By Justin FayThe 2013 Legislative Session is now more than halfway finished, and plenty has been happening on issues affecting the environment.
Energy has been a particularly busy area so far. The House and Senate are considering omnibus energy policy bills that would have Minnesota take several critical steps forward. The House version (HF956 – Hortman) has now passed its first two committees. The House bill includes a 4% by 2025 solar standard and a 40% by 2030 expansion of the existing renewable energy standard, both for investor-owned utilities only. Last week, the Senate version of the bill (SF901 – Marty) passed out of its first committee. The Senate bill also includes a 4% by 2025 solar standard for investor-owned utilities, along with a 2% by 2025 solar standard for rural co-ops and municipal utilities; the Senate bill does not include an expansion of the overall renewable energy standard.
Rep. Melissa Hortman speaks at a Transit for a Stronger Economy press conference on March 20.Transportation has been another active focus this year. The Transit for a Stronger Economy campaign is continuing to work hard building support for a strong bill to dedicate funding for regional transit. The campaign has introduced “vision” bills in both the House and Senate (HF1044/SF927), both of which were heard in committee this past Wednesday. The bills have been laid over and considered for inclusion as part of the transportation finance bills that will be moved next month.
Other environmental issues that have been of particular interest during the 2013 session include a proposed moratorium on frac sand mining, repeal of the hunting season on Minnesota’s wolves, new efforts to address aquatic invasive species, improved management of our groundwater resources and, of course, the state budget for our environmental agencies. Check back here for more updates on these and other issues as the session continues. Justin Fay is the staff lobbyist for the Sierra Club North Star Chapter.