In the Spotlight

News & Features
Mark Dayton: The Environment
By Karen-Louise Boothe
September 11, 1998
Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4
Part of Election '98

MARK DAYTON KNOWS WHAT HE'D DO THE FIRST day he'd office if elected governor.

Dayton: On January one, I'd fire the MPCA Board.
Dayton says the board of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has been irresponsible in enforcing pollution control standards. He cites the lack of scrutiny over Koch Refining, which has been one of the state's biggest polluters.
Dayton: Their failure and the commissioner's failure and the failures of many key employees in that agency are morally reprehensible beyond my ability to describe them adequately.
And the pollution caused by large scale hog-farming operations registers as one of his key campaign issues.
Dayton: And there's no permitting, there's no supervision, there's no regulation, there's no monitoring. There hasn't been anything that the MPCA has done to deny permits or force this industry to clean up. And in fact, they've taken citizens that have gotten sick, who's farms are being overrun, and whose communities are being stunk, whose lives are being destroyed. They've been arrogant and indifferent. They have just so profoundly betrayed the public trust, and if we did the kind of water quality testing we should around the state - people would be horrified.
Dayton favors a moratorium on livestock feedlots.

Many of Dayton's DFL opponents have identified "urban sprawl" as an environmental problem the next governor should address. But Dayton says it can't be prevented. He says people will live where they want to live.

On the other hand, he favors policies that will slow the growth and manage it in a more environmentally and economically friendly way.

Dayton: So on the one hand, we shouldn't be subsidizing sprawl. We shouldn't be subsidizing developers and paying for public-infrastructure extensions that are going to benefit private interests. To the extent people want to be able to live farther away and want highways and roads to connect them with where they want to work, go to school and recreate - if we don't recognize and meet that, they're going to live somewhere else and those jobs and business owners will be somewhere else.
Dayton - like many of the other candidates - favors policies that assist in the clean up and re-development of inner city polluted land. So-called "brownfields" he says, hold the potential for helping to create jobs in the city and stabilize the urban economy.

PEOPLE TEND TO VOTE ON ECONOMIC ISSUES, but the environment presented major issues in this year's legislative session, and it's a factor in the gubernatorial race, too.

There's been a good amount of discussion over proposed moratoriums on large hog farming feed lots and greater scrutiny of Koch Refining, which has been one of the state's biggest polluters.

In both cases, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has come in for plenty of criticism. Nearly every candidate for governor is promising to restructure it. DFL Gubernatorial candidate Mike Freeman says it'd be one of the first things he'd do as Governor

Freeman: There's been a total lack of leadership from the Governor and from the Commissioner of the PCA in terms of what needs to be done.
Freeman says the MPCA also needs to apply equal regulations to business and industry.
Freeman : We don't want one company getting away with avoiding hazardous waste disposal regulations, which gives them a tremendous competitive advantage. They want it fair and across-the-board. And right now we've got a total mess from Koch Refining to hazardous-waste disposal to clean air, and we need a major housecleaning at the PCA.
Freeman says the state should phase out nuclear power and invest more in the research and development of renewable energy.
Freeman: The plants at Prairie Island and Monticello ought not to be re-licensed. When their licensure runs out in 2011 or 2014. That's 13 or 15 years from now. I believe, instead, that that nuclear power should be replaced by renewables whenever possible, but the most environmentally friendly fuel.

He says once nuclear plants are decommissioned, the state should provide the economic development needed to employ the workers who'd lose their jobs.

Freeman: If we continue to put our head in the sand and say, "We're not going to do anything," we're going to face the same problem we faced in 1993 and 1994: "You got to approve more casks or we shut down." And I think it's incumbent upon policy makers to start that discussion now, and that's why I've started.
Freeman says the state should also stress greater energy conservation.
Freeman: Anybody's who's driven the state as much as I have and seen these all-night gas stations with zillions of light bulbs on all-night long. You can see five, ten miles away. It makes no sense to do that.
Freeman favors stronger polices to slow urban sprawl.
Freeman: We need to have clear urban policies that encourage areas to redevelop versus taking virgin farmland and forests and cutting them down. We need to stop sending city tax dollars to the fourth-ring suburbs and subsidize roads and other development. We need to continue to develop our urban core, to spend time improving our neighborhoods, to improve inner-city transportation.
Freeman supports polices that assist in the re-development of the inner city for business and industry. That's why he supports funding to clean up so-called "brownfields" - polluted urban land that is worthy of new development.