Committee Summary: House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee, March 31

By: Adam Majid, UpTake Fellow and Community Journalist-in-Training

The House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee met on March 31, 2022. The breadth of the meeting was spent on presentations from various agencies regarding the governor’s environment and natural resources supplemental budget recommendations.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency began to sound early alarms about the need to address PFAS chemicals being found in waterways and soil. PFAS chemicals are a synthetic coating commonly used on paper and cardboard products like fast food containers. The MPCA is not yet certain what a “normal” level of PFAS in the environment is, the governor’s budget would fund research on the subject. The MPCA also is requesting support to fund water and solid waste management alternatives which could identify and remove pollutants like PFAS chemicals.

The Department of Natural Resources is requesting $42 million to be invested in DNR-managed lands and facilities: a response to growing concerns about the impact of climate change on Minnesota’s protected lands. The DNR also proposed budget initiatives for the enforcement of adult-use cannabis legalization; an increase in their ability to provide broadband licensing; and $1.73 million for “public safety” that would largely fund security at the capitol building.

The third big ticket item from Thursday’s meeting was the Board of Water and Soil Resources requesting $32 million to bolster Minnesota’s water storage capacity and to fund the department’s “healthy soil” program. This initiative would directly respond to the emerging consequences of mono-cropping as it continues to drain vital nutrients from arable land – in part by subsidizing the growth of cover crops by farmers which are currently an underutilized practice of sustainable, regenerative agriculture.

In discussion conservative reps broadly labelled this agenda as “wants and not needs” which would “unfairly burden taxpayers.” John Jaschke of the Board of Water and Soil Resources defended their proposal citing broad demand by communities where the soil program was piloted.

The committee met again the following morning to continue discussion on several bills. House files 4407, 3146, 3311, 2624, and 3916 were laid over for possible future inclusion in an omnibus bill. One bill put to vote, HF 4736, would mandate that the MPCA evaluate new water projects based on their climate resiliency and potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions before adoption, until rules factoring in climate resiliency and greenhouse gas emissions are adopted. On a 10-8 decision the bill moved on to the Capital Investment Committee.

Check out the notes from that meeting here:

Watch the meeting here:

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