Senators want provisions removed from enviro bill

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Thirteen DFL senators sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk Thursday requesting that several controversial policy provisions be taken out of the environment budget bill the Senate passed last week.

The letter comes a day after Gov. Mark Dayton called some of the provisions "ill-advised" during a news conference.

During the floor debate on SF 2101 on April 22 (Earth Day, as senators noted in their letter), several policy amendments were added. While the group of DFL senators voted against the amendments, most of them voted in favor of the overall omnibus bill.

The amendments at issue:

  • A provision on providing competitive electricity rates for energy intensive industries

  • A provision to require a cost analysis of some water quality standards and give the Legislature a chance to weigh in

  • A provision to require an "independent peer review" of water quality standards that meet a certain cost threshold

The senators said they objected to the energy amendment because it did not "represent the policy which actually passed the Environment and Energy Policy Committee -- rather it is language which has not been vetted but has statewide impact and significant consumer protection issues."

And the senators said the water amendments "are simply bad for Minnesota."

During a news conference with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on Wednesday releasing a new report on water pollution, Dayton said a regulatory agency that is popular with the people it's regulating "is not doing its job."

"Somebody's got to have objectivity, got to have a scientific background that's going to balance the concerns of industry with the protection of our people, and to have subsequent re-review by [the legislative branch] based on who can scream the loudest I don't think is constructive to the process," Dayton said. "I just would really urge legislative restraint in terms of intruding onto the proper responsibilities of the executive branch, particularly our regulatory functions."

The Senate has generally separated its budget bills from controversial policy, the senators noted, "with this one glaring exception." They said the GOP-controlled House companion budget bills contain many controversial policy provisions.

Lawmakers have less than three weeks to work out their differences.

Read the letter:

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