MPCA head: Agency will make progress despite 11 pct. cut

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says even with an 11 percent reduction in funding, it will be able to make progress on key issues under Gov. Mark Dayton's budget proposal.

MPCA Commissioner Paul Aasen said the MPCA is also moving to streamline its permitting process. If federal cuts add significantly to state cuts, it will be harder to fulfill the agency's mission, he said.

He says the agency will be able to absorb the reduction through normal turnover and early retirements, even as the PCA works to streamline its permitting processes.

The agency will give priority to new projects and expansions that create jobs, he said , and that means existing businesses may operate longer under expired permits -- but they have to maintain the same conditions as required in their old permit.

"So it's not as if we're reducing environmental protection, we're just prioritizing where we're making the first steps forward," he said.

The MPCA budget includes $1.5 million to begin research on the impact of sulfates on wild rice.

Aasen said concerns about sulfates from waste rock in mining operations makes the research an urgent project.

"The fact that it's an old standard, the fact that there hasn't been much recent research, and with precious metal mining coming on line, and other issues driving the sulfates question, that we need to have a new water quality standard update," he said.