… are yours. Right now, you can share with us the issues you believe are most important for protecting Minnesota’s lakes, land, and way of life.
Our board and staff have developed our strategic priorities for 2016 with your input from our annual interest survey. Every year, Conservation Minnesota creates this survey to find out what issues are most important to you. By taking our brief survey, you can set our work plan for the next year to protect our state’s Great Outdoors.
From protecting our lakes and rivers, to advocating for clean energy and jobs, to removing harmful toxins from children’s products, we take action on the issues you tell us must be done to preserve our state’s clean water, air, and land.
Here are the issues we are prioritizing this year:
Clean Water by 2050
The problems facing Minnesota’s waters are numerous and complex. In order to solve them, we cannot rely on Legacy Funding alone. We must set goals that the public can understand and that can inspire the ingenuity of state and local governments, research universities, and Minnesota’s business community to find solutions for this growing problem. Based upon Conservation Minnesota’s Clean Water Promise, this proposal sets clear deadlines for the clean up and protection of all Minnesota rivers, lakes, and groundwater resources.
Local Water Infrastructure
The Governor has proposed $167 M in his bonding bill to pay for wastewater and drinking water system improvements. Most of the state’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure is in need of repair or replacement and this is the start of a multiyear plan to address the need. The projects in the Governor’s proposal are targeted to communities in all regions of the state. Without state monies, many local units of government would be unable to pay for needed repairs and replacements.
Conservation Minnesota supports a strong and robust implementation of the buffer law passed during the 2015 Legislative Session. The law requires a 50 foot vegetative buffer surrounding lakes, rivers, and streams, and a 16.5 foot vegetative buffer along ditches. Conservation Minnesota is working to ensure that buffer law will be implemented by the plain language of the law, and that special interests cannot jeopardize the water quality of Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams.
St. Louis River Area of Concern (AOC)
The Governor has incorporated $12.7 M in his bonding bill as the state contribution that would trigger $47.5 M in federal funds to clean up the Duluth Harbor. Decades ago, the St. Louis River was a dumping point for industrial waste and this proposal is part of a multi-year, multi-agency plan to remediate the pollution and restore aquatic habitat.
Toxic Free Kids Act (TFKA)
The Toxic Free Kids Act (TFKA) requires manufacturers that use any of the nine priority toxic chemicals in products designed for children under age twelve to disclose their presence to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Conservation Minnesota wants all Minnesotans to have the information necessary to decide how to live safe, healthy lives. TFKA was introduced during the 2015 Legislative Session, and the bill moved through key Minnesota Senate committees, but eventually there was not enough time in the Session to move TFKA forward. Conservation Minnesota will work again in 2016 to pass TFKA.
Today wind energy is the cheapest form of energy to produce in Minnesota, and year after year, wind and solar technologies are continuing to improve. Over the next 25 years, Minnesota has an opportunity to reduce pollution and contain electricity costs because most of our traditional power facilities will either need to be replaced or updated during that period. Renewables First would require Electric Utilities to choose low cost renewables first when making new energy investments. Investments in fossil fuels would only be allowed in cases where renewables are either not cost effective or are not technically feasible to meet the need for reliable power.
Clean Energy Opt-Up
Xcel Energy is required to generate 30% of their total energy via renewable sources. The goal for all other utilities is 25%, but many communities would like to receive more. The “Opt-Up” would allow communities not served by Xcel to choose the higher 30% standard for their residents.
Support for Local Recycling
The Solid Waste Tax was created to support local recycling efforts. Several years ago the legislature diverted 30% of this revenue to the general fund to solve a short-term budget crisis. Today, with a budget surplus, it is important to restore the money for its intended purpose and help local governments fund important community recycling programs.
Products labeled as “flushable” have become a growing problem for local and municipal sewage treatment systems. The wipes actually clog wastewater infrastructure and causing hazardous sewage blockages. This wastes both time and tax money needed to treat wastewater. Conservation Minnesota will push for requirements to label these products as unsafe for septic and sewer systems.
Protect the Legacy Amendment
The Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program is a local government aid program that pays money from the state’s general fund to counties and municipalities to compensate for state owned lands within their respective jurisdictions. These payments compensate for the loss of property tax base when the state owned land comes off the local tax rolls. Conservation Minnesota is supporting efforts to increase this aid to local communities and opposing the creation of a duplicative program that would inappropriately divert voter approved Legacy Amendment funds.
A minute of your time will become Conservation Minnesota’s work next year. And that work will become projects and programs that will benefit generations to come. So, please, take a moment and tell us what you think is most important to leave as a legacy for future generations.