What’s in the ‘transformative’ climate, energy and environment bill
Ensign Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Photo by Zach Spindler-Krage.
Gov. Walz signed a $2 billion bill Wednesday funding DFL priorities on the environment, natural resources, climate and energy. Advocates have cheered the budget bill as “transformative,” making “historic investments in key programs to protect our water, climate, and people from pollution.”
The legislation (HF 2310) includes the nation’s strictest regulations on “forever chemicals” known as PFAS, which have been linked to various cancers and other health ailments. The new law — along with a climate bill Walz signed earlier this year and a bill making it easier for the state to obtain federal funding for clean energy products — also lays the groundwork for decarbonizing the state’s power grid, working toward carbon-free electricity by 2040 and achieving overall net zero emissions by 2050.
The bill includes many other provisions that aim to protect the people, land and environment of Minnesota, as well hundreds of millions in funding for clean energy projects and outdoor recreation. We’ve listed some of the major provisions below; the list is far from exhaustive.
The law bans PFAS chemicals from carpets, cleaning products, childrens’ items, and many other consumer goods where they’ve traditionally been used because they are highly resistant to heat, oil, stains, grease and water – properties that also allow them to linger in the environment for decades or more. By 2032 the state will also outlaw intentionally added PFAS from all products unless regulators determine they’re “essential for health, safety, or the functioning of society and for which alternatives are not reasonably available.”
That section of the legislation has been officially named Amara’s Law after Amara Strande, a 20-year-old Maplewood resident who died of a rare form of liver cancer after lobbying the Legislature to ban the chemicals. The bill also directs millions of dollars toward efforts to remove the chemicals from soil and water, and directs the Pollution Control Agency to determine PFAS water quality standards.
The legislation defines “environmental justice areas” as census tracts located in Indian country, or with large percentages of residents who are nonwhite, low income or of limited English proficiency. Some research has shown that those areas have traditionally borne the brunt of pollution and environmental degradation.
Businesses seeking air quality permits in the state’s major cities will have to conduct analyses of prior pollution impacts on environmental justice areas.
Strict lead and cadmium limits
The bill sets limits on the amounts of lead and cadmium that can be present in certain products, including jewelry, toys, cosmetics, clothing and other categories. A separate bill signed by Walz will allocate $240 million to lead pipe removal in Minnesotans’ homes. Researchers have determined that no amount of lead is safe for children’s brain development.
Tighter air pollution monitoring
Polluting facilities in the seven-county Twin Cities area will face more stringent testing, inspection and reporting requirements. The bill also sets up a pilot program to install air quality monitors in environmental justice areas, and allows the Pollution Control Agency to crack down on facilities that have been the subject of odor complaints.
Protections for wildlife
Efforts to fight chronic wasting disease
CWD is a neurological disease in deer, similar in some ways to Mad Cow Disease. The Department of Natural Resources has uncovered numerous cases of CWD in deer farms in the state, with evidence that the disease is spreading from farmed deer to wild populations. The legislation puts a moratorium on new white-tailed deer farms and includes stricter requirements for fencing in existing farms. It also puts in place tighter guidelines for testing herds for CWD and culling infected herds when necessary.
Curtailing the for-profit turtle harvest
Provisions in the bill would effectively end the harvest, sale and export of wild turtles in Minnesota, making us one of the last states to do so. Individuals would still be able to take a turtle or two for “personal use,” but large-scale trapping would be banned. In recent years, the state’s 19 commercial harvesters have captured tens of thousands of the native reptiles and sold them either domestically or abroad.
Respect for “rough fish”
Current state law differentiates between familiar “game” fish, like walleye and bass, and undesirable “rough” fish like gar, bowfin and mooneye. But conservationists note that many of those “rough” fish are native to the state and play valuable roles in their respective ecosystems, making them more worthy of legal protection.
The bill requires the DNR to identify conservation and protection opportunities for those fish, and to submit a report to the Legislature with their recommendations. It also creates reporting requirements for mass fish kill incidents in which 25 or more fish die.
The bill includes tighter regulations on neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been linked to the decline of critical pollinator species like the rusty patched bumblebee. It includes grants for converting grass lawns to more pollinator-friendly habitats, and allows cities to ban pesticides that are determined to be lethal to pollinators.
Protections for the environment
Penalties for leaving trash on the ice
The bill establishes special misdemeanor penalties for leaving garbage on the ice, a provision supported by conservation groups and residents of lake country who have had to contend with messy cleanup efforts after ice fishing season.
Habitat preservation and restoration
The bill allocates $10 million toward “enhancing prairies and grasslands and restoring wetlands on state-owned wildlife management areas to sequester more carbon and enhance climate resiliency.” Another nearly $8 million is set aside for the acquisition and restoration of new wildlife management areas.
The bill also includes tens of millions of dollars for the Board of Soil and Water Conservation to improve soil health, water quality, soil productivity and carbon sequestration. Lawmakers allocated $20 million of that for a new “soil health practices program” to promote agricultural practices like no-till farming, prairie strips and cover crops.
Roughly $10 million is also dedicated to preserving the state’s peatlands, which are mossy bogs that play an outsized role in carbon sequestration.
Walz signed a bill in February mandating that Minnesota utilities produce all of their electricity from carbon-free sources by 2040.
The environment budget bill authorizes $2,500 rebates for the purchase of new electric vehicles and $600 for used ones. It directs state agencies to give preference to electric and hybrid vehicles when purchasing new automobiles, and creates a grant program to help school districts buy electric buses.
The bill directs tens of millions in funding to the solar for schools program, creating incentives for school districts to install solar power. It prohibits homeowners’ associations from banning solar projects, and includes more than $20 million in incentives for Xcel Energy customers to install and connect solar systems to the power grid.
The bill includes nearly $20 million in funding for grants and rebates for electric heat pumps and improved electric panels for more efficient appliances like electric stoves.
State facility upgrades
The legislation includes $110 million for upgrading state recreational facilities, including boat ramps, trails, camp sites, welcome centers, restrooms and fish hatcheries.
Licensing changes for boats and snowmobiles
The bill increases registration fees for boats and includes new requirements for displaying snowmobile registration numbers. It also expands water safety course requirements for boat operators. Earlier versions of the bill also contained fee increases for fishing licenses and state park passes but those were ultimately rejected.
The omnibus includes $20 million in dedicated funding for snowmobile trails, $5 million for ATV trails, and $3.8 million in grants for local parks, trails and natural areas. There are several million dollars for various mountain bike trail projects, and millions more allocated to specific hiking trails across the state.
The legislation also includes $5 million in funding to purchase inholdings — tracts of privately owned land contained within the boundaries of state parks — from landowners.
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