Speedy Environmental Reviews

Minnesota Wetland

The Minnesota House of Representatives passed their environmental policy bill last week.  The most controversial parts of the bill ease some regulations protecting wetlands and speed up the process of environmental reviews affecting developers and industry.

This is part of the GOP myth that all problems are solved by so-called job creators and the best way to serve the public interest therefore is to make life as simple and convenient as possible for these job creators.

The problem is the solution to our economic and social malaise isn’t quite as simple as easing regulation.

Moreover, once we lose wetlands, for example, they are likely lost forever.  Property rights only last the lifetime of the property owner, but land — or what is left of it — lasts forever.

Private land does not exist apart and separate from the overall environment.  It has a future as much as it has a past.  What we do to land today — whether we protect or neglect it — bears on what happens to land in the rest of our environment now and for years into the future.

We are seeing a troubling trend in how we manage and protect our limited natural resources.  Just this year lawmakers disregarded the Federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in favor of redundant bridge crossing the St. Croix River south of Stillwater.  These laws are passed precisely because we cannot count on private interests to protect our natural resources.

So when we make it a matter of policy that we will restrict the laws protecting our environment, people should be concerned.  It is hard to see how speedy environmental reviews serve the interests of the people.

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