Environmentalists decry bills advanced by GOP lawmakers

Published 10:13 am Wednesday, March 15, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS — Environmentalists say Republicans who control the Minnesota Legislature and their allies are pressing a slate of bills that add up to bad news for the environment.

Those bills include one to eliminate the state Environmental Quality Board. Another would create new ways to challenge environmental regulations. Others would weaken one of Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature environmental accomplishments, a law requiring buffer strips of vegetation between farm fields and waterways to trap pollutants.

“This is the week where all the policy bills are going to get hashed out,” said Aaron Klemz, spokesman for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

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The GOP controls both the House and Senate for the first time since 2012. That’s given Republicans new opportunities for advancing legislation, and they’re hoping to use this session to push back against what they say is overregulation and governmental overreach.

Their majority in the Senate is only seat, and the governor can veto any bill he thinks goes too far.

The bill to eliminate the quality board came from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. It’s already passed five committees in the two chambers and faces a sixth Wednesday. The board is made up of nine agency heads and five citizens. Its duties include coordinating state agencies on environmental issues and creating opportunities for the public to be involved, such as the Minnesota Environmental Congress it organized last month.