Omnibus Environment Bill moves to Senate floor

The Senate Environment Finance Committee heard the omnibus environment bill this week and passed it to the Senate floor. The bill is largely made up of policy items that had been considered earlier in the legislative session by the Environmental Policy and Environmental Finance Committees.  

While the bill includes provisions dealing with a wide variety of environmental and outdoor issues, a few issues received the most attention.  These were:

  • A provision that removes Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) authority to promulgate state rules for Governor Walz’s Clean Cars executive order, which directs Minnesota to adopt California’s Clean Car Standards. Those supporting the removal believeadoption of clean car standards creates hardship for Minnesota auto dealers. Opponents strongly disagree, sayingthis rulemaking is a badly needed tool to reduce Minnesota’s transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, save Minnesotans money, protect public health, and give Minnesotans access to more electric vehicle models.
  • New statewide restrictions on wake surfing that would bar individuals from wake surfing at greater than slow-no wake speed within 200 feet of shorelines, docks and other structures, and would require wake surfing boats to be powered by a propeller located forward of the boat’s transom or swim platform, or by a jet drive. These restrictions are supported by the state’s recreational boating industry, which maintains they are adequate and enforceable. There was strong pushback by opponents, who say artificially enhanced wakes created by wake boats causes significant environmental damage to lakes and lakeshore and is a safety risk for people.  Opponents call for a restriction of at least 1000 feet from the boat to shore, and a minimum water depth of 16 feet.

One item in the bill calls for the establishment of a certified salt applicator program to improve water quality by reducing the amount of salt used by those who treat driveways, sidewalks and parking lots.  Under the program, the MPCA would develop a training program for salt applicators that promotes best practices and allows commercial applicators to be certified as a “water friendly applicator” if they successfully complete the program and pass and pass an exam.

Another initiative calls for the establishment of a new Minnesota River Basin water quality and storage program that would allow for financial assistance to local units of government in the basin for projects that control water volume and rates, but it does not include appropriation of funds.

Following discussion and testimony, the bill was approved by the Environment and Natural Resources Finance committee on a 10-2 roll call vote and forwarded to the Senate floor. (SF 4499)