By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/9/2018
Hello from St. Paul,
State lawmakers have been investigating the State of Minnesota’s $850 million settlement with 3M regarding water contaminated with perflurocarbons (PFC) in the East Metro in order to learn more about the agreement.
Recently the Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on the topic, and after listening to the MPCA’s discussion with the committee, I have a few concerns.
The settlement outlines three priorities: clean drinking water, natural resources protection, and ensuring that any unused funds be placed in a state account where they can be used on other clean water projects across the state.
Issue 1: the agreement designates a fund where 3M settlement money will go and right now that fund doesn’t exist. By session’s end, the Legislature will need to create that fund and then delegate the authority as to how it will be spent, otherwise the MPCA may not have that authorization as required by our Constitution. By contrast, the MPCA seems to think the settlement has been written so that legislative involvement is not needed. We recently dropped the bill to create the account.
Issue 2: the MPCA views its “administrative fees” as a justified expense for 3M settlement dollars, and the agency plans on taking a chunk of this funding for its purposes. Considering the Legislature very generously funds the MPCA every biennium, I find this problematic.
Issue 3: the potential of MPCA using this money for anything other than East Metro clean water needs.
Let’s be clear – PFC’s in our groundwater will never go away. They will still be present after we’re all long gone, and because of this our water will never be perfect. The filtering systems our communities need to install will need replacing in 20 to 30 years, and this funding has to be used – and available – for this purpose.
I’m sorry, but I have a problem with some bureaucrats 20 years from now deciding that this settlement money should be used elsewhere in Minnesota.
In the House, we are consulting our legal staff to determine how to ensure this money is used locally without violating the settlement agreement. At the very least, we have to create a 3M settlement account. We also need to determine if the MPCA can charge back administrative fees, and if so, ensure that the amount is very limited. I also think we should require MPCA to report to the Legislature annually on its spending.
I don’t want the MPCA or someone else ever making the call that our water is acceptable so a new way can be found to spend this 3M settlement. This money exists because our water was polluted; that means every nickel of the 3M settlement must be spent to mitigate contaminated water in the affected areas of Demark Township, Cottage Grove, and other communities and I’m working hard to ensure our laws reflect that.
My legislation that would help construct the Health and Emergency Response Occupations (HERO) Center in Washington County is moving forward in the Minnesota House, as capital investment committee members debated the proposal this week.
The proposal would allocate $9.7 million in state bonding proceeds towards the construction of the HERO Center. The rest of the cost would be paid for by the cities of Cottage Grove and Woodbury. The HERO Center would also include a gun range which would be open to the public.
In 2015, $1.45 million was secured for the project’s plan and design. With a site already selected, the lawmakers say construction could begin later this year if state bonding proceeds are secured.
Both Republican and Democratic committee members thought the presentation went well, and the fact that it’s shovel-ready always improves its chances. After nearly eight years of working on this project, the knowledge and enthusiasm shown from our local testifiers was obvious and they did a great job.
The Hero Center proposal was held over for possible inclusion in the Minnesota House Capital Investment bill, which will be brought forward later this session.
LET’S RESTOCK OUR FOOD SHELVES
March is Minnesota FoodShare Campaign month. Earlier I visited with Chris Koop and Claire Poncin from Hastings Family Service to learn how Hastings is participating in the city-wide “food fight.”
I strongly encourage you to join me in helping restock our local food shelves. To learn more about Hastings Family Service click here, Friends in Need click here, or to read more on Minnesota FoodShare’s March campaign, visit this website.
Speaking of food, I recently did an interview with Minnesota Public Radio about childhood hunger. To listen, click here.
Constituent Dr. Jeff Nelson stopped by my office a couple of days ago. Dr. Nelson is a tireless advocate for environmental and health issues.
South Washington County Schools Superintendent Keith Jacobus and other staff members and parents traveled to the Capitol this week to share their thoughts on school safety and education priorities with area lawmakers. I was pleased to meet with them.
Afton resident Ruth Ann Michnay also visited this week as part of CPA Day at the Capitol. Tax preparers are dealing with the new state and federal tax laws as well as waiting to see what we do for tax conformity this session.
Have a good weekend,
Representative Tony Jurgens
523 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155