The environmental community seems excited and re-energized after last week’s election results. It does seem like a grand opportunity to at least bring environmental issues back into the mainstream of politics at the Capitol.
The environment and natural resource committees will get new chairs and members, with the hope that many of them realize that environmental protection and careful management of natural resources capital is vitally important in further job growth and development actions. Not that we are going into any kind of heavy regulatory mode, or a reliance on larger fees, but a realization that we have many adequate laws and programs in place that we can build on.
Hopefully, Governor Dayton will feel more comfortable in putting together an environmental agenda to mark his next two years in office. He could certainly build on his 2011 Executive Order to look at the future of the Environmental Quality Board (EQB). A report card on environment programs is close to being finished, which will be followed up by an environmental congress in 2013. The congress will review the report card and also look at governance issues for improved environmental policy in the executive branch.
The EQB was established almost 40 years ago to help guide economic growth initiatives with environmental protection policies in place for good planning and integration. The statutes are in place for this to happen. However, the EQB’s role has been diminished over time by lack of interest from preceding governors, certain trust issues from executive agencies, and lack of funding from the legislature.
This now seems like a very opportune time to strengthen the EQB’s role in the push for job creation and development. The agency heads and citizens that serve on it can help make a big difference in looking at sustainable development options for Minnesota’s future. Continuing energy and water resource issues need to be looked at alongside what types of job growth will be created.
Minnesota’s environmental community should feel re-energized in their work and goals for consistent inclusion of environmental issues as the state goes forward in consideration of economic development initiatives.