Good news! State legislation that reinstates the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Citizens’ Board is moving forward, but legislators are going to need to hear from constituents for it to pass (HF 973—Persell, SF 627—Marty).
You may recall that during the last hours of the 2015 Minnesota legislative session, language was inserted into a massive omnibus bill that abolished the 48-year-old Citizens’ Board. The issue never got a hearing and is the worst example of backroom legislative dealmaking that favors corporate interests. The Citizens’ Board came under attack after it ordered its first ever Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on a 8,850-head factory farm dairy proposed by Riverview Dairy LLP in Stevens County.
The Citizens’ Board had been in existence since the establishment of the MPCA in 1967 and was comprised of the MPCA commissioner and eight citizen members appointed by the Governor. It held public hearings and had final say on MPCA environmental review issues, and created a transparent, open public process that gave Minnesotans from all walks of life a say in how our state made critical environmental management decisions.
Since the elimination of the Citizens’ Board, we have seen democracy and transparency weakened in the Pollution Control Agency decision-making process, especially around environmental review. Decisions that used to be made in public after public testimony are now made behind closed doors. Public comments are not being responded to. This impacts all Minnesotans, but especially rural residents and farmers who live near proposed factory farms.
We need to take action to make sure our state leaders know this is a priority. The bill has one last committee stop in the House before going to the floor, and has yet to be heard in the Senate. We also need Governor Tim Walz to support this effort.
Take action now with LSP members around the state by letting your legislators know that reinstating the MPCA Citizens’ Board is critical to a strong, transparent and democratic environmental review process and urge Governor Walz to support this legislation.