MISSION STATEMENT The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy is a nonprofit organization that uses law, science and research to protect Minnesota's environment, its natural resources and the health of its people.
MAJOR PROGRAM AREAS Across all of its programs, MCEA’s long-standing reputation for excellence and effectiveness and its strategic advantage of smart, strategic in-house lawyers, policy experts, and communications savvy drive combine to ensure the greatest possible impact. MCEA’s advocacy is driven by law and science, and its staff can deploy a variety of tactics to ensure the best possible outcome for Minnesota’s environment and the health of its people.
Clean Energy and Climate: This program focuses on overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change. MCEA advocates for state-level strategies at the legislature, agencies, and courts that maximize reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. MCEA’s strategy includes long-term development of modern and sustainable energy sources for Minnesota and retirement of fossil fuel plants in order to reduce carbon pollution. To support this goal, MCEA serves as legal counsel for several Minnesota Energy Partners including Clean Grid Alliance, Fresh Energy, and Sierra Club.
Natural Resources and Mining: This program addresses the potential environmental impacts of proposed nonferrous sulfide mining projects in northeastern Minnesota, including water and air pollution, wetland loss and tailings basin stability. MCEA’s focus is to ensure that the proposed mines prove they can meet applicable environmental standards, that agencies use the best available science to evaluate these proposals, and that the long-term interest of taxpayers and the environment are protected.
Water Quality: MCEA’s Water Quality program focuses on protecting Minnesota’s greatest natural resource and economic asset: its water. MCEA supports strengthening statewide protections for drinking water, groundwater and lakes and rivers are protected from agricultural pollutants such as phosphorus, nitrate, and bacteria. MCEA partners with local communities concerned about the impact of factory farms on their drinking water to provide legal support and representation, a powerful combination of local activism and legal prowess that has proven effective repeatedly. MCEA’s work in the Lake Superior Basin focuses on strengthening the Great Lake Compact to protect against inter-basin withdrawals, and working to put policies in the place that protect against the spread of aquatic invasive species into Lake Superior. MCEA also acts as a watchdog to assure that clean water funds from the Legacy Amendment and Lottery funds are targeted effectively.
Environmental Justice: Environmental harms fall more heavily on some communities that are historically and disproportionately affected by environmental impacts and pollution. In these areas, environmental laws are ignored or enforced in such a way to protect polluters, not the community. MCEA’s advocacy focuses on seeking environmental justice for all. MCEA partners with communities across the state where pollution is concentrated and where legal representation and expertise will have the greatest impact. MCEA is proud to have dedicated and general funding to support environmental justice work from its funders, and aims to integrate environmental justice principles into every aspect of its work.
MAJOR PROGRAM ACCOMPLISHMENTS MCEA expanded its reach with a new key staff person based in Duluth. JT Haines, an attorney who co-founded Duluth for Clean Water, has years of experience protecting downstream communities from the proposed PolyMet mine. He is MCEA’s new Public Engagement Manager. MCEA’s presence in Duluth is vital to keep informed eyes and ears in the heart of some of Minnesota’s most threatened lands and waters. MCEA is maintaining seven lawsuits over the proposed PolyMet mine. In the past year MCEA appealed four permits: the permit to mine and dam safety permit against the Minnesota DNR, and the air pollution control permit and water discharge permit against the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. MCEA has stopped PolyMet from moving forward with unsafe plans to public health and the environment. MCEA’s work on protecting groundwater included stopping two major feedlot expansions by partnering with local citizens and giving them the legal tools to protect their drinking water and working with state agencies as they enforce the Groundwater Protection Act for the first time. This law, if implemented correctly, could protect vulnerable drinking water from agricultural pollution across the state. Additionally, MCEA was the lead negotiator on a settlement with Xcel Energy to retire two of the three last coal burners in the state while simultaneously bringing 3000 megawatts of solar online. This increases the state’s solar energy by four fold! Minnesota’s energy mix is on schedule to be 50% renewable by 2030, due in part to MCEA’s legal experts pushing utilities to provide energy that is both clean and reliable.
GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION AND POPULATION SERVED The entire state and population of Minnesota