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Jean Wagenius > The Issues > Environment      

Clean air and water

  • Jean chairs the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Finance Committee. Her Omnibus Finance bill of 2013 made progress on many fronts but the emphasis was on our waters. Under Jean’s leadership the legislature made huge progress in protecting our waters including groundwater which is the drinking water source for 75% of Minnesotans.
  • Jean’s Omnibus Finance Bill of 2014 took additional large steps to continue the progress in protecting our waters that was started in 2013. Among other provisions included in her 2014 finance bill was the creation and funding of a terrestrial plants and pests research center at the U to combat the ever-increasing problem of invasive species; nation-leading laws to protect honeybees and other pollinators; a substantial increase in resources for recycling and composting; and funding our state parks and trails at a level that stops closures.
  • Jean was chief author of the 2007 and 2009 Environment, Natural Resources, and Energy Omnibus Finance Bills which put Minnesota on track to complete testing the State’s waters every 10 years, develop cleanup plans and begin the cleanup process.
  • Jean was co-author of the legacy constitutional amendment that was approved by voters and is dedicated to clean water; parks and trails; habitat conservation; and arts and our cultural heritage.
  • Jean helped write both major laws designed to combat climate change.
  • In 2007 Jean organized a joint House-Senate hearing for 9 committees to hear from Arctic explorer Will Steger and experts at the University of Minnesota about global climate change, its causes, impacts—and the solutions. This hearing on the floor of the House was deemed historic by the media and set the stage for major legislation dealing with climate change.
  • Jean authored a law that requires the Minnesota Department of Health to replace its outdated, adult- based air and water standards with tougher child-based standards so toxins will not affect a child’s development or contribute to diseases like cancer. If children are properly protected, adults will be protected. The Department of Health has been exceedingly slow to act and Jean is pressing them to get their work done.
  • Jean wrote and was House author of the law that requires schools to let parents know about the pesticides that they plan to use in their children’s schools and further lets parents know that long term health effects from the use of pesticides is unknown. The law is named after Senator Janet Johnson who, before she died, asked Jean to write it.
  • Jean served as House chair of the Legislative Commission on Waste Management for several terms. During her tenure she took on the landfill operators by strengthening the state’s recycling, reduction and household hazardous waste laws.
  • Jean has authored numerous laws that require manufacturers to reduce or recycle the toxins that get into our air and water. Her battery legislation required manufacturers to quit selling mercury batteries in Minnesota, to eliminate mercury from the common alkaline battery and to reclaim rechargeable batteries with lead or cadmium. These laws were the first of their kind in the nation and other state legislatures have modeled their laws after the laws she wrote for Minnesota.
  • Manufacturers using mercury didn’t want people to know their products contained toxic mercury, but Jean authored a law requiring manufacturers to label products with mercury so it can be removed and recycled. She authored another law requiring the reuse or recycling of major appliances and the removal of their PCB’s, mercury and chlorofluorocarbons.
  • Jean authored an amendment to the wetlands law providing that wetlands drained or filled by roadwork in the metro area must be replaced in the same county instead of with wetlands outside of the metro area. Highway lobbyists wanted to do the cheap thing rather than do what’s right for our waters.
  • The Ford Foundation gave Minnesota it prestigious Innovations Award and a $100,000 grant in recognition of our land recycling program. Jean authored the law that is encouraging voluntary cleanup of polluted land or "brownfields." Developers, not taxpayers, foot the bill and the clean land adds to our tax base. Developers had wanted taxpayers to foot the bill.
  • Jean authored a law that is now cleaning up over 100 old landfills and saving our local governments and business community an estimated four hundred million dollars in legal fees and other costs. The legislation included a process for determining an insurer’s obligation to pay their fair share of the cleanup. Insurers are fighting the process but it has collected $35 million from insurers for the clean up thus far.
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