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Skip Humphrey: The Environment
By Laura McCallum
September 11 1998
Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4
Part of Election '98

TWO WEEKS AGO SKIP HUMPHREY STOOD ON A POLLUTED former industrial site a block from his campaign headquarters in St. Paul and talked about his plan to spend $75 million cleaning up and re-developing contaminated urban areas known as "brownfields."

Humphrey: This site here is one perfect example of that, in which public and private initiative have come together, and what was once just an open sore is now becoming a place where there's going to be a whole new amount of housing for students going to the University of Minnesota.
Humphrey's budget proposal includes a $140 million environmental initiative fund. In addition to cleaning up brownfields, the money would restore parks and trails and replace trees destroyed by severe storms. Humphrey would also like to create a program he'd call "Sky Blue Waters" to protect the state's lakes. As Humphrey sees it, environment preservation is essential for the same reason he cited in his war against big tobacco: protecting Minnesota's children.
Humphrey: The goal of any environmental program has to be not just the stewardship of taking what is given to us in our generation and leaving it the same. It's got to be improving it. We need to give to the next generation a better, cleaner, brighter future.
Humphrey says Minnesota should take a step back before embracing large-scale animal feedlots. He supports a temporary moratorium and says he was the first to call for one, although DFL opponent Mark Dayton also claims credit for that. Humphrey says feedlots pose a major problem with their high concentrations of animal waste, and the state needs adequate standards to protect farmland from feedlot pollution.
Humphrey: And I told the pork producers, and I've told livestock producers, if we get this right we will continue to grow and expand our agricultural sector. And that's what I want to see. I wanna see an expanded agricultural economy, not a limited one. But we gotta get it right.
Humphrey is highly critical of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency under the Carlson administration. He says pollution problems at Koch Refinery point out the need for a thorough review of the agency and its board.
Humphrey: I'll tell you this - we're not putting developers on there! We're gonna put some people ... I want environmentalists! I want people who are first and foremost concerned about the environment. But I also want environmentalists that understand that we are a state that's going to continue to grow. But we're going to grow based on those sustainable principles.
Among those principles is reigning-in urban sprawl. Humphrey says the state can do that through responsible land-use planning that coordinates transportation and housing. He says a Metropolitan Council elected by citizens would be better equipped to tackle tough land-use decisions, and he notes that he first pushed for an elected council when he became a state senator back in 1973.

Humphrey is careful not to blame business in general for environmental problems, and says preservation and economic development can work hand in hand. Humphrey thinks the vast majority of businesses want to protect the environment, and banks and insurers should reward employers who do so.