The Minnesota legislative session, which adjourned May 22, included the passage of several bills related to municipal water and wastewater systems. However, the final fate of many of the bills remains up in the air as they await the Governor’s signature. Here is a rundown of some of the key bills that passed this session that may be of interest to MESERB members:
BONDING BILL PASSES WITH $123M FOR PFA PROGRAMS
The bonding bill passed by the Legislature late Sunday night contained approximately $123 million for the Public Facilities Authority to provide grants for wastewater and drinking water projects. The bill includes general obligation bond funding of $14 million for state matching funds for federal Environmental Protection Agency grants and $25 million for drinking water grants from the Water Infrastructure Fund (WIF). In addition, it includes $25 million for grants to specific political subdivisions.
Where it gets little murky is that the Legislature also created a new class of appropriation bonds that will be funded by the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF), which are lottery funds typically used to fund grants recommended by the Legislative-Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). These new appropriation bonds will add $6 million to the state matching funds for the EPA capitalization grants, $14.6 million to WIF for wastewater grants, and $38 million to PSIG.
A number of groups are objecting to the creation of the appropriation bonds, claiming that the funding mechanism defeats the intent behind the constitutional amendment creating the ENTRF. There is a danger that Gov. Dayton could veto this portion of the bill because of the funding mechanism.
WILD RICE SULFATE RESOLUTION SENT TO THE GOVERNOR
The Legislature also passed legislation to address the wild rice sulfate water quality issue, H.F. 3422. The final legislation that passed was significantly scaled back from earlier proposals and contains only two sections. The first section addresses implementation of the rule by restricting the ability of the MPCA to require expensive treatment for sulfate until the underlying rule has been amended and cost-effective treatment technology has been developed. The second section creates a work group to identify real-world scientific solutions that protection wild rice.
Although MESERB does not lobby on these issues, Elizabeth Wefel has been staying in touch with MESERB members that are located within 60 miles of wild rice waters. We sent out an action alert yesterday to affected communities urging them to contact the Governor and ask him to sign this bill.
REGULATORY CERTAINTY SIGNED INTO LAW
Last session, the Legislature passed a regulatory certainty law that would bar the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) from requiring additional capital investment for 16 years after a municipality upgraded its wastewater facility to meet new NPDES requirements. The rule implementing the law was rejected by the Office of Administrative Hearings which claimed it would violate the Clean Water Act. The Legislature passed a new version of the bill, H.F. 2802, and the Governor signed it into law on Saturday. Some environmental groups were opposed to this legislation and it is likely they will attempt to block the new law as well.
BILL LIMITING WATER FEE INCREASES VETOED
In response to the MPCA attempting to increase fees on water quality permits, the Legislature passed a bill requiring approval of any increase, H.F. 2940. The Governor vetoed this bill on Saturday.
If you have any questions on legislative matters, please contact Elizabeth Wefel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions on regulatory matters can be directed to Daniel Marx at email@example.com.