Environment Minnesota Statement on 2018 MN Legislative Session

Media Contacts
Timothy Schaefer

This session, Environment Minnesota worked with our allies in the environmental community to preserve the huge gains we’ve made in Minnesota. Shortsighted proposals at the Capitol would have gutted the state’s Community Solar Gardens Program, given a green light to a dirty tar sands pipeline expansion project, and made it impossible for Minnesota’s counties, cities and towns to put reasonable fees on single use plastics. Environment Minnesota’s members reminded decision makers to make our environment a priority. Among our achievements:

  • Stopping Xcel’s “blank check” for nuclear plant costs (SF 3504/HF 3708). While Xcel Energy has made notable progress on building new renewable energy sources, they’re still happy to shift ever-mounting nuclear plant costs onto ratepayers. This bill would have created a new, uncapped fee on customers’ bills to pay for those costs –and allowed Xcel to run around the normal Public Utilities Commission (“PUC”) process for approving investments and costs. We put pressure on Xcel and their allies in the legislature from the start: they cancelled a hearing at the last minute, watered down the bill, and ultimately let the measure die.
  • Turning off the green light for Enbridge’s Line 3 (SF 3510/HF 3759). Companies like Enbridge can build pipelines and replace them without federal intervention –that’s why it’s up to states like Minnesota to act. Right now, the PUC is considering whether to allow Enbridge to expand its Line 3 pipeline, letting millions of gallons of heavy tar sands crude run through indigenous lands, family farms, and public green spaces. Some legislators decided that our evidence-based process isn’t fast enough, though, and tried to pass legislation that would instantly approve Line 3. Thankfully, Governor Mark Dayton vetoed the bill, responding to pressure from Environment Minnesota’s members.
  • Protecting polystyrene bans in Minneapolis and St. Louis Park (SF 3135/HF 3606). This session, legislators pushed 40+ bills designed to rob Minnesota’s counties, cities and towns of power. Solid waste is a huge, expensive task for Minnesota’s municipalities –they should be able to keep destructive throwaway plastics out of their waste streams. This bill would have wiped popular, effective bans on throwaway “to go” containers off the books. Our members put up so much resistance that the bill failed to pass to the floor before the final legislative deadline. With your help, we’re pushing for a statewide ban on food service polystyrene next session

What’s next? Right now, Governor Dayton is considering an $825M bonding bill, one of a very few large measures to successfully pass this session without a veto. We support a significant investment in Minnesota’s economy and bonding is normally a great way to do that. In fact, Minnesota’s debt capacity could easily handle a much larger investment in environmental research, water infrastructure, parks and trails, clean energy, and the green future of our state. Unfortunately, the bonding bill invests almost nothing in mass transit, significantly underfunds water infrastructure, and raids the state’s Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (“ENRTF”) for projects that should be paid for with general obligation bonds. We’re asking Governor Dayton to line-item veto any measure in the bonding bill paid for via ENRTF funds. We hope that the legislature will make larger, wiser investments in the environment next session –and we’re holding them accountable for failing to do so this time around.

Thanks again for keeping Minnesota on the right path,

-Tim Schaefer, Director