The following press release was sent to media outlets throughout the state today. A PDF version is available here.

For Immediate Release
May 1, 2015

Contact: Julie Liew
651-259-1917
jlliew@flaherty-hood.com

Metro legislators’ stance on water quality legislation misguided

ST. PAUL—Despite opposition from a small contingent of predominantly urban and suburban state senators, city leaders in Greater Minnesota continue to call on legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton to support measures that aim to bring more transparency to the state’s water quality regulation process.

When the Senate passed its environmental omnibus bill last week, it included provisions to require independent scientific review and accurate cost analysis before expensive new water quality rules can be adopted. These provisions, which are supported by the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC), were added to the bill after amendments offered by Sen. Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley) passed on the Senate floor in a roll-call vote. The provisions are also included in the House’s version of the bill.

On Thursday, 13 state senators sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) and Senate Finance Committee Chair Richard Cohen (DFL-St. Paul) to express “dismay” over these and other amendments to the bill, calling them “bad for Minnesota,” a claim CGMC President and Ely City Council Member Heidi Omerza vehemently denies.

“There is a misconception that these provisions are against clean water,” Omerza said. “That is completely false. Our communities all want and depend on clean water, but we also have limited resources. We want to be sure that any standards imposed on our cities are based on sound science and have been properly evaluated in terms of both financial cost and environmental benefit.”

Although legislation addressing these issues was introduced at the start of the session, it never received a hearing in the Senate Environment Committee. Omerza said the Senate’s refusal to hear the legislation has led to a misunderstanding about its intent and necessitated that the amendments be offered on the Senate floor.

“Had the Senate had a hearing on the legislation, they would have found that the regulatory reform proposed by the CGMC is needed and reasonable,” Omerza said.

“The key issue here is transparency,” she continued. “We are only asking that experts take a second look at the underlying science behind proposed environmental regulations and that the state provides an accurate estimate of how much they will cost to implement. I’m surprised that any legislators are opposed to these common-sense improvements to the environmental standards process.”

Omerza noted that she and other city leaders would welcome the opportunity to sit down with any legislators and Gov. Dayton to discuss why these provisions are important to communities in Greater Minnesota and should be included in the final environmental bill as compromised by the House and Senate.

“The best way to achieve good water quality is for our cities and businesses to work as partners with the state, not adversaries,” Omerza said. “But in order to achieve this, the MPCA and lawmakers need to listen to our concerns and understand why these issues are so critical for Greater Minnesota”

Click here to read a letter from Omerza (including attachments) to Sen. Bakk and Sen. Cohen in response to the letter from the 13 senators.

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The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization representing 85 cities outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The Coalition educates legislators about issues important to Greater Minnesota. Visit the CGMC online at greatermncities.org.