Cities defend water quality measures in finance bill

A day after a group of DFL senators asked that some controversial policy provisions be stripped from an environment finance bill, the cities that support some of the provisions are defending the measures.

Today the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities urged Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook,  to keep the language, which requires cost analysis and independent peer review of water quality rules when they meet certain cost thresholds.

The measures also give the Legislature a chance to weigh in on some water quality rules. The legislation was prompted by new rules for phosphorus, which affect municipal wastewater treatment plants, and other forthcoming water standards.

Heidi Omerza, the coalition’s president, said the legislation was introduced early enough that it should have received committee hearings in the Senate, as it did in the House.

She said the fact that a group of DFL senators felt regretful after votes in favor of the overall finance bill was “nothing compared to the keep-you-up-at-night anxiety that local elected officials experience when thinking about how our cities will be able to pay for these potentially unnecessary regulations.”

A conference committee appointed by the GOP-controlled House and DFL-controlled Senate will work out differences in the environment finance bill in the coming weeks. Gov. Mark Dayton earlier this week called the water quality measures in the bills “ill-advised.”

Read the letter: