Senate Republicans roll back environmental protections in this year’s environmental omnibus bill

The Environment Policy Committee this week heard the policy provisions for the Senate Republicans’ 2021 Environmental Omnibus Bill. Like previous years, they have opted to pursue controversial pieces of policy that strip our agencies of their authority to protect our natural resources and manage the state’s levels of pollution in our air, waters, and soils.

Among the most controversial provisions included in the bill is another attempt to strip MPCA of their authority to adopt more stringent vehicle emissions standards, standards that would open up the electric vehicle market in the state and give Minnesotans more options if they choose to purchase a fully electric or hybrid electric vehicle. Right now, less than half of the models available elsewhere in the country are available for purchase here in the state. If the Senate Republican provision became law, the state’s agency charged with regulating pollution would not be able to address one of the leading sources of air pollution – vehicle emissions.

Additional provisions in the bill include one that would weaken the state’s standards for wastewater pollution, another that would hinder the state’s ability to ensure groundwater levels are sustainable in communities across the state, and a third would prohibit the state from enforcing best management practices to ensure our soil is kept healthy.

Senate DFLers on the committee offered several amendments to try to clean up some of the bill’s language and make it a bipartisan piece of legislation, but each amendment was voted down by Republicans on a party-line vote. The bill was moved out of the Environment Policy Committee with notable DFL opposition, and it is being sent to the Environment Finance Committee, where it is expected that Senate Republicans will tie crucial funding for state agencies to these controversial provisions – as they have done in years past.

Because the Legislature failed to pass bipartisan legislation in last year’s session due to the inclusion of controversial policy language, projects across the state are already in jeopardy of being unable to move forward, and that means hundreds of jobs for Minnesotans are on the line, too. We know how important it is to Minnesotans that these projects are funded, so we will continue to fight for the passage of a clean bill. (SF 814)