Minnesota Trout Unlimited on Monday issued an alert to its members, saying the House and Senate environment and natural resources bills that will be sent to a conference committee should be vetoed unless substantially changed.
Such changes are being urged by other wildlife and environment groups. But it's unlikely the changes will be forthcoming, and a veto is possible, even probable.
Here's the notice sent out by TU:
Minnesota TU members and supporters:
The Minnesota House and Senate passed omnibus environment and natural resource finance bills on March 29th and March 31st respectively. These bills were the subject of action alerts the past two weeks since both cut a disproportionate amount of funding from natural resource protection and management, and contain numerous bad policy provisions. The Senate today appointed members to the conference committee which will resolve differences with the House version. We need your calls and letters this week to your legislators and the Governor to turn the tide in favor of clean water and conservation.
HF1010 passed the House floor on a 72-57 vote after hours of debate. In addition to disproportionally deep general fund cuts in the environmental and conservation areas in MPCA, DNR, and BWSR budgets, the bill still contains numerous bad policy provisions. The following three provisions were removed on the House floor: 1)provisions which would have required the DNR to log all merchantable black walnut trees from Whitewater and Frontenac State Parks, 2)designated new scientific and natural areas as recreation areas, and 3)abolished a state requirement that school trust fund land be managed “with sound natural resource conservation and management principles."
SF 1029 would cut environmental agencies less deeply than the House bill, though still disproportionally. Very troubling are the drastic general fund cuts to DNR waters and eco-services division. On March 31the Senate received HF 1010, inserted the language from Senate 1029 and passed the bill on a party line vote of 36-28. The House refused to concur in the Senate version and a conference committee to resolve differences will now be held. The House appointed McNamara, Hackbarth, Torkelson, Hoppe, and Dill to the conference committee. The Senate today appointed Ingebrigtsen, Rosen, Pederson, Gerlach, and Dahms. The bill is now known as HF 1010 in both bodies.
The Minnesota Environmental Partnership, to which Minnesota TU belongs, is leading work with the Governor’s office and the conference committee members to improve HF1010 to create a final bill that the Governor could sign. But we need your calls and letters to your legislators and the Governor to protect clean water and conservation work while balancing the budget.
It is MNTU’s opinion that if citizens and the Governor’s negotiators cannot substantially improve the bill, including by removing its many bad policy provisions, the Governor should veto HF 1010, and insist upon “clean” budget bills.
Legislative staff has created a “side by side” comparison of the two versions of the bill, which conference committee members will use in their negotiations. Here is the URL to that side by side comparison:
Bad Policy provisions:
Policy provisions do not belong in budget bills. Nevertheless, here are some of the many bad policy provisions which remain in one or both versions and could well make it to the Governor’s desk:
Prohibiting new water rules to protect and restore our lakes, rivers and streams, via a two year moratorium
Closing the two state tree nurseries (ostensibly to save money)
Lowering water quality standards for phosphorus discharges into Lake Pepin
Repealing protections for the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area
Threatening the future of wild rice, our state grain, by suspending (Senate) or lowering (House) sulfate pollution standards for wild rice waters [increased sulfate levels in receiving waters also lead to greater methylation of mercury and thus greater mercury contamination in fish!]
Funding conversion of the North Shore Trail (designed for winter time use over frozen ground) to summertime ATV use in such a way as to circumvent environmental review and remove the DNR’s ability to require re-routing to lessen impacts to vital reaches of North Shore trout streams. Both Trout Unlimited and the Game & Fish Fund Citizens’ Budgetary Oversight Committee have consistently opposed allowing ATV use in these fragile headwater and wetland areas.
Exempting large ethanol facilities from mandatory environmental review
Weakening permit standards for large feedlots
Reducing wetland replacement requirements for mining projects in the Great Lakes and Rainy River watershed basins
Citizen-legislature process undermined:
The bills are inconsistent with the recommendations put forward by the LCCMR following the extensive LCCMR review of Environmental Trust Fund (ETF) projects over the last year. ETF dollars are not intended to be used to supplant existing general fund programs and are not as effective in supporting ongoing programs as they cannot be used to hire permanent staff. This reworking of the existing citizen-legislature process sets an alarming precedent for reallocation of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council recommendations in the future.
Disproportionate budget cuts:
Finally, the bills disproportionately cut budget areas essential to clean water protection. Minnesota Pollution Control Agency would see up to a 64 percent reduction in general funds. Completely eliminated are the Clean Water Partnership Grants and the septic program. The MNDNR’s water programs could be cut up to 29 percent. Such cuts will impact the department’s flood management, slow the DNR’s permitting process and unravel the traditional sources of funding for water. The reductions to Water Resources programs in the Senate bill are about $1.4 million higher than the Governor’s proposed reduction; the House version would cut $5.6 million more than the Governor!
How to easily contact your legislators and the Governor:
You can quickly locate and contact your legislators by using the State’s legislative website, http://www.leg.state.mn.us
Just click on your legislator’s name and you will be taken to his or her individual web page. Direct calls and letters to all conference committee members will also help. While the budget bills are unlikely to be signed by the Governor in their present form, it is important that folks keep letting their legislators and the Governor know that such attacks on clean water and science-based resource management have no place in budget balancing efforts. Make sure to copy the Governor on your correspondence with you legislators so he sees your concern and passion.
Here's the URL to see options for contacting Gov. Mark Dayton:
How to contact the Conference Committee members:
It cannot hurt to contact the conference committee members directly, even if you do not live in their districts. In theory they should look out for every citizen’s interests:
Representative Denny McNamara (R-57B)
Representative Tom Hackbarth (R-48A)
Representative Paul Torkelson (R-21B)
Representative Joe Hoppe (R-34B)
Representative David Dill (D-06A)
Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen (R) District 11
Senator Chris Gerlach (R) District 37
Senator Gary H. Dahms (R) District 21
Senator John C. Pederson (R) District 15
Senator Julie A. Rosen (R) District 24
John P. Lenczewski
Minnesota Trout Unlimited
P.O. Box 845
Chanhassen, MN 55317