Energy & Environment
Written by Tom Steward | May 6, 2018

Bipartisan Effort to Scrap Outdated Environmental Regulation Faces Dayton Veto

After nearly eight years in office, Gov. Dayton still doesn’t get it. He’s threatening to veto a bill that’s sailing through the legislature with bipartisan support to scrap an unenforceable, unpopular, wildly expensive water quality standard on the books since the 1970s for northern northern waters with wild rice.

The Mesabi Daily News picked up on Dayton’s attempt to pressure lawmakers who are doing the sensible thing in attempting to put the issue to rest once and for all.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is calling for modifications to a wild rice sulfate standard bill that is awaiting its time in conference committee. Dayton said he will veto the bill as written unless lawmakers make changes to the law.

“The bill as written is an extreme approach that removes important protections for wild rice, conflicts with federal law and guarantees ongoing litigations,” Dayton wrote. “The proposed legislation does not ensure economic growth on the Iron Range, as any final should and must.”

In fact, Dayton’s objections come much closer to describing what was wrong with the regulations proposed by his administration for 1,200 Northern Minnesota lakes and streams with wild rice. Fortunately an administrative law court recently threw out the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s draconian rule last month, forcing the state to abandon the effort altogether.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency had attempted to rework the standard using a formula to calculate suitable sulfate levels in wild rice lakes. That was developed at the direction of a previous Legislature, but the MPCA’s proposed rule faced stiff opposition from municipalities, industries and environmental groups. An administrative law judge also told the agency to change its plan, and the MPCA withdrew its proposal earlier in April.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said the MPCA’s proposal had called for a standard 25 times more strict than for drinking water.

Bill sponsor Sen. Justin Eichorn, R-Grand Rapids, said the MPCA standards were based on 1943 science. If it had been enacted, Eichorn said, it would have cost northern Minnesota communities $2 billion.

RELATED: State Pollution Agency’s Power Grab on Northern Lakes Slapped Down–Again

In his letter to legislators, Dayton admitted the MPCA regulations would have been disastrous for Northern Minnesota’s economy–now that there’s zero chance of implementing them.

In the letter, Dayton says he recognizes the competing points of view over the rule. He wants a solution that complies with the federal Clean Water Act and “seeks innovative solutions” to protect wild rice, without jeopardizing the feasibility of businesses, municipalities and the mining industry.

“The impact upon taxpayers would be significant, and enforcing the standard now would be detrimental to the mining industry, which long been a crucial part of Minnesota’s economy,” he wrote. “I also recognize that the proposed rule changing the standard, while scientifically sound, could not be implemented in a way that provided regulated parties with clear and reasonable expectations.”

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