By Justin Fay
The 2013 Legislative session has come to a close, with some significant steps forward for Minnesota’s environment.
Perhaps the most prominent victory this year was passage of Minnesota’s first solar standard! When fully implemented, the standard means that Minnesota will have 450MW of new clean energy installed (by comparison, we have 13MW of solar currently installed statewide). The bill also sets a state goal of having 10% of our electricity come from solar by 2030, initiates a study of steps needed to get Minnesota to 100% renewable electricity, establishes a community shared solar program, makes improvements to Minnesota’s existing net metering and PACE laws, and more. Read more about what’s included in the bill here.
The 2013-2014 budget makes a number of important investments in Minnesota’s environment. The bill makes critical steps forward in addressing the management and protection of groundwater in Minnesota. The need for action on groundwater has become increasingly apparent in recent years, with challenges facing White Bear Lake helping to raise public awareness. The budget also allocates new resources to improve air quality monitoring, with a badly needed emphasis on low-income communities. Although state funding for the environment remains far short of what is truly needed, this year’s budget makes wise choices about priorities and is a clear step in the right direction.
Other policy victories in 2013 include bans on BPA and formaldehyde in children’s products, a state ban on the use of coal tar, and modest new protections from frac sand mining in Southeastern Minnesota.
Sadly, the Legislature failed to answer the call for dedicated transit funding in 2013. Although there was a one-time appropriation for the Southwest Corridor Light Rail line, the need for new permanent and dedicated funding to fully build out our regional transit system was not met. We’ll be back in 2014 to make sure that the Legislature gets this job finished.
Sierra Club volunteers and members did an incredible job this year advocating on behalf of Minnesota’s environment. Thanks to your efforts, we have more clean energy on the way, a state budget that actually prioritizes environmental protection and a statewide transit vision on the brink of a historic victory. We’re already counting down the days until the 2014 Legislative session gets underway!
Justin Fay is the staff lobbyist for the Sierra Club North Star Chapter.