Conservation Minnesota

Rules May Be Repealed At Environment’s Peril

Some bills that damage our environmental laws and processes are moving through the legislature in early 2012.  One – SF1567/HF2095 – attempts to streamline environmental review of projects more than last year’s law, yet actually would interfere with the progress of completing environmental review that the law sought.

However, another bill this year – SF1822/HF2169 – takes the cake in disrespecting Minnesota’s traditionally strong environmental concern and law.  It actually repeals all environmental rules of the PCA, DNR, BWSR, EQB and the Department of Agriculture on August 1, 2013.  It looks to be one of the “model laws” the anti-government group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, is foisting on state legislatures around the country.

Before the above date, the legislature can pass a new law reconfirming the existing environmental rules to keep them alive, but why should they have to?  This is such a broad-sweeping measure to add burdensome and time-consuming work to our state agency folks that it has the potential to stop governmental actions in its tracks.

One provision in the bill is a huge reporting requirement for each agency promulgating a rule that wants:

– identification of anyone possibly impacted by it;

– how it may compare to federal guidelines and other state’s comparable rules;

– inconsistencies with any other government’s rules and statutes;

– how the rule is “justified”;

– whether a rule is more restrictive than a federal requirement on the

same subject; and

– if the rule is “cost-effective”?

The Legislative Advisory Commission is given great authority by the proposed bill to discern the above and can make recommendations on whether a rule should go forward.  This is a further attempt by legislators who want to control executive agency decision-making.  There is some history on this.

About 30 years ago, the Minnesota Legislature decided that it wanted to review and possibly approve executive agency administrative rules. It set up a process to do this, but at the same time a federal court decision was rendered that stated this was a clear separation of powers case under the Constitution and shouldn’t be allowed,  Our legislators also realized how incredibly time-consuming this was for them to delve into, and it had the potential to make their jobs almost full-time.

These bills hopefully will never reach the governor’s desk.  This would be going backwards in terms of government efficiency. Minnesota’s environmental laws and rules protect the public health,safety and welfare of our citizens, and preserve our natural environment for future generations.  We should be proud of what we have accomplished over the last 50 years.

About John Helland

John Helland
John Helland is a history graduate of the University of Minnesota. He served as the nonpartisan legislative research analyst for the Minnesota House of Representatives after graduation. He worked extensively on environment and natural resources legislation and issues, and was the primary nonpartisan research staffer for the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance committees from 1971 to 2008.
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