With executive order, Dayton creates citizen board to advise pollution control agency

MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach
Dayton: “This is putting it back to where it should be so citizens can have a direct participation in environmental matters and decisions affecting their lives.”

Gov. Mark Dayton’s self-described “unbound” approach has manifested itself in different ways as he navigates his second term as governor. On Tuesday, it appeared in the form of an executive order.

The order makes way for an eight-member board led by the commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) that will advise the agency on everything from rule-making and permitting decisions to whether a project needs more environmental review.

Dayton said the whole point of the order, at least “in spirit,” is to partially undo an action from the Legislature last session to abolish the nearly 50-year-old Citizens Board of the MPCA. Dayton butted heads with a DFL-led Senate and Republican-controlled House over the provision in a special session but ultimately agreed to sign an environmental budget that included the change to avoid a government shutdown.

“These are the trophies they can take back their extreme ideologues and say, ‘See, we are demolishing government,’ ” Dayton said after a meeting of environmental and conservation groups in St. Paul, where he announced the order. “This is putting it back to where it should be so citizens can have a direct participation in environmental matters and decisions affecting their lives.”

To be clear, the new advisory committee won’t have the teeth of the old Citizens Board, which could approve or disapprove of decisions made by the MPCA. It was one of those disapproving votes by the citizen group that most agree got the board in trouble with legislators in the first place. The board voted 6-1 last August to require an environmental review of a large dairy operation trying to set up shop in the state.

The new committee will be charged with taking “input from the citizens before decisions are made,” MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine said.

All members of the new committee will be hand-picked by the governor. Dayton said he won’t necessarily appoint the old members of the Citizens Board to the new committee. He plans to go through the open appointment process.

Dayton said the ideal solution — which would be to restore the Citizens Board in its original form — is not an easy one to achieve. He couched the prospects of that as “very unlikely” with a Republican-controlled House still in power. 

That might have to wait to see if voters deliver Dayton a DFL-controlled House and Senate next fall. “It will continue in spirit as well as in practice until we have a chance to correct it in statute with you in the very near future,” Dayton told the crowd to cheers.  

GOP Reps. Denny McNamara, chair of the main House environmental committee, and Dan Fabian, who led the charge to change the makeup of the Citizens Board, issued a joint statement expressing dissapointment in Dayton’s move to create an “activist” board to advise the agency. 

“Farmers and businesses deserve certainty from state government, and this executive order is a disincentive for investment and business expansion in Minnesota,” they wrote. “House Republicans stand with farmers and the people of Greater Minnesota who worked to reform the MPCA this year, streamlining an often drawn out and burdensome permitting process.” 

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Comments (37)

  1. Submitted by John Appelen on 08/04/2015 - 04:37 pm.


    Will these be paid or voluntary positions? Anyone know?

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/05/2015 - 03:10 pm.


      At a rate of $55/day they spend on board activities. It’s the same as any other advisory council or committee.

  2. Submitted by Bill Willy on 08/05/2015 - 04:56 am.


    “Denny McNamara and Dan Fabian, who led the charge to change the makeup of the Citizens Board, issued a joint statement expressing disappointment in Dayton’s move to create an ‘activist’ board…”

    Change the makeup? What? Is that a misprint, or was it someone else who “led the charge” to ABOLISH the Citizens’ Board? If so, who, pray tell?

    ” ‘Farmers and businesses deserve certainty from state government’ [like non-farmers and non-business owners enjoy all the time], ‘and this executive order is a disincentive for investment and business expansion in Minnesota,’ they wrote. ‘House Republicans stand with farmers and the people of Greater Minnesota who worked to reform the MPCA this year.’ ”

    Republicans stand with the people of Greater Minnesota? As with the above, WHICH Greater Minnesota (non-activist?) people were those? Dave Dill? Dave Tomasonni? Tom Bakk? Tom Saxhaug? Tom Anzelc? Carly Melin? Jason Metsa? Kurt Daubt? Steve Drazkowski? The PR guy, the “legislative specialists” (solid waste permit exemption law writers) and the “environmental spokespeople” from Polymet? The Mass Herd feedlot owners?

    Denny… Dan…

    Go away.

    If you like Minnesota (instate or outstate) don’t vote for Republicans in 2016 (or 2018, or 2020, or 22, or, well, ever again). Their “ideas” and policies don’t work for anything other than creating deficits, general fiscal chaos and more pollution for you, your kids, and their kids. Their “ideas” and policies don’t work for anyone other than people that could care less about the environment if it interferes (at all) with their ability to make Big Money which is what Denny and Dan meant when they said the MPCA needed to be “reformed” (in case you’re not familiar with Republispeak).

    Good move, Gov.

    Now. About that MN copper-nickel mining ban…


    • Submitted by joe smith on 08/05/2015 - 07:09 am.

      How about good paying jobs?? Those of us who live up here on the Range understand how important mining is to thousands of families. Contrary to the ” green” crowd thinking mining can be done responsibly and so can sustainable forestry logging. I know many of you view work as a bad thing but all the jobs that come with mining are raising families up here!

      • Submitted by richard owens on 08/05/2015 - 09:17 am.

        Sulfide mining will leave sulphuric acid and poison your waters.

        Extraction results in depletion. This decision to allow it is “short term”. The process concentrates the waste rock as massive amounts of ultra-fine dust.

        Payrolls will last only until the market wains or the ore gets too expensive to crush and wash, yet the mess will be there forever.

        The jobs created in Wisconsin’s latest mining development are already gone. They lasted only a few years.

        There are few places in the world as endowed with natural resources and beauty as the North Country.

        Minnesotans should PROTECT our waters. Climate pressures and pollution will collapse more of our fisheries. If we become complacent, we will lose what cannot be re-created.

        IMHO, Sulfide mining will be a disaster for the vulnerable surface waters flowing over the ancient rock of the Canadian Shield, and for the wildlife whose existence depends on those waters.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 08/05/2015 - 03:40 pm.

        Gee…I didn’t realize

        that the state was responsible for providing you with “good paying jobs.” I would suggest that if the people who live up there want more opportunity, then they should move to where the jobs are. 30+ years ago, I would have loved to have stayed in my rural enclave, close to my folks, but I realized that if I wanted to advance in life, I had to move to where that advancement was possible, so I took a job in the Cities. No one is forcing people to live up there. Why is it that so many people that tout “personally responsibility” don’t seem to adhere to that principle in their own lives?

        • Submitted by joe smith on 08/05/2015 - 09:13 pm.

          The states that stand in the way of people using that states natural resources never do as well as states that not only allow mining, drilling, logging, fishing, farming but encourage it. Texas and N Dakota have blown away other states in creating good paying jobs the past decade.
          To hear a liberal talk about the state not being responsible for creating jobs is almost too much to believe. I agree with you, the state doesn’t owe anyone anything but not to use the natural resources available to you is just plain bad management. Believe me many Rangers have left our state and moved to N. Dakota in search of jobs. It is what we do up here…… Work.

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 08/05/2015 - 09:24 am.


    It would be easy to call them bald-faced liars, but I’m inclined to think that Mr. McNamara and Mr. Fabian simply don’t know what they’re talking about. There is no such thing as “certainty,” either in business or in life. Farmers and business owners – if not legislators – ought to know this in their bones. A citizen board that “advises” on environmental policy is better than having no citizen input at all, but it is not the same as a citizen board that has actual power to approve or disapprove the environmental consequences of business and agricultural actions and proposals, so the “activist” label is simply Republican propaganda.

    I’m a little confused by Joe Smith’s comment, however. Is he suggesting that mining canNOT be done responsibly, or that logging canNOT be done sustainably? I also can’t help but note Mr. Smith’s prejudicial tone in asserting that those in the “green” crowd, whatever that is, are somehow opposed to work. Personally, I’d argue that work is not only not a bad thing, it’s an essential thing. It is not, however, as essential as the environment. When Mr. Smith devises an alternative to potable water and breathable air, then he’ll have some credibility when talking or writing about the environment.

  4. Submitted by John Appelen on 08/05/2015 - 11:21 am.

    We Know Better

    I am starting to think of Dayton and these folks as the condescending “We Know Better” crowd. They live far from the area / consequences / costs and they believe they should be in control because the local folks are too ignorant and backwards to make a reasonable decision.

    I keep thinking about the 50 ft buffer strips instead of the 16.5 ft buffer strips as an example. The “We Know Better” crowd decided that it was necessary to take 1000’s of acres of land out of production in MN with little concern to the tens of thousands of bushels of crop that will not be produced in MN. Instead of just enforcing the 16.5″ foot strip better.

    Ironically, apparently it took the “I want more to hunt” crowds help to get the bill passed. Since now there will be more grassland for pheasants. Hopefully the farmers will start charging them rent to hunt on their land. That way will recover some of the loss. Of course, that won’t help our society in general to have more corn and soybeans available.

    • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 08/05/2015 - 12:00 pm.

      I’m curious to know 1) how you know

      That 16.5 feet strips are better than 50 feet strips and 2) how you know that the “I want more to hunt” “crowds” helped get the bill passed. Names for such “crowds”??

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/05/2015 - 12:56 pm.

        Buffers and Support

        I did not say that a 16.5 ft strip is better than a 50 ft strip. I think they are the same. Please remember our previous discussions, most water enters the ditches via tiles because the edges of the ditches are higher than the field. (search for county ditch images if you question this)

        Here is one discussion from a Sportsman. Please search and you will find many more. By the Pheasants Forever would be the primary force.

        • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 08/05/2015 - 02:34 pm.

          Well, not exactly…

          Your comment “from a Sportsman” did not also make clear that this guy is also a farmer. And while I suspect he is a good “Sportsman / Farmer” there are plenty of others who have cows swimming in the stream. Go to an industrial plant and if someone accidentally spills a gallon of mineral spirits down a floor drain there are SERIOUS consequences. Farmer’s have long been given a free pass: easy regulations and lax enforcement. Not even to mention all of the crop subsidy dollars. If a farmer does not comply with every environmental requirement put on them, they should be banned from any crop subsidy funds, or at least the funds should first be directed at remediating the environmental problems they have produced.

        • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 08/05/2015 - 04:23 pm.

          Thank you. Your answer raises more questions for me –

          As you say, smaller strips will result in the planting of more corn and soybeans. Perhaps more corn because of the subsidies for ethanol production (which requires an incredible amount of ground water). This increased planting has already caused crop prices to drop. Yet farmland prices are sky high. All this is setting up another land bubble bust in rural MN, especially if grasses continue to become a better source for ethanol. What’s worse – a severe drop in land values or wider strips? What about a wider strip planted in prairie grasses?

      • Submitted by Joe Smithers on 08/07/2015 - 11:40 am.


        The buffer idea was originally proposed at a pheasants forever meeting in Marshall. It was cleverly disguised as pollution control later to gain public support.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 08/05/2015 - 03:56 pm.

      Well, John…

      He’s the governor of the state. It’s his job to make uncomfortable decisions, not run a popularity contest. Do you think that all policy that’s implemented within your corporate structure is done by consensus? I know that it isn’t in mine…or any other company I’ve ever worked for. Are opinions asked for? Sure, but ultimately, decisions are made despite the misgivings of many.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/05/2015 - 05:04 pm.

        Choices and Consequences

        Personally I hope the Dayton and the DFL keeps frustrating the people of out state MN. I am a big supporter of divided government.

        Our management just announced some benefits changes. It will be interesting to observe the consequences here also…

        • Submitted by jason myron on 08/05/2015 - 09:56 pm.

          The flaw in your theory

          is that there is no mass exodus from the state.Why are you here? Oh right…we have all the jobs.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 08/06/2015 - 08:18 am.

            Actually I am here because I was born here. Many of my college class mates are in WI, IL, IA, SD and ND with very similar jobs and incomes. The Midwest is a pretty great place to live !!!

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