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Legislative Update June 11, 2015
Since my last update, we've seen several bills released for the special session. A joint House and Senate Ways and Means hearing took place on Friday that went over the E-12 Education bill, the Agriculture and Environment bill, and a modest bonding bill. Late last night the Jobs and Energy bill was released.
There are several troubling provisions in the Environment and Agriculture bill, but I want to highlight the $66 million that's being shifted out of funds used to clean up landfills. More than $8 million of that is being permanently taken away from the Metropolitan Landfill Contingency Action Trust Fund (MLCAT), which funds emergency cleanup at Minnesota's two biggest open landfills, which are in Burnsville and Inver Grove Heights.
Metro taxpayers, through their solid waste bills, have been paying into this fund for decades.We've been doing so to ensure that our long term liability was responsibly addressed. These two landfills are set to close within the next five years and our laws only required that they set aside enough money to cover a few decades of post-closure care. After that, it's our responsibility to make sure that they are environmentally sound.
Last month, and again this week, legislators received letters from Tom Egan, the Chair of the Dakota County Board of Commissioners, calling attention to this issue (shift). In one of those letters he noted that
"there is a danger of the State not being able to fulfill its obligations to landfill maintenance, placing undue and unexpected burden on public and private entities. These entities may not have the resources to step in for the State, creating the danger that unmaintained landfills could pollute our environment and groundwater in the future."
I've attached the Dakota County letters for your reference. Letter 1
, Letter 2
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recently issued a report on MLCAT and what this shift of funds means for our future obligation. In that report they noted that the "purpose of MLCAT was to cover the costs for landfills where the operators would/could not take actions to address a problem during the 1st 30 year window," and that "Once the two operating landfills (Pine Bend Landfill in Inver Grove Heights and Burnsville Landfill in Burnsville) close down, there will be no more money going into the account. The obligation, however, will remain."
We've been planning for this eventuality and have been responsibly budgeting for it through the fees we pay on our solid waste. For legislators to now raid those funds, with no intention to ever pay them back, is not only irresponsible, it puts future generations at risk.
You can watch the live joint House and Senate Hearing on the Jobs and Energy bill right now, by clicking this link
A special session to hear this bill is tentatively scheduled for tomorrow, but we're uncertain if that will take place for sure. I'll keep you updated as the special session approaches. As always, please feel free to contact me with any concerns or questions you may have.