There is once again a group of citizens in charge of helping guide and enforce laws meant to protect Minnesota's environment – but without some of the power it used to have.
Eight Minnesota citizens – including a former state lawmaker, a dairy-farm liaison and a public health worker – were named to the new Governor’s Committee to Advise the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
Basically, they're there to ask questions, provide guidance, make recommendations and provide feedback on the state's environmental protection laws, which is overseen by the agency they're advising (the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency).
They'll get together monthly, and all meetings will be open to the public, according to the operating procedures. If there are permits or other documents to be discussed, the goal will be to have the meeting before the public comment period opens.
This redux version of what used to be called the Citizens Advisory Board won't have quite the same amount of influence, however.
How does this compare to the original board?
This new committee is essentially a less powerful version of what came before it.
The original Citizens Advisory Board actually had veto power over some permitting decisions the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency made.
According to its website, the board was the MPCA’s public oversight and decision-making panel, ruling on “varied and complex pollution problems that affects areas of the state,” with its decisions made to protect the welfare of Minnesota’s water, air and land resources.
But that got it in trouble, as MPR explained last year, when the board ordered an environmental impact statement for a “mega-dairy” near Choklo – reversing what was recommended by the MPCA commissioner. That led some lawmakers and businesses to question the board's power, and it was dismantled during the 2015 legislative session (despite protests).
Dayton referred to the bill that did so as “terrible” and said he would do what he could to reconstitute the board.
That led to the governor announcing the creation of a replacement committee last August, though one with a limited scope compared to the original. The new board is essentially an advisory panel, meeting regularly to help “guide the direction and enforcement” of Minnesota’s environmental protection laws, as Dayton put it it.
It does not have the same veto power as before.
Who is on the new committee?
Eight people will each serve four-year terms on the new committee. Who are they? Here's a rundown:
Craig Acomb – Former assistant commissioner and CFO of the Minnesota Department of Health. Currently the president and CEO at the Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement.
Amira Adawe – Founding member and co-chair of the Somali Health Coalition, and also a member of the Metro Refugee Health Group Task Force. Currently works on maternal and child health policies with the Family Health and Community Engagement at Saint Paul – Ramsey County Public Health.
Cortney Amundson – The founder and director of an eco-therapy group that works with the Wounded Warrior Project and the Department of Veteran Affairs. Also a former Air Force technician.
Kurt Anderson – A manager at ALLETE, responsible for overseeing compliance of air, water, solid waste, and land management regulations. Also a member of the MPCA Sulfate/Wild Rice Advisory Panel, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, and the Electric Power Research Institute.
Dr. Rebecca Forma – A senior analyst at Merjent Inc., who looks at construction and industrial stormwater pollution prevention plans and supervises construction stormwater inspectors. She's an adjunct professor in the University of Minnesota, too.
Nathaniel Hultgren –CEO of Hultgren Farms, a 5,000-acre specialty crop farm, as well as a liaison between dairy development and local farms as part of his role with Meadow Star Dairy.
Norman Miranda – A member of HR Green Company, who consults with the Central Iron Range Sanitary Sewer District, and formerly worked in the wastewater management area at the Minneapolis Public Works Department.
Rep. Ted Winter – A former DFL state lawmaker from southwest Minnesota who currently sells insurance, owns and operates a 250-acre crop farm, and serves on the Lions Club, the Land Stewardship Project State Policy Committee, and the Minnesota Farmer’s Union.