The Citizens' Board of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency met for the last time Tuesday.
The Legislature had eliminated the board during this year's special session. That action takes effect next week. Some business groups had pushed earlier this year to limit the board's power, but its elimination came as a surprise.
"When the board is eliminated July 1, it'll be a sad day for democracy, a sad day for citizen engagement, open government and environmental protection in Minnesota," said Jim Riddle, a member of the board.
For nearly 50 years, the board made decisions on a variety of environmental issues. At a news conference Tuesday, environmentalists, citizen activists and a few DFL lawmakers expressed their anger over its elimination, which came without a public hearing.
Some lawmakers say they will push to reinstate the board as soon as next year.
Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, was among the lawmakers who tried unsuccessfully to reinstate the board during the final hours of this year's special session.
"The only way we're going to have any hope of doing this is if the citizens of Minnesota really rise up and overcome these deep-pocketed interests that seem to dominate the debate at the Capitol," he said.
It's possible that Gov. Mark Dayton could ask the board to continue hearing public testimony on pollution issues — even though it will lack authority to make decisions. The governor has said he wants the board reinstated in 2017.