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Session 2003

Session 2003: Environment

More nuclear waste can be stored outside Xcel Energy's Prairie Island plant under a measure Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed into law. The signing completed work on one of the most contentious issues in the legislative session. It allows the nuclear facility to continue operating until the end of its federal licenses, which expire in 2013 and 2014.

New rules for all-terrain vehicle owners were among the biggest changes in environmental law this session. The Department of Natural Resources must do a forest-by-forest review, designating which trails can be used for off-highway vehicles. Trails not designated open by 2010 would be closed. Ditches generally would be considered open unless they are posted as closed. And the three-year registration fee for ATV's used on public lands would increase. A proposal to allow a mourning dove hunting season was defeated. And several outdoor-related fees will be increased.

Like many state agencies, Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources faces a host of problems, including a shrinking budget. Gov. Pawlenty's choice for DNR commissioner says one of the top priorities over the next four years will be improving the DNR's relationship with the people it affects. ( 01/24/2003)
Gov. Tim Pawlenty Friday appointed former DFL Sen. Gene Merriam to lead the state Department of Natural Resources. Merriam served for 22 years in the Senate, and is now a vice president for ECM Publishers. As DNR commissioner he will face a number of challenges, including a shrinking budget and a host of competing interests. (01/17/2003)
Interested groups from around the state are meeting to discuss possible legislative changes to try to manage the spread of chronic wasting disease. Experts hope to present proposed policy changes to the state Legislature this session. (01/08/2003)
Gov.-elect Tim Pawlenty completed a two-day "listening tour" of outstate Minnesota Friday. Pawlenty sounded separate themes on each of his stops; health care, economic development and the state's budget woes dominated most of the discussions. Pawlenty, who has tried to cut state aid to cities and towns, criticized some localities for depending too much on the aid. (01/03/2003)
For the first time in modern history, a lieutenant governor will head a state agency in Minnesota. Gov.-elect Tim Pawlenty named the Lt. Gov.-elect, Carol Molnau, as head of the Minnesota Department of Transportation Tuesday. This in preparation for taking office next week. Pawlenty faces many challenges as the new governor, including what to do about the projected $4.5 billion state budget shortfall. Still, he's sticking to his campaign promise that he won't raise taxes. ( 01/01/2003)
Two more cabinet positions were filled Friday, when Gov.-elect Tim Pawlenty named Gene Hugoson the commissioner of agriculture and Glenn Wilson the commissioner of commerce. The two appointments bring Pawlenty's cabinet to eight. He earlier named commissioners of finance, human services, pollution control, administration, revenue and labor and industry. (12/27/2002)
Xcel Energy says it may have to close down its Prairie Island nuclear plant if it doesn't get more storage space for nuclear waste. While Xcel has not officially asked for more storage many observers say its almost inevitable that it will be part of the upcoming legislative session. (12/18/2002)