice water quality standard bill

The Senate and House gave final approval this week to a bill that nullifies the state’s current 10 mg/L wild rice water quality sulfate standard, and prevents a more recently developed equation-based standard from taking effect. The bill was sent to the Governor, who vetoed it, calling it overreach by state legislators and a violation of the federal Clean Water Act. He said it ensures ongoing litigation that will prolong current regulatory uncertainties.

The bill holds strong support among communities in northern Minnesota, who worry about high costs related to tougher water discharge standards. Supporters say the bill puts a stop to current activities and allows time for industry, municipalities, government, and other stakeholders to work on a solution that can move forward. Opponents, including environmental organizations and Native American tribes, maintain the bill ignores the scientific research behind the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s work, and will inevitably result in litigation.

In his veto letter, the Governor appealed to legislators to use the remainder of the legislative session to bring stakeholders together and find a resolution that respects federal law, provides regulatory certainty to affected companies and municipalities, and protects Minnesota’s wild rice for future generations. Supporters of the bill were disappointed with the Governor’s rejection of the bill and said they would work with Governor Dayton and other groups to find a workable solution.

The Senate approved the bill for final passage on a vote of 38-28. (HF 3280)