On June 13, 2015, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed an environment/agricultural bill, hammered out in a special session of the Minnesota Legislature, that included numerous significant, and in some cases historic, provisions affecting environmental law in Minnesota. Dayton had originally vetoed the bill, Senate File No. 5, but relented in the face of a potential government shutdown. Of particular note, section 114 of the bill terminated the MPCA Citizens’ Board, an eight-citizen panel created by the Legislature in 1967 to serve as the ultimate decision-making body, instead of the MPCA commissioner, on various important environmental decisions.

MPCA Citizens' Board in action (Source: www.pca.state.mn.us)

MPCA Citizens’ Board in action. The State Legislature eliminated the Board effective July 1, 2015. (Source: http://www.pca.state.mn.us)

Other noteworthy provisions in the environmental/agricultural bill include: (1) production incentives for advance biofuel, renewable chemicals, and biomass thermal (Minn. Stat. §41A); (2) 50-foot new perennial vegetation buffer requirements (subject to various exceptions) applicable to landowners owning property adjacent to public waters (Minn. Stat. § 103F.48); (3) a requirement that when MPCA convenes a peer review panel regarding water quality standards, it must provide the names of the panel and allow opportunities for public comment on the issues before the panel (Minn. Stat. § 115.035); (4) a provision extending the solid-waste permitting exemption and permit by rule for ferrous mining operations to nonferrous mining operations (Minn. Stat. § 116.07, subd. 4j(e)); (5) limitations on MPCA’s ability to enforce the numeric wild rice water quality standard in Minn. R. 7050.0224, subp. 2 until MPCA amends the rule to identify specific waters to which the standard applies (sec. 136); and (6) a directive to the Board of Water and Soil Resources to study the feasibility of assuming administration of the Clean Water Act section 404 permitting program.

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