If environmental legislation costs more than $50M, additional step would be required

    Bills recently introduced at the Minnesota Legislature aim to improve the water-quality regulation process by requiring independent scientific review and accurate cost-benefit analysis before expensive new rules can be adopted.    

    S.F. 690, authored by Sen. Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley), and H.F. 617, authored by Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau), requires independent scientific peer review to be performed before the state adopts any environmental regulation where the cost of compliance is estimated at $50 million or more. This requirement is modeled after the Environmental Protection Agency’s peer review guidance standards.

    The companion legislation, S.F. 689 and H.F. 616, also authored by Eken and Fabian, respectively, requires the state to perform a cost-benefit analysis to look at the cumulative effects of a number of new and proposed regulations and determine whether the added expenses that would be imposed on communities, households and businesses across the state are a wise investment.    

    Under both bills, the Legislature would have to approve any costly new rules before they could be implemented.    

    “The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities thanks Sen. Eken and Rep. Fabian for introducing legislation that addresses the need for environmental regulatory reform,” said Heidi Omerza, president of the CGMC. “This legislation says that if the state is going to force strict, costly rules, they need to be based in science, cost-effective and receive legislative approval.”    

    Gary Evans, president of the Greater Minnesota Partnership (GMNP), an economic development advocacy group that consists of businesses, chambers of commerce and other economic development organizations in Greater Minnesota, agreed:    

    “We all want clean water, but we also have to understand the cost of regulations and their impact on economic growth,” Evans said. “Adopting rules without oversight or proper cost analysis doesn’t help protect the environment and it is harmful to economic development.”    

    If passed, the legislation would suspend recently adopted water-quality rules relating to nutrient standards, leaving the previous standards in place. The CGMC, GMNP and several other city and agricultural organizations opposed the rules because they are not based in science and could cripple many cities and businesses due to increased water treatment costs. Further, some of the most costly aspects of the rules have not been imposed in any other state. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency did not undertake adequate independent scientific review before adopting these standards.    

    “When homeowners and businesses are asked to spend billions of dollars to comply with new regulations, we need to make sure those rules are grounded in good science and that our resources are being used effectively,” Omerza said.