Environmental permitting bill goes to governor’s desk

by T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol reporter — The Republican-controlled Legislature sent to Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s desk today (Monday, Feb. 28) legislation designed to speed up the environmental permitting process.

Both the governor and Republicans have called for a more speedy process.

Dayton has already put some permitting reforms into place through executive order.

While the legislation passed the House on an 89-42 vote, Democrats warned the House to slow down.

A Legislative Auditor’s report on the environmental permitting process is expected to be released on Tuesday (March 1).

The report would be based not on stories, not on anger, “but facts — cold hard facts,’ said Rep. Rich Hansen, R-South St. Paul.

The House was passing the permitting bill 24-hours too early, Hansen argued.

But Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, said the facts on environmental permitting are out there.

“You’re just ignoring them,” said Cornish, adding state agencies have been as slow as tortoises in granting permits.

Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan, argued the state had lost its balance on permitting, gone too far towards protecting bunnies and squirrels.

But Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, warned of a wrongheaded attitude in the House that what was best for business was more important than the rights of people.

Additionally, Democrats argued that it allowing the fox to guard the chicken house by letting private companies prepare environmental assessment reviews for proposed construction projects —something allowed under the legislation.

Such companies would be tempted to cater to the needs of the customer, it was argued.

The Senate voted earlier to approve the permitting legislation.

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