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The Supreme Court throws out a Trump-era ban on gun bump stocks; a look at how social media algorithms and Shakespearian villains have in common; and states receive federal funding to clean up legacy mine pollution.

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The Supreme Court for now protects access to abortion drug mifepristone, while Senate Republicans block a bill protecting access to in-vitro fertilization. Wisconsin's Supreme Court bans mobile voting sites, and colleges deal with funding cuts as legislatures target diversity programs.

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As summer nears, America's newest and largest international dark sky sanctuary beckons, rural job growth is up, but full recovery remains elusive, rural Americans living in prison towns support a transition, while birth control is more readily available in rural areas.

MN lawmakers give clean energy permitting a makeover

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Monday, May 20, 2024   

In the future, clean energy projects in Minnesota might come together more quickly, since state lawmakers have advanced a permitting reform measure.

The policy effort gained steam throughout the legislative session, with final negotiations playing out late last week.

Researchers say Minnesota's current permitting process for solar projects used to take an average of 300 days - now it's nearly 550.

There's also pressure to get additional transmission lines up and running so there's more space on the power grid for renewables.

Clean Grid Alliance Regional Policy Director Peder Mewis said he feels the new provisions will be a big help.

"Basically what the bill does is, it completely rewrites the siting and permitting statutes in Minnesota and combines them all into one," said Mewis, "so it's a lot easier to track things."

Mewis described the state's current process as strong, but cumbersome.

For skeptics worried about removing opportunities for the public to scrutinize these projects, supporters insist that won't be an issue.

The bipartisan bill arose from a recent task force report that included input from utilities, developers, environmental groups and property rights advocates.

Just like some other Midwestern states, Minnesota has adopted ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions.

Mewis said there's increasing awareness that regulatory hurdles need to be dealt with as climate plans are mapped out.

"If you look at what we did in Michigan last year, where we enacted a carbon-free standard," said Mewis, "and with that, we did siting and permitting reform because the state recognized that's a key component."

Last year, Minnesota established a standard of 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040.

As for the permitting reform plan, Gov. Tim Walz expressed support for the idea going into the session. He's expected to sign the bill sent to his desk.




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