As we approach what would be the end of the legislative session, I am thankful for all of your feedback, letters and kind words. This pandemic has challenged us on many fronts. I remain committed to addressing the many issues that have arisen within the past month. We will continue to work as quickly as possible to address issues that have arisen due to COVID.
I know these times are difficult, but we will endure this period of uncertainty together, and as your State Senator, I will be working with my colleagues to ensure Minnesota families are taken care of. As always, I have included resources you may find useful during this time.
Long-fought TCE ban passes Senate
After more than a year’s effort involving numerous stakeholders and bill drafts, the Senate passed a bill to ban trichloroethylene (TCE), a volatile organic compound that is a known carcinogen and is associated with several other detrimental health effects.
The issue came to light after the discovery in 2019 that the company Water Gremlin had been using TCE to manufacture lead battery terminals and lead fishing sinkers but was violating its MPCA air emissions permit at levels high enough to threaten human health up to 1.5 miles around its facility in White Bear Lake Township. The violation had been occurring since at least 2009.
In response, Senator Chuck Wiger, Representative Ami Wazlawik and others worked extensively with a group of concerned citizens, the “Neighborhood Concerned Citizens Group (NCCG),” in addressing local issues that arose as a result of the Water Gremlin violation. Ultimately, the NCCG became a leading voice in negotiations to find a legislative TCE ban that all parties could support.
The compromise agreement that passed this week on the Senate floor includes:
• A ban on TCE use beginning June 1, 2022 but gives small businesses more time to assess replacement chemicals or modifications to their operations. TCE use would end in Minnesota by June 1, 2023
• A requirement that businesses replace TCE with a chemical demonstrated to be less toxic to human health and approved by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). Exceptions are granted for specified uses where compliance with health-based values and risk limits for TCE is demonstrated
• $250,000 in interest-free loans to small businesses under MPCA’s Small Business Assistance Program for help in reducing TCE use.
The bill passed this week with near-unanimous approval on a vote of 61-1, and similar action is expected in the House of Representatives in the coming days. Prior to the bill’s passage, an amendment was approved to name the legislation the “White Bear Area Neighborhood Concerned Citizens Group Ban TCE Act,” in recognition of the group’s leading role in bringing parties toward a compromise that all could support.
When enacted, this legislation will become the first TCE ban in the nation. (SF 4073)
New COVID-19 website announced that will connect Minnesotans with testing resources
Governor Walz launched a new website this week that provides a user-friendly approach to helping Minnesotans find a COVID-19 testing location near them. This website, which now can connect individuals to one of the 127 clinics and health care facilities able to test for the virus, also offers an interactive screening program that helps determine if someone needs a test along with other general information. Through the website, the state will also be able to coordinate with local public health and tribal organizations to ensure their communities are being supported.
Governor Walz modifies Executive Order to allow elective procedures
Governor Walz, with the guidance of The Minnesota Department of Health, modified Executive Order 20-09 this week, which postponed elective surgical procedures to make room for COVID-19 patient treatment. Many procedures classified under “elective”, such as dental work and veterinary care, could cause long lasting and substantial risk if postponed indefinitely. Therefore, many of these types of procedures will begin to resume. The postponing of these procedures until now has created the space and resources for treating COVID-19 patients. It is important to note, however, that the governor and his team of experts approach this decision with caution, discernment, and, if need be, may have to suspend them again. Each hospital, ambulatory surgery center, and clinic must develop and implement a written plan for determining procedures that can be performed under some considerations. A comprehensive list of mandatory considerations can be accessed here.