Streams and streamlining

A bill could bar new water regulations in Minnesota for two years.

Daily Editorial Board

The stateâÄôs legislative session hasnâÄôt even lasted two months yet, but new bills have been coming in fast and hot. While a rapid pace is welcome, some ideas need extra caution.

Last Thursday, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee gave the go-ahead on a bill that could lead to combining or dissolving some state environmental agencies in order to streamline state government.

The current proposal says agencies would not have the right to create new water-protection regulations for two years, during which time the state would study how current rules overlap and conflict with one another.

Streamlining government agencies is commendable, as is reducing the number of state agencies that set the standards businesses have to abide by. However, a moratorium would, among other things, prohibit health agencies from issuing new or updated regulations to protect public drinking water.

According to Rebecca Flood, the assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the moratorium could also prevent the adoption of a bill that would streamline the environmental permit process. Right now, that process is unnecessarily split between the Department of Natural Resources and the MPCA. The state House passed the bill with large bipartisan support, but the bill would be in jeopardy under a moratorium on new regulations.

ItâÄôs not clear why a two-year freeze is even necessary. It seems only to block support for the bill it is attached to âÄî a bill that otherwise is solid and effective. Lawmakers should either remove the moratorium or make it perfectly clear how MinnesotansâÄô water will be kept safe.