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Little-known move puts Minnesota's drinking water and health at further risk

Northfield News - 6/25/2018

Although I am not running for office, I am still working on your behalf in the Legislature.

This week, I spoke with constituents at a Healthcare for All Minnesotans meeting explaining the Minnesota Health Plan, a Democracy in the Park gathering, a meeting with Dairy Farmers on the milk pricing crisis and then attended the Legislative Water Commission where we discussed the future of water policy in Minnesota. Water policy is an issue I know is very important to constituents in my district, regardless of political leanings.

Even if you were paying attention to the closing days of the legislative session, there's something you probably missed, and it's a big deal when it comes to the safety of water supplies for communities and private wells in every corner of Minnesota. Minnesotans expect us to play by the rules and put their safety first, but a handful of Republican legislators were able to use an arcane rule to halt the implementation of safe drinking water practices that had been in the works for years.

Known as the Groundwater Protection Rule, these safe drinking water protections were created in partnership between local farmers and the Department of Agriculture to make sure farmers weren't applying too much nitrogen fertilizer in areas already exceeding safe drinking water standards and those in sensitive areas where groundwater is threatened. It's a big problem for local communities to pay to treat their water when it's contaminated, and it's especially troublesome for families who rely on private wells to know if they are contaminated and to shoulder the cost of treating their drinking water.

These common sense practices were stopped by just nine of 134 legislators in the House. And you're not going to believe who they put the safety of your water and health at stake for: big-moneyed special interest. These rules had been agreed to by everyone. They had been agreed to by agriculture groups such as the Corn Growers and the Farmers Union, by local governments and the counties who represent taxpayers who will pay astronomical amounts of money to treat contaminated water and by soil and crop scientists at the Department of Agriculture.

So, if everyone agreed that they didn't want the children and families living in their community to be harmed, why did they halt these protections? Could it be massive industrial farms who don't have roots in our Minnesota communities lobbied to stop these common sense water safety rules from going into effect? What's worse is, knowing how unpopular this move would be, they bypassed the usual lawmaking process so the rest of the Republican legislators didn't have to answer for it.

Make no mistake, nobody was asking to put our drinking water at risk other than the big industrial ag interests. The explanation given was that although the Department of Agriculture accommodated all their objections, they wanted to force the governor's hand to pass the Ag Policy Bill, which they had muddied with a 'soil loss' provision the governor made clear he could not accept.

They may claim they care about people in communities such as ours and our neighbors', but these nine Republicans legislators would put the safety of your community's water supply and taxpayer dollars at risk simply to pressure the governor to sign a bill they had poisoned with another measure he could not accept. Minnesotans expect us to put their interests first, not play political games with important water and agriculture policy. Minnesotans deserve better than this.


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