Back to work in St. Paul

Joe AlbertFor state politicos, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yes indeed, the Legislature is back for what promises to be an interesting session.

While most committees aren’t meeting this week, Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis and chair of the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance Committee, wasted no time in getting things moving.

Her committee met Thursday morning. There was no heavy lifting here. At last check, the only three bills that have been sent to the committee are from Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton. And all three have to do with Lake Mille Lacs. Similar bills gained no traction, even when Republicans were in power.

But the meeting was a worthwhile one in that it offered a preview of some of the topics to come. In previous conversations, Wagenius has been rather circumspect about the issues she expected her committee to tackle.

If you’re expecting hardcore hook and bullet stuff, you’ll be disappointed (that’s probably more for Rep. David Dill’s environment policy committee to deal with, anyway). So what sorts of things does Wagenius expect to discuss? She offered a few nuggets Thursday:

  • The drought that’s gripped the state and nation, and especially its effects on agriculture and natural resources. In a previous interview, Wagenius mentioned the drought, if it continues, likely will lead to “more and more conflicts over water.”
  • Aquatic invasive species, which have been a hot topic in past sessions and will be again this year. Legislators likely will spend time trying to figure out a long-term mechanism to fund the AIS fight, and also will have to consider appropriating more money to an Asian carp barrier at Lock and Dam 1 on the Mississippi River.
  • Fracking. According to the website “What Is Fracking,” fracking is: “the process of drilling for natural gas and oil underneath the ground. Water mixed with other components is pumped into the ground to create cracks (also referred to as fissures or fractures) to release the gas into wells that have been built for collection.”
  • Ozone, and how the state can comply with federal rules that regulate fine particulate matter.

And what will Dill’s environment policy committee be tackling. Hook and bullet stuff, to be sure, but that’s not where it begins. According to the committee’s schedule, it will begin next Tuesday with a presentation from the DNR on the options for a carp barrier at Lock and Dam 1. The following day, the topic will be on the wetland conservation report that BWSR recently completed.

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