Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ice Arena Air Quality Bill Skates On
by Brian Strub, League of Minnesota Cities
In a case that proves that good intentions can have unanticipated consequences, legislation to improve air quality inside Minnesota’s indoor ice arenas could end up costing skaters, hockey players, and entities that operate arenas thousands of dollars in unproven equipment and training. The bill would mandate installation of an electronic air monitoring device in every indoor ice arena in the state and it is moving quickly through committees in the House and Senate.

Under the bill, HF 3512 (Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul)/SF 3175 (Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul), the monitoring device must be equipped with an alarm that sounds when the carbon monoxide level in the facility is elevated. The monitor must then activate an exhaust system. Ice arena personnel would be required to have training in operating and maintaining the device. The effective date of the bill in its current form is Jan. 1, 2011.

In meetings with stakeholders, the League has acknowledged safety considerations are the top priority for arena staff and managers, but also raised concerns about the potential cost of implementing this legislation at a time when budget challenges are prevalent. The League would prefer an alternative that improves compliance with air quality safety precautions and monitoring.

Some additional points for consideration:
• The health and safety of ice arena users, visitors, and staff is a priority of the highest order.
• The Minnesota Dept. of Health currently is responsible for indoor ice area air quality (http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/indoorair/arenas/index.html).
• The proposed action levels for operation of the exhaust systems do not seem to be rooted in any scientific research on the subject of indoor air quality.
• The time line for implementation of the proposed monitoring system does not allow for proper budgeting and installation of the unit. The effective date of the bill is Jan. 1, 2011.
• The cost of implementing this legislation would be highly problematic at a time when budget challenges are prevalent and deep cuts from the state are anticipated on a number of fronts.
• Minnesota Ice Arena Managers Association has been working with the Minnesota Department of Health to improve the current standards, education, and testing. These subject experts should be allowed to devise a plan that will protect their customers and stand the test of time.
• The League would prefer an alternative to this legislation that improves compliance with air quality safety precautions and monitoring.
• A Senate Committee amended the Senate version of the bill to exempt arenas that use only electric resurfacers and edgers. This equipment does not produce carbon monoxide.
• This is well intended legislation, and also another unfunded mandate.

A hearing has been scheduled for April 7, 2010 before the Cultural and Outdoor Resources Finance Division of the Minnesota House of Representatives.