In the first 4 parts of this series (found here, here, here and here), I focused on different facets of the inadequacies of the Dayton-Rothman Commerce Department. I categorized each of the shortcomings and culprits. Most importantly, I identified the opportunities that the Dayton-Rothman Commerce Department missed and why.

This article will pull everything together so we can put together a less hostile, more business-friendly set of policies that doesn’t sacrifice the environment. First, we’ll need to streamline the regulatory review process so hostile environmental activists don’t have multiple opportunities to throttle key infrastructure projects. Whether we’re talking about killing the Sandpiper Pipeline project, the constant attempts by the Sierra Club, Conservation Minnesota and Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness to kill both the Twin Metals and the PolyMet projects or the Public Utilities Commission and the Dayton-Rothman Commerce Department, it’s clear that the DFL is openly hostile to major infrastructure projects.

It’s long past time to get the PUC out of the public safety/transportation business. Similarly, it’s time to get the Commerce Department out of the environmental regulatory industry. Public safety and transportation belong in MnDOT’s purview, not the PUC’s. Environmental regulations need to be significantly streamlined, then shipped over to the DNR. There should be a period for fact-finding and public comment. There should be the submitting and approval/disapproval of an Environmental Impact Statement and the submitting and approval/disapproval of an Economic Impact Statement.

Further, laws should be changed so that there’s no longer a requirement to submit an application for a “certificate of need.” In effect, that’s a bureaucratic regulatory veto of major infrastructure projects. That isn’t acceptable. There should be a time limit placed on the bureaucrats, too. They should have to accept or reject applications within a reasonable period of time. That’s because regulators have sometimes used delaying tactics to throttle projects without leaving a paper trail. It’s also been used to deny companies the right to appeal rulings. (If there isn’t a ruling, there isn’t an appeal.)

Third, streamlining the review process limits the opportunities for environmental activists to kill projects like those mentioned above. There’s a reason why it’s called the Commerce Department, not the Department of Endless Delays and Excessive Costs, which is what it’s become. Eliminating the PUC’s oversight responsibilities, especially in terms of approving certificates of need, will eliminate the impact that environmental activists serving on that Board can have in killing or at least delaying major infrastructure projects.

Fourth, it’s important that we bring clarity and consistency to this state’s regulatory regime. The system Minnesota has now breeds uncertainty. That steals jobs from Minnesota because companies attempt to avoid Minnesota entirely whenever possible. While we want to preserve our lakes, rivers and streams, we want to preserve our middle class, too. The environment shouldn’t be put on a pedestal while communities die thanks to a dying middle class.

I’ve seen too often how once-proud parts of Minnesota that have a heavy regulatory burden have seen their middle class essentially disappear. Cities like Virginia and Eveleth come to mind. It’s immoral to give a Twin Cities agency the authority to kill Iron Range communities. That’s literally what’s happening right now.

For the last 7 years, Gov. Dayton has run an administration that’s of, by and for the environmental activist wing of the DFL. If you work in a construction union, you haven’t had a great run. That isn’t right. People who work hard and play by the rules should be able to put a roof over their family’s head, set money aside for their kids’ college education and save for their retirement. For far too many people, that hasn’t happened recently.

The next Republican governor should implement these changes ASAP. It’s time to destroy the Dayton ‘Hostile to business’ sign and replace it with an ‘Open for business’ sign. It’s time to get Minnesota government working for everyone once again.

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