The Chamber bill: gives new rights to businesses while taking rights from citizens

Under the guise of streamlining, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is trying to turn Minnesota’s environmental review laws upside down.

The Chamber bill, HF 1291, puts polluters in charge and, in the process, cuts Minnesotans who may be affected by new pollution out of the process. Let us count the ways:

1. It is hard to say which provision in the Chamber bill is the worst, but the one letting the polluter prepare its own environmental impact statement would be in anyone’s top three list. So instead of the agency gathering information about the proposed project and asking for public comment, the agency is relegated to determining the completeness of the proposers “EIS” and possibly modifying it without having gathered the underlyingl data that would inform good decision making. More subtly, if the proposer drafts the EIS, what role does the public now have? Moreover, there would no longer be public access to the documents used to draft the EIS; government documents are subject to the Data Practices Act but private company documents are not.

2. Affected citizens would no longer be able to request a contested case hearing to review a mining permit or any other decision related to a mining permit.

3. Agencies would be required to start a permit at the same time they start environmental review even though the information gathered in the environmental review is supposed be the foundation for the permit. Public input is undercut if the permit is underway before the public has a chance to weigh in.

4. A draft permit must be given to the applicant for comment before it is issued. The public that will be affected by the project doesn’t have the same right.

5. A proposer who has the ability to pay extra can get an expedited permit leaving those without extra money –new or smaller businesses–at the back of the line.

6. A provision that gives automatic approval for wetland replacement sites skirts local, BOWSR, and DNR decisions on wetland replacement sites.

7. The Environmental Quality Board is eliminated, eliminating another opportunity for citizens to participate, eliminating sunshine.

Unfortunately, there is more but one does get the picture!