On Wednesday, a group of 18 cities and sanitary districts in Greater Minnesota filed a petition with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to amend two provisions of its recently adopted water quality standards for rivers and streams. The petition filed seeks to amend—not repeal—the standards. If the amendments are adopted, the corrected standards will protect Minnesota’s rivers and streams more efficiently and effectively because the remaining provisions of the rule are based on sound science.

The CGMC and the Minnesota Environmental Science and Economic Review Board (MESERB) have been working on this issue for some time. Last fall, the CGMC asked cities to pay a voluntary assessment to help cover the costs associated with the efforts to challenge some of the unnecessary and unscientific standards. Forty CGMC cities paid into the voluntary assessment.

On March 11, the CGMC met with the Commissioner of the MPCA to request that he voluntarily amend the water quality standards based on new evidence we obtained. The Commissioner declined to do so. Therefore, we filed the petition under state law to amend the standards for rivers and streams based on new evidence which demonstrates that two key scientific tests used to determine whether a river or stream is impaired are scientifically flawed. If left unchanged, the standards could lead the MPCA to falsely identify rivers or streams as impaired. This in turn could force cities and sanitary districts to pay for hundreds of millions of dollars of expensive technological upgrades to wastewater treatment facilities that, as a result of the underlying flawed science, will provide little or no actual benefit to water quality.

The MPCA has 30 days to respond to the petition. If the MPCA will not amend the rules, the petition will be forwarded to the Chief Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who will review the petition and determine whether or not to set a hearing. Assuming the ALJ grants a hearing, it will be scheduled within 120 days of the MPCA’s rejection of the petition.

If you have any questions about the petition or the recently adopted water quality standards, please contact attorneys Chris Hood at cmhood@flaherty-hood.com or Robert Scott at rtscott@flaherty-hood.com.