Focus on New Laws: Coal Tar Sealants Ban

Cities may enforce a new ban on the use of coal tar sealant products, but must first enact an ordinance.
(Published Nov 12, 2013)

Did you know that a new state law prohibits the use or sale of coal tar sealant products throughout Minnesota, as of Jan. 1, 2014? Did you also know that cities may enforce this statewide prohibition? If this is news to you, the following information will be useful.

About the coal tar ban
Coal tar has been widely used in sealant products on driveways and parking lot surfaces for many years. While it is an effective sealant for asphalt-based surfaces, it also contains high levels of carcinogens that can be washed into the water system, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

Because of the negative impacts on human health and the environment, and the high costs of cleaning up contaminated stormwater ponds, the 2013 state Legislature voted to prohibit the use of these sealant products.

This ban, which is found in Minnesota Statutes, section 116.202, applies to both the sale and the use of coal tar sealant products and, as of Jan. 1, 2014, no person may apply, cause to be applied, or sell coal tar sealant products. Violation of this law is a misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

City enforcement of the law
The law authorizes cities to enforce the provisions of this new statute. Like many regulations, if a city chooses to enforce this state law, it must first enact an ordinance. In an effort to help cities, the League worked with MPCA to produce an updated model ordinance that cities may enact to enforce the new state law. As with any model ordinance, it is important to have your city attorney review it prior to adoption.

View the model ordinance (doc)

Several Minnesota cities already have a local prohibition on coal tar sealants. Those cities do not need to change their approach to handling coal tar, but they will need to update their ordinance to comply with the new law.

There is also a narrow exception to the ban for legitimate research on coal tar or its alternatives. To exercise this exception, you must first receive permission from the commissioner of the MPCA.

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