fbpx 2020 FISCAL INFORMATION | Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy



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.



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. 



MCEA challenged PolyMet’s proposed copper nickel sulfide mine permits in court, and we won. Four permits have been overturned, and one is suspended for further investigation. Courts rarely reverse the decisions by state agencies, but these permits were issued without fully investigating PolyMet’s plans, and they don’t meet Minnesota law. MCEA recently defended two of these cases at the Minnesota Supreme Court.

MCEA won a case at the Court of Appeals this year that stopped a major new gas power plant in its tracks. The court found that Minnesota’s environmental review laws apply to state agencies when there would be environmental impacts in Minnesota, even if the plant would be located across state lines. We defended this ruling at the Minnesota Supreme Court in the fall.

MCEA’s efforts at the legislature helped make Minnesota the first state in the US to ban the carcinogenic chemical TCE. One of the most widely used solvents in the U.S. TCE contaminates drinking water and air. Our team was a critical part of the coalition that ended the use of this cancer-causing chemical. 

MCEA won a case that overturned a permit for mega-dairy operation in southeastern Minnesota. Regulators failed to consider greenhouse gas emissions in their review of the feedlot. Now greenhouse gas pollution must be reflected in all projects that undergo environmental review, a victory for the climate that will have a big impact.



The entire state and population of Minnesota




TOTAL REVENUE: $3,550,036

Contributions: $2,141,949 
Foundation, earned, investment and other: $1,408,086 

TOTAL EXPENSES: $2,570,360

Program expenses: $2,017,769
Management and Administration: $297,428
Fundraising: $255,163

​Clean Energy and Climate program expenses: $1,194,004
​Wildlife, Natural Resources, and Mining: $419,835
Water Quality: $288,262
Environmental Justice: $115,668