State candidate urges environmental reform

Brian Close

Manure dumps at feedlots is a major environmental concern for gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton. The former state politician pressed the issue in a speech about environmental law on Thursday.
Dayton focused on the process a developer must go through to get approval from the state’s environmental review boards — a procedure he called “endless, exasperating, and incomprehensible.”
More than 30 students attended the lunch forum, held in the Law Building and sponsored by the Environmental Law Society.
Carl Johnson, a co-chair of the society, said Dayton’s speech showed his knowledge of the subject.
Dayton has been involved in several environmental issues in the state. The environment is also a large part of his platform.
“I thought he was very familiar with the complexity of the issues,” Johnson said.
Such issues included the environmental review process as well as specific concerns about feedlots and the lagoons of raw sewage output from animal farming operations.
Dayton reiterated his support for a proposed moratorium on the construction of new feedlots, which he claims cause “sickening odors” and illegal toxic emissions.
Some audience members expressed concern that the moratorium would put farmers out of business.
“I don’t think some of the environmentalists realize what is happening with the farmers,” said Jon Lauck, a first year law student. “If they are not allowed to do this, they will probably have to quit farming.”
Dayton said his proposal for the environment is to have real oversight, audits and sufficiently large penalties to ensure compliance.
As an example, he said a farmer who now dumps raw sewage and kills 700,000 fish, receives a fine of $50,000, or 7 cents for each fish.
“I know what we pay at the supermarket for clean fish,” he said. “I don’t think that is an appropriate penalty or deterrent.”
Dayton is seeking the DFL endorsement.