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Pioneer Editorial: Permitting process bill is balanced

Environmentalists are up in arms because Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill to speed up the permitting process for projects by holding state agencies accountable. It is a good bill, one that the governor should have signed.

Gov. Dayton is being hailed for his agreement with the Legislature that it simply takes too long for state agencies to act on a business' request to build a project. There are many environmental hurdles in place, and duplicity, that a project may take months, if not years, to gain that permission.

And environmentalists use the system to delay the permit process as long as can be legally done, putting off new jobs and economic development.

There is no argument that Minnesota's precious environment needs to be protected, and we believe the new bill still provides the necessary protections. Even if the project proposers will now do their own environmental impact statements, they must be based on science and corporations will be held accountable. State agencies will be able to question the studies.

The bill sets timetables for state agencies -- such as the Department of Natural Resources and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency -- to consider permit applications. It only seems fair that a business should know how long it will take to approve a permit, and that the time be reasonable.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week released a report how projects are handled nationally, and it was noted that Minnesota projects are held up by "regulatory red tape and permitting delays."

The bill Gov. Dayton signed should change that characterization.

There must be a balance found between environmental preservation and economic development. The new act should help provide that balance, however we must remain ever vigilant about the protection of our Minnesota resources. The bill doesn't let the private sector dictate how projects will be permitted, just speeds up the process for gaining a permit. State agencies will still oversee the process, and have the abilty to change or modify environmental impact statements.

The state business climate should improve, with business knowing where they stand and setting a timetable for consideration of projects. That means new economic development and new jobs, all the while setting in motion precautions about protecting the resources.

This was a bipartisan effort, one that shows that the Republican-led Legislature can find agreement with a Democratic governor. We hope that spirit can translate to other important issues facing our state.