Governor Dayton took action on legislation impacting MESERB members this week: the bonding bill and the wild rice sulfate bill.
BONDING BILL – First, the good news. Governor Dayton signed the bonding bill on Wednesday. This bill includes $133 million for clean water infrastructure, including $20 million for matching U.S. EPA grants, $39.7 million for the Water Infrastructure Fund (wastewater and drinking water), and $38.3 million for the Point Source Implementation Grant Program. The remaining funding for water infrastructure was earmarked to specific cities.
The bad news was that the $1 million appropriated for reviewing NPDES permits and water quality regulations was line-item vetoed.
You can find a full list of projects included in the bonding bill, as well as Governor Dayton’s letter about the line-item veto, here.
WILD RICE SULFATE – First, the bad news. The Governor vetoed the Wild Rice Sulfate Bill, HF 3422. The final bill would have prevented the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency from implementing sulfate standards for wild rice protection in NPDES permits until cost-effective treatment options are available and it would have established a working group — not directed by the MPCA — to determine best practices for protecting wild rice and reviewed some of the open scientific questions.
The somewhat good news is that the Governor directed the MPCA to ensure that no permitted facility will be required to implement expensive treatment options until cost-effective treatment options are available. This directive only provides limited comfort because it is only effective for the remaining nine months of Gov. Dayton’s term. Moreover, it would still allow limits to be placed in permits.
The Governor also directed that a working group be created to look at best practices for protecting wild rice, assess the list of protected wild rice waters, and a few other tasks. However, the working group is not tasked with examining the scientific questions raised in the legislation. The group must report its findings by Dec. 15.