South Dakota

Argus Leader: ELPC’s McLarty Calls Vetoed Bill in S.D. Loss for Impaired Big Sioux River

By John Hult, Argus Leader

The House of Representatives came up 10 votes short Tuesday in an attempt to override Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s veto of a voluntary conservation measure.

The 37-28 vote on the House floor sustained Daugaard’s veto of Senate Bill 136, which would have offered tax incentives to farmers who plant grassy buffer strips between their crops and bodies of water.

The bill passed the House 58-9 three weeks ago, but the support withered in the face of Daugaard’s veto letter last week.

Had the measure passed with a two-thirds majority in both houses, farmers would be able to ask that 50-foot buffer strips planted with perennials be taxed at a lower rate than the ag land surrounding it.

Backers of buffer strips say the practice of placing absorbent foliage between the fertilizer, manure and dirt that runs off during heavy rains is a simple and natural way to protect the state’s waters for human and animal use.

The Senate pushed the measure to the House with a 32-1 vote earlier in the day, but the representatives couldn’t muster the support to overcome concerns about the measure’s constitutionality and impact on the property tax base, Opponents, repeating some of Daugaard’s points from his veto letter, called the proposal half-baked.

Several representatives argued that the proposal needs the attention of the Ag Land Task Force, which could define which bodies of water would be eligible for the tax breaks.

“I am very concerned with having Department of Revenue set up the rules for what streams and creeks there would be,” said Rep. Lee Qualm, R-Platte.

Rep. Tim Johns, R-Lead, spoke twice against the measure, saying the constitutional questions raised by Daugaard had validity. Normally, land is taxed for its “highest and best use,” which would be as crop land.

“It is of questionable constitutionality,” Johns said.

Rep. Justin Cronin, R-Gettysburg, painted the measure as a backdoor acceptance of the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Waters of the U.S.” rule, challenged in court as overreaching by several states, including South Dakota.

Cronin said the impact on taxes and land use is too uncertain to support.

“There’s no rules,” Cronin said. “This is way too much, way too fast.”

Supporters called the constitutional question a smokescreen. Daugaard asked the South Dakota Supreme Court to rule on the potential constitutional issue in an advisory opinion, but the court punted, issuing a ruling that said the questions didn’t rise to the level of those needing immediate attention.

“If they had a significant problem with the constitutionality of this bill, they could have taken it up and offered an opinion,” said Rep. Lance Russell of Hot Springs.

The supporters called the measure a “common sense” incentive program worthy of support by virtue of its voluntary nature. In Minnesota, buffer strips are now mandated by law, said Rep. Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, and Iowa is dealing with lawsuits over water quality.

“It’s not Minnesota, where there’s severe legislation. It’s not Iowa, where there’s severe litigation,” Schoenbeck said.

Matt McLarty, a policy analyst for the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Sioux Falls, called the failed override attempt a loss for the Big Sioux River. The river has been tagged as an impaired water body for years, and groups such as his have teamed with hunting and conservation groups in hopes of lessening the impact of upstream agriculture without hitting farmers in the wallet.

The number of representatives who flipped after the veto letter was “baffling,” McLarty said, given that the voluntary buffer strip bill was a compromise with bipartisan support.

“We can only truly begin to restore the health of the Big Sioux River when Urban and Ag starts working together on common sense solutions, and by creating a voluntary system to build up buffer zones along the watershed, we could have begun that process,” McLarty said.

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Courthouse News Service: Thirty-one States Fight Clean Water Rule

(CN) – Attorneys general from 31 states asked the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to delay implementation of a Clean Water Act rule for at least 9 nine months for judicial review.
The rule defines “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. The states claim it asserts federal jurisdiction over streams, wetlands and other water bodies previously considered to be under state jurisdiction.
The EPA cited the need for clean drinking water and clean water as an economic driver as the impetus for its new rule, and Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 in which justices disagreed about which waters were covered by the Act.
“About 117 million Americans – one in three people – get drinking water from streams that lacked clear protection before the Clean Water Rule,” the EPA said in a May 27 statement about the new rule. “The health of our rivers, lakes, bays, and coastal waters are impacted by the streams and wetlands where they begin.”

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South Dakota Public Broadcasting: Friends Of The Big Sioux River

The newly formed non-profit, Friends of the Big Sioux River, held a press conference last Thursday to announce its vision to realize “a clean, healthy river for all to enjoy and share with pride.”  In 2012, the Big Sioux was identified as the 13th dirtiest river in the nation.  Friends of the Big Sioux River was formed to bring awareness to the current condition of the waterway and to inspire action among all who influence its quality.  Matthew McLarty of the Environmental Law & Policy Center of South Dakota, Greg Veerman of Astronaut Studios and Friends of the Big Sioux River director Dana Loseke outlined their vision on Dakota Midday.

Click to listen

Argus Leader: New group focuses on Big Sioux water quality

A new group wants to encourage Sioux Falls and other watershed communities to do more to clean up the Big Sioux River.

Friends of the Big Sioux River (FBSR), a collective of local environmentalists, conservationists and business leaders, will formally launch at a press conference Thursday morning. The group wants to convince communities along the Big Sioux that South Dakota’s dirtiest river is worth caring about.

Matt McLarty, a policy advocate with the Environmental Law and Policy Center, said despite millions of dollars’ worth of investment along the river from Sioux Falls and the ag industry, there’s been little progress to improve the quality of the water that flows between the banks of the Big Sioux.

“The city has invested quite a bit in the shores of the Big Sioux. But it’s really time to pull the focus back to the waterway itself,” he said.

The Big Sioux River is thirteenth on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of most polluted rivers. The first step toward improving its status is making people aware just how polluted it is, McLarty said.

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South Dakota Gov. Daugaard Calls for Wind Energy

Gov. Dennis Daugaard was among 24 governors — including those from Midwest/Great Plains states Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and North Dakota — last month to sign a letter urging President Obama to ensure that tax credits for wind energy deployment are renewed next year.

South Dakota Wind Energy Association Executive Director Steve Wegman told the South Dakota Argus Leader that wind energy has poured more than $2 billion into the state since 2002.

ELPC’s Sioux Falls-based Policy Advocate Matt McLarty said, “If we want developers to invest billions of dollars in wind farms and create thousands of new jobs here, the federal government must create a stable, predictable tax climate that encourages long-term investment.”

Read the article in the Argus Leader.

Energy Conference Focuses on Clean Energy’s Benefits for South Dakota

ELPC Senior Policy Advocate Allen Grosboll spoke about the potential for renewable energy at a conference at Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. Mr. Grosboll was joined by representatives from Repower America and the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission.

All speakers agreed that tapping South Dakota’s renewable energy potential would benefit the state’s economy and help to address the growing threat of climate change. Mr. Grosboll said that the American Clean Energy and Security Act would be an effective way to reduce carbon pollution and would create over one million clean energy jobs across the country and in South Dakota.

 

South Dakota Program for Small Wind and Solar Projects Begins Critically Important Step

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is seeking public input on a program that aims to increase the amount of electricity generated by small renewable energy projects, known as distributed generation.

ELPC recently helped South Dakota enact interconnection standards, the rules necessary to help small energy producers connect to the grid. ELPC Policy Advocate Matt McLarty said that gathering public input on its Small Renewable Energy Initiative is a “critically important step.”

“If South Dakota is going to see its potential fully develop, especially in wind, this is a critical step to layer businesses, as well as small producers, to start a dialogue and get this going,” McLarty said.

Read coverage of the initiative in the Argus Leader

the public can comment on the initiative through this website

South Dakota Approves New Rules for Connecting Renewable Energy to the Grid

ELPC helped create interconnection standards in South Dakota that will make it easier for renewable energy producers to connect to the grid.  Those rules were officially approved on June 9, 2009 and will be effective at the end of this month. The rules will pave the way for South Dakota to take advantage of its renewable energy potential.

Read the front page story about the new rules in the Argus Leader.

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