Senate OKs Ingebrigtsen's bill for faster permitsST. PAUL — A bill written to speed up the issuance of environmental permits speeded through the Minnesota Senate Thursday on a 49-16 vote.
By: Don Davis, Alexandria Echo Press
ST. PAUL — A bill written to speed up the issuance of environmental permits speeded through the Minnesota Senate Thursday on a 49-16 vote.
Since it differs slightly from a similar bill the House already passed, it now heads to negotiators to work out differences.
Democrats complained about a provision in Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen’s bill because it allows a company that requests a permit to hire a private firm to write an environmental impact statement.
“The fox in charge of the chicken coop” is how Sen. Linda Higgins, DFL-Minneapolis, described it.
However, Higgins and others failed to change the bill as Ingebrigtsen assured senators that environmental issues will be investigated by the state.
Higgins also did not like the fact that the bill would cost $1.8 million more in the next two-year budget, with state agencies hiring 18 people to speed the permitting process. Ingebrigtsen said cuts would be made in other places.
The bill is a prime Republican priority and one that Democrat Governor Mark Dayton shares. Speeding the permitting process could allow companies to expand or open new operations and hire Minnesotans quicker.
“We need to be a little more tuned to business,” Ingebrigtsen said.
The bill sets a 150-day goal for the Department of Natural Resources and Pollution Control Agency to issue permits businesses need before building or expanding.
“Republicans and Democrats at the local and state level heard from constituents during the election process asking for an improved business climate,” Ingebrigtsen told members of the Senate Thursday. “A major concern of businesses and individuals is the inconsistent permitting and regulation process.”
Ingebrigtsen said the time and cost required to obtain permits and get projects going is frustrating and hurts job creation.
In a news release issued last week, Ingebrigtsen said, “This legislation takes steps to expedite appeals, proposal submittals and to clarify assessment charges. In doing so, we greatly improve existing permitting procedures. Further, we are mindful of the need to protect the environment, public health and natural resources of our state. This bi-partisan legislation does that, while allowing us to move at the speed of commerce and put people back to work.”