EPA chief meets with Dayton on regulations

Gov. Mark Dayton described a meeting Wednesday with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt as "productive and cordial" and said he's hopeful the Trump administration will eliminate some of the federal government red tape dealt to state agencies.

"We don't believe we need to be micromanaged by Region 5 in Chicago," Dayton said during a news conference following a meeting at the Capitol that lasted more than an hour.

Dayton said state agencies want to establish a "collaborative and cooperative" relationship with the EPA.

"We don't believe every decision that the (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency makes) needs to be reviewed" by EPA, Dayton said, citing Minnesota's longstanding state environmental laws that were passed on a bipartisan basis. "We are very confident of our ability to uphold the highest standards."

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He expressed concern about cuts to the EPA in President Trump's proposed budget but noted that a cleanup program for the Upper Great Lakes and a grant program to states have been mostly restored by Congress.

Some states have looked at Trump's desire to cut the EPA as an opportunity for improving the relationship between the federal government and state agencies. The Environmental Council of States, for which MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine currently serves as president, issued a report last month about what that might look like.

Pruitt is on a tour of states to emphasize Trump administration moves to roll back directives of the previous Democratic administration. That includes the Waters of the United States rule that spells out which wetlands, streams and lakes fall under federal jurisdiction.

Pruitt didn't speak at Dayton's news conference but said after the meeting that it's important to provide clarity on that rule.

"Drainage ditches and puddles and dry creek beds being considered waters of the United States; that impacts land use. Whether you are building a subdivision or farming and ranching you can't go out and use your land when you may be facing $37,000 in fines if you didn't get an EPA permit," Pruitt said.

Pruitt said the EPA intends to put forward new guidance early next year.

MPR News reporter Brian Bakst contributed to this story.