Earlier today the valiant Bemidji High School Lumberjacks hockey squad had a hard-fought loss against the aristocratic cake-eaters over at Edina in the state tournament. I was the only one in the newsroom for a time, as my coworkers all huddled around some pizza in the breakroom, watching the game on TV. I had fun hearing their cries and hoots of joy during scores or blocked shots, clear across the Pioneer’s building.
Seems like hockey was on Rep. John Persell’s mind too, in a big way. (Hat tip to Sally Jo Sorenson at Bluestem Prairie for picking this out. Without her hawk-like vigilance of committee meetings, moments like this would go unreported). On Tuesday, the House Environment committee, of which Persell is a member, heard a bill introduced by Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, who replaced Persell as House Majority Whip when the GOP took control of the House in 2014. Essentially, the bill makes it harder for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to institute new water quality standards, by forcing a “cost benefit analysis” and requiring the MPCA to get legislative approval before each new standards is implemented.
In response to testimony, Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, went on a rant against the watershed experts sitting across from him, who had testified earlier. While he claimed at the start it would be “respectful” it turned out to just be threatening:
I was offended by the arrogance of the bureaucrats that testified here today in saying that we weren’t qualified to make decisions.
You wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for the Legislature. Or your funding, your pensions, or your planning, your operations. We gave you rule-making authority, of which many of us regret. And the reason we’re here today, and we have some of these bills, is because of this arrogance. And instead of standing between the EPA and the farmer, and the businessman, and the miner, and the power companies, what you people, it seems like, are doing is worshiping the shrine of the EPA, and saying ‘There’s nothing we can do.’ It’s just offensive.
Persell was riled up enough to invent a whole new cuss-word to express his disgust with the bill (and probably with Cornish, too):
Rep. Cornish, you kind of stole my thunder a little bit. You’re offended, I’m offended too. But not for the same reason, MPCA doesn’t bother me. Although, we don’t get along on everything.
But I’m offended. You look at this map and most of the sewer treatment plants in Minnesota did the right thing. We did the right thing in Bemidji 30 years ago. Thirty years ago! And instituted phosphorus reductions so we could save Lake Bemidji, Big Wolf Lake, Andrusia, Cass Lake, Winnibigoshish, on down the Mississippi River, through all of them, so we could send you all down here cleaner water.
Cleaner water! And now a few sewer treatment plants, a few cities want to say, ‘oh no, not me, we don’t want to do this.’
Well, bull hockey. That ain’t right! That ain’t fair! That ain’t the way we do things in Minnesota!
I just want to say I support what you’re trying to do, MPCA. Let’s do the right thing here and support standards the way they’re supposed to be developed.
You can see the whole Persell speech right here:
Contrary to what Rep. Cornish believes, part-time elected legislators that may or may not have any idea of what phosphorus even is are most certainly not more qualified than the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to regulate pollution. Also contrary to what Cornish believes, the primary directive of the MPCA and the watershed groups is to combat pollution, not combat the Environmental Protection Agency.