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MPCA Citizens' Board Could Lose Say on Environmental Issues

PHOTO: A committee hearing is expected Thursday on a bill that would take away the ability of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Citizens' Board to call for further environmental review on projects such as livestock operations. Photo credit: USDA/Flickr.
PHOTO: A committee hearing is expected Thursday on a bill that would take away the ability of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Citizens' Board to call for further environmental review on projects such as livestock operations. Photo credit: USDA/Flickr.
March 11, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. - A hearing is expected Thursday at the state Capitol on a bill that would take away some of the authority of the Citizens' Board of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

The board currently has the ability to call for an environmental impact statement on projects such as livestock operations even if not recommended by the MPCA, but the bill would take away that power.

Among those opposed is Paul Sobocinski, a livestock and crop farmer from southwestern Minnesota and an organizer for the Land Stewardship Project.

"It's a gutting of the citizens' power of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's board that sits in review," he said, "and it would make it much more difficult for citizens to be able to have a say for what they want in their communities."

Those in support of the legislation say the Citizens' Board should not be able to order an environmental assessment if the MPCA staff doesn't feel it's needed.

The legislation comes after the Citizens' Board last year made the rare move of calling for an environmental review on a proposed dairy operation in Stevens County. Sobocinski said it was the right decision, pointing to the possible impacts on groundwater and air quality.

"The modeling showed that hydrogen sulfide at this proposed operation was 29.2 parts per billion. The state threshold is 30 parts per billion," he said. "Hydrogen sulfide can cause long-term health (problems), and to the right person it could lead to death, particularly a person who has asthmatic conditions."

The bill is scheduled to be debated Thursday in the House Environment Committee. Text of the legislation, HF 1394, is online at revisor.mn.gov.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN