The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the environment of Minnesota and preserving our natural heritage for generations to come. The DNR employs 2,700 workers and does everything from maintaining state parks to defending our waters from invasive species. Such a broad and comprehensive agency needs a capable, experienced, enthusiastic leader, and DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr certainly fits the bill. His credentials have not gone untested; just one year into his term, Commissioner Landwehr has combated Asian carp, conserved natural grassland, and convinced Minnesotans to get in touch with the great outdoors again. Commissioner Landwehr did all this despite the government shutdown last summer and a 15 percent cut in funds from the state.
Politics in Minnesota (subscription required) highlighted the work of Commissioner Landwehr this week. Bud Stone, president of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, emphasizes Commissioner Landwehr’s work ethic and effectiveness. He worked with Landwehr as a member of the Forest Legacy Advisory Group, and said, “Tom was a great asset because he’s very knowledgeable.”
Op/Ed by Governor Mark Dayton
Published in Outdoor News on Friday, March 2, 2012 at 2:42 p.m.
By now, readers of Outdoor News know about the imminent threat that Asian carp (including silver, bighead and black carp) pose to the precious waters of our wonderful state. Silently and steadily, they are migrating up the Mississippi River. If established here, they would forever change the ecology and human uses of many of our water resources.
Thus it is critical that we act as quickly as possible, in whatever ways feasible, to stop the spread of Asian carp. We must also continue to work on other aquatic invasive species like zebra mussels and Eurasion watermilfoil. DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr and his staff have been working in overdrive to identify control options, assemble funding, and get authority to put protections in place.
Tim Schlagenhaft is the DNR’s point person on its Asian carp response effort (as suggested by Dennis Anderson in Feb. 12 Star Tribune, for his outstanding expertise). Tim has spent most of his career at DNR working on issues related to the Mississippi River, and has worked in close cooperation with many agencies and organizations to develop the state’s Asian carp action plan (see link at bottom). This plan outlines several steps we must take, both now and longer-term, to defeat this serious threat.
A year ago Governor Dayton ordered the Minnesota DNR and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to ‘move at the speed of commerce.” The Governor signed an Executive Order directing agencies to accelerate their permitting process and make final permit decisions within 150 days. DNR and MPCA answered the call, at their year-end reporting deadline both agencies have issued and approved 99% of their permits in less than 150 days; many of the determinations were made within just a few weeks.
The DNR and MPCA are responsible for handling between 3,000 and 5,000 permits annually, reviewing construction and expansion projects and protecting Minnesota's natural resources and environment. However, lengthy review processes can slow down growth and create headaches for businesses. To resolve this problem, Gov. Dayton directed the MPCA and DNR to accelerate and simplify their permitting process in order to allow more rapid business expansion and job creation. He asked the agencies to make permit decisions within 150 days and expedite the application process by allowing electronic filing. The State Legislature followed the Governor's lead, making the order law during the 2011 legislative session.
Though Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Paul Aasen has taken heat from both sides of the political spectrum, he receives the rare credit of landing the in the “Extreme Center” in today’s Politics in Minnesota’s ‘Capitol Life’ series (Full Article, subscription required).
The article gives narrates Aasen’s rich background in the environmental movement as well as three gubernatorial administrations – all of different parties.
Government background is, of course, normal for agency commissioner appointees. What sets Aasen apart from most of his peers, said longtime MCPA division manager Mike Sandusky, is that he also knows the science that underpins his agency.
“That is sort of a rarity for us,” Sandusky says. “We don’t usually get that in a commissioner appointment. … That is powerful within our culture, as well as somewhat comforting to us.”
Minnesota benefitted from the Commissioner’s balanced approach in 2011 through common sense reform of Minnesota’s Environmental Review Process.
Under the Recovery Act, Minnesota was awarded $138 million to deliver energy efficient upgrades such as insulation, air-sealing, and more efficient heating and cooling systems in homes across the state.
Read the full announcement below:
Governor Dayton and Energy Secretary Chu Announce Major Recovery Act Milestone: 18,000 Homes Weatherized in Minnesota, 600,000 Nationwide
Recovery Act Program has Reduced Energy Bills for 18,000 Minnesota Households
Washington, DC -- U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu hosted a conference call today with Governor Mark Dayton to announce that states and territories across the nation have reached the goal of weatherizing more than 600,000 low-income homes– including more than 125,000 multi-family homes like apartment buildings – more than three months ahead of schedule. Under the Recovery Act, Minnesota was awarded $138 million to deliver energy efficient upgrades such as insulation, air-sealing, and more efficient heating and cooling systems in homes across the state. Through October, Minnesota has upgraded more than 18,000 homes, exceeding its goal under the Recovery Act by more than 400, and will continue weatherizing homes for the next few months with Recovery Act funds. The state reached this major milestone as part of its efforts with the Department to save energy and reduce home utility bills for families, while creating jobs in communities throughout the country.
Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius and MDE staff will embark on a statewide tour to present information about Minnesota’s waiver request and plans for a new accountability system that will more accurately and fairly measure schools progress.
“While the goals of NCLB are noble and some aspects of the law have been effective, it’s clear Minnesota can, and must do better,” said Commissioner Cassellius. “That’s why Governor Dayton has taken the lead in making Minnesota one of the first states to create an accountability system that is more responsive to the needs of our students, our schools and our state. These meetings will provide the public an opportunity to hear about Minnesota's waiver request, ask questions and offer feedback.”
The first meetings will be held in Rochester on December 7 and in St. Cloud on December 14. To read the full announcement and for more information about the waiver request, click here.
Dayton said the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has issued more than 1,300 new permits within his goal of 150 days.
MPCA Commissioner Paul Aasen said that's a 80 percent success rate for all permit requests and a 96 percent success rate for new permits. He said the findings should end a stigma that environmental permitting takes too long in Minnesota.
"Environment and business can coexist very nicely," Aasen said. "We've always believed that and we're doing out best to make sure that we are not a piece of that perceived issue."
Dayton said his order instructs the Environmental Quality Board to look at more ways to speed up the environmental review process.
The West Central Tribune has an article today previewing this weekend's Governor's Pheasant Opener. The article notes that Governor Dayton "wants to thank the state’s military veterans, and has asked the sponsors to invite veterans recently returned from deployments in the Middle East." Check it out below:
MONTEVIDEO — Mayor Debra Lee Fader has lots of experience at welcoming hunters to Montevideo.
She and her husband, Brad, own the Sportsmen Inn, a 23-room motel that promotes itself as a “hunting and fishing headquarters.’’
This weekend will be a tad different, she admits, with Gov. Mark Dayton hosting the first-ever Governor’s Pheasant Opener in Montevideo.
Minnesota Public Radio highlighted the news earlier this week:
Mountain Iron, Minn. — A new solar energy plant on the Iron Range celebrated a grand opening Monday.
Seattle-based Silicon Energy began training workers to produce photovoltaic systems at a plant in Mountain Iron last month. Minnesota was chosen for Silicon Energy's second plant because of a state incentive program encouraging purchase of solar panels made in-state, said company president Gary Shaver.