July 1, 2011 Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and legislative leaders from the Minnesota House and Senate were unable to come to an agreement on a budget. The Governor declined to call a Special Session and state government agencies are now shut down except for what are deemed “critical” or “essential” agency functions. Former Supreme Court Justice Kathleen Blatz is serving as a Special Master to hear appeals of parties who are seeking to reinstate governmental services that have been shut down.
As was reported here in an earlier post, with the shutdown the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA’s) day-to-day operations have largely come to a halt. Standard MPCA functions, such as issuing permits, conducting environmental review on new projects, reviewing applications in the Voluntary Investigation and Cleanup and Petroleum Brownfield programs, conducting inspections and responding to complaints, have come to a halt. Anyone searching the internet for information about the MPCA – http://www.pca.state.mn.us/ – its programs, regulations, permits and any other information will find one page with questions and answers providing general advice and guidance during the shutdown. Links to other pages with information about MPCA programs, permits, guidance are no longer active.
At Hessian & McKasy’s Environmental Practice Group we are assisting clients in addressing issues related to operating and maintaining compliance during the shutdown period. The impact on compliance and potential enforcement is uncertain. For example, the MPCA advises that because staff are not available to review stormwater permit applications, applications submitted during the shutdown will be deemed incomplete. Because no one knows the duration of the shutdown, the ramifications for businesses are unknown.
Up until yesterday the MPCA had 927 employees to carry out its duties. Layoff notices have now taken effect and today a “skeleton” crew of 13 employees remain on hand to handle emergencies and other basic functions. MPCA activities which have been deemed “essential” or “critical” by a Ramsey County District Court judge include:
- Petroleum remediation at four sites
- Air quality index monitoring
- BioWatch monitoring services
- Four closed landfill sites (gas collection, leachate prevention)
- Seven Superfund sites (active management & protection)
- Emergency response; and
- Incident command and support for critical services
Ongoing work at the active petroleum remediation, closed landfill and Superfund sites may involve private parties who are under contract with the MPCA. The MPCA also has contractors on standby to respond to spills and other emergency situations that may occur.
Because the shutdown of State government in Minnesota is unprecedented, the impact on businesses and the public are unknown. If you have questions related to the impact of the shutdown on your operations, please feel free to contact the environmental law attorneys at Hessian & McKasy. We are pleased to assist you in responding to these important matters.
At Hessian & McKasy, our environmental lawyers assist clients on a range of matters including those involving federal, state and local environmental agencies. The views expressed here are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer, Hessian & McKasy, a Professional Association.
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