There is a time and a place for politics. Heck, every few years as November rolls around, it may even seem there are too many places for politics. But one place politics does not belong is in the laboratories that help establish our public health standards.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has a solid reputation of being the independent protectors of the state’s lakes, air and lands. The agency houses an impressive collection of experts who are all charged with working to protect the health of all Minnesotans by protecting our air and water from pollution. They have been directed by past legislatures and Governors to make decisions based on science and not politics.
But apparently that era of independent decision-making may be coming to a close.
This year the Minnesota legislature is in the process of debating four bills that would undermine the authority of the MPCA and replace science with politics as the deciding factor for what is best for the state.
These bills would slow the enforcement process of clean water standards, and, in some cases, allow the legislature to shop for science that better aligns with their political agenda should the science being provided by their own independent agencies not produce the answers they wanted.
- House Files 853 (Senate File 868) and House File 1000 (Senate File 1007) would allow the Legislature to block the MPCA from enforcing the state’s existing sulfate standard meant to protect waters that support native wild rice.
- House Files 616 (Senate File 689) and House 617 (Senate File 690) would give the legislature veto power over water quality rules and other agency rule making authority. These bills claim to add peer review and cost-benefit analysis to the agency decision-making process. Fortunately, those safeguards already exist, so basically these bills would waste taxpayer money on duplicative effort and allow industries that oppose enforcement to keep re-doing the science until they find science that supports their agenda.
Minnesotans have come to trust that the state’s agencies use a careful, science-based process designed to protect Minnesota lakes, rivers, and drinking water from pollutants such as nitrogen, phosphorus, ammonia and poisonous bacteria. These bills would add another layer of expensive, duplicative, and unnecessary delays to this scientific process.
In 2008 Minnesotans voted overwhelmingly to tax themselves to provide resources that protect and clean up our lakes, rivers and drinking water. They certainly did not increase their taxes to see the authority of state agencies responsible for fulfilling their vision gutted.
While the actions of a few legislators to weaken our environmental protections are being debated, ultimately it will be the actions of the many who decide if they are successful. So decide for yourself whether politics or public health is more important to you. Then be sure to let state decision makers know what you think.