WRITTEN BY: Jenna Greene, student at Carleton College, former MCEA Extern
In 1991, the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit gathered in Washington D.C. and adopted 17 principles of Environmental Justice. These principles affirm the need to protect the earth and frame environmentalism as a social justice issue, emphasizing that many environmental harms disproportionately and adversely affect poor people and people of color.
Since this pivotal summit, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have enacted an environmental justice law, executive order, or policy to ensure that environmental justice concerns continue to be addressed. Environmental justice advocates, policymakers, and community members from around the country have exposed and remediated environmental justice concerns ranging from landfill siting, pollution levels, and access to environmental benefits, but the fight for justice is just beginning.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) recently announced the formation of the MPCA Environmental Justice Advisory Group consisting of 16 members from throughout Minnesota. The purpose of this group is to provide recommendations and advise the MPCA on topics related to environmental justice principles. The advisory group members come from a wide range of backgrounds and focus areas. Make sure to check out the many different projects these group members have been involved with that work toward a more equitable Minnesota.
This monitoring yielded violations of daily and annual TSP standards, exceedances of PM10 daily standards, elevated lead concentrations, and elevated heavy metal concentrations.
This legal battle between MPCA and Northern Metals has not yet been resolved, but the environmental injustices faced by the North Minneapolis community has captured the attention of government officials such as the mayor of Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges, who called this pollution an environmental justice issue affecting “one of the most overburdened neighborhoods in our community.”
North Minneapolis residents have been organizing against the metal shredder facility, including the local rock band Poliça performance to raise awareness of the environmental injustices taking place in the neighborhood. Community activists have been working hard for almost five years to make these issues known to the community and the public. Roxxanne O’Brien, a community activist and North Minneapolis resident, says the community is “literally fighting for our lives.” To read more about the work that North Minneapolis community activists, including O’Brien, have been doing for many years and a more in-depth account of the community movement surrounding the Northern Metals case, check out this Twin Cities Daily Planet article.
Although the legal action against Northern Metals is a step toward eliminating environmental injustices in North Minneapolis, the community has been concerned about environmental and human health for decades, and Northern Metals is not the only polluter in the area. As organizations such as MCEA continue to fight for the health of the environment, it is critical that we consider how environmental harms disproportionately affect certain communities across Minnesota.