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In Response: Minnesota businesses only looking to modernize rules, regulations

If you took the May 10 letter, "Oppose legislation that enables polluters," at face value and absent of facts, you would think Minnesota businesses have utter disregard for our state's environment.

Bill BennettNothing could be further from the truth.

The accusation that the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is "defending polluters" was a gross disservice to the initiatives of the organization and the images of the specific businesses referenced.

As a Minnesota Chamber board member, I can attest that the statewide business community is a longstanding supporter of sensible environmental regulations that allow Minnesota to preserve and protect our treasured natural resources and a healthy business climate. In fact, Minnesota is recognized for its nation-leading environmental laws and regulations. We are known for our clean water and air. Our employees enjoy the great outdoors.

Contrary to the letter's claims, current legislative proposals neither would lower environmental standards nor reduce oversight. Legislation seeks to streamline the permitting system and find efficiencies in the environmental reviews of proposed projects. The Minnesota Chamber simply wants to modernize rules and regulations that first were written in the 1960s and 1970s.

Big and small companies of all types have to obtain permits through Minnesota's regulatory agencies. Companies consistently report that it takes too long to obtain permits, that it costs more than in other states, and that it includes a level of uncertainty not seen in other states.

Proposals currently before the Legislature would build on the bipartisan cooperation between the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton with the mutual goal of having regulatory agencies operate, in Dayton's words, at the "speed of commerce." We've made significant headway since 2011 working with the governor. More work remains.

The challenges facing Minnesota companies are more than a frustration; they present a threat to the state's economic vitality. Companies routinely compare all costs and regulatory requirements against other states and nations when exploring additional investments. We must take steps here in Minnesota to level the playing field if we are to facilitate a changing and growing economy.

The business community welcomes an honest discussion on how best to preserve Minnesota's quality of life and strengthen our business climate. That's best accomplished by sticking to facts.

Bill Bennett of Duluth is chief executive officer of LHB Corp. and is a member of the board of directors for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.