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Mar 31, 2023

MCEA March Newsletter

In this edition of MCEA’s Environmental Monitor:

  • Read: All you need to know about the Polymet Contested Case Hearing
  • Event: Prove it First rally – April 4th at the Capitol
  • Take Action: Key online actions to take before the end of the Legislative Session
  • Read: Learn why MCEA supports closing the HERC Incinerator
  • Read: Changing permits could lower the Cumulative Impacts of pollution
  • A Tax-Smart Way to Support Minnesota’s Future
  • PFAS chemicals are forever and so is our commitment to fight against them
  • A new bill addressing Fish Kills


Pictured: (left) MCEA Climate Program Director Ellen Anderson speaks at a press conference prior to the House vote on 100% bill. (right) Rep. Jamie Long takes a selfie with clean energy supporters outside the House chambers (1/26/23)

Left to right: Max Kieley, FBWW Legal Director, MCEA’s Ann Cohen, Heidi Guenther, and Melissa Lorentz


All you need to know about the Polymet Contested Case Hearing


This week, the long-awaited contested case hearing on the PolyMet permit to mine was held in St. Paul. A contested case hearing is a fact-finding hearing in front of an administrative law judge. This is the first time that MCEA and our allies have been able to present expert testimony about the facts of the PolyMet sulfide mine proposal and cross-examine PolyMet and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ witnesses. The topic of the hearing is whether PolyMet's plan to use a clay called bentonite to prevent water pollution will work and also meet Minnesota rules. While this is a narrow topic, it’s an important one.

Also – our friends (and a party that we represent in the hearing) at Duluth for Clean Water made an excellent video that is both informative and entertaining. We recommend it – watch here.

Have questions about the contested case hearing? Our staff wrote a webpost with answers to your frequently asked questions about this hearing, why it is important, and what will happen afterward. Our website also has a description of this legal battle and a timeline for our legal work on PolyMet’s permit to mine and dam safety permit. 

Join us and Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness at noon on Monday, April 3rd for a webinar where MCEA staff Kevin Reuther and Heidi Guenther will be joined by Friends of the Boundary Waters staff member Max Kieley to discuss key takeaways from the hearing.

RSVP for the webinar here!

Prove it First - Rally April 4th at the State Capitol to show support for safe mining practices


Join MCEA and Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness to rally for the sulfide mining “Prove it First” bill at the Minnesota Legislature on April 4th. This legislation (HF 148/ SF 59) would not allow a permit to be issued for a sulfide mine unless it can be shown that a similar mine in a similar climate has opened, operated for 10 years, and then closed without causing pollution. We are unaware of any mine that can meet this simple and powerful test. 

There will be a rally in the Capitol Rotunda at 2 PM, and assistance for citizen lobbying starting at 10 AM in the L'etoile du Nord Vault in the Capitol basement. Click here to learn more


Take Action: Tell your legislator to support these important environmental bills 


Here are 4 quick and easy ways you can Take Action! Help legislation that will protect Minnesotans and our natural resources become law. It only takes a minute, and your participation will help decision makers understand the importance of these issues to their constituents. MCEA staff have been everywhere from the Capitol to community meetings to help move this work forward – here are some easy and impactful ways for you to help us! 

Take Action to protect Minnesota’s waters: Agricultural drainage projects have led to increased erosion, flooding and nitrate pollution in waters across our state. Tell your legislators to support a bill that would make it easier for impacted residents, local governments, tribal nations, and water suppliers to have a say on these projects.

Note: we sent an email about this online action last week that listed the wrong bill number. This error has been corrected. Our apologies for any confusion.  

Take Actionto get toxic PFAS out of our products: MCEA and Clean Water Action have been leading the fight against toxic forever-chemicals. They were invented in Minnesota and we can stop their unnecessary use with a common-sense ban advancing this session. Your voice will help us win! 

Take Action for healthier communities in Minneapolis: Toxic industry has long been concentrated in low income and communities of color, leading to air pollution that harms residents' health at sometimes far higher rates than other parts of the City. MCEA and Community Members for Environmental Justice (CMEJ) are working together to make sure upcoming changes to Minneapolis' zoning laws better protect people living in overburdened communities. Tell the City to support our work.

Take Action for environmental justice: When multiple sources of pollution are located near each other, the added pollution of each new facility leads to more and more negative impacts on the health and environment of the community. This is known as a cumulative impact. Tell your legislators you support the Frontline Communities Protection Act (HF637 / SF466, otherwise known as the cumulative impacts bill, which will help protect communities from further pollution. Learn more about MCEA’s involvement in this important legislation below. 


Learn why MCEA supports closing the HERC Incinerator


There are a lot of misconceptions about Hennepin County’s Energy Recovery Center (HERC), the incinerator Hennepin County uses to burn trash. After listening to community members affected by pollution from the incinerator, learning from local organizers from the MN Environmental Justice Table, and doing our own extensive research into the data, MCEA has asked Hennepin County to include a closure date for HERC in its Zero Waste Plan. You can learn more about our investigation of incineration in this blogpostYou can also sign this petition from the MN Environmental Justice Table to show your support of a Zero Waste future for Hennepin county and the closure of the HERC incinerator.


MN EJ Table's Krystle D'Alencar, COPAL's Carolina Ortiz, Cecilia Calvo of ME Partnership, Janiece Watts of Fresh Energy, Sasha Lewis-Norelle of COPAL, Tim Schaefer of COPAL, Sophia Benrud, of MN EJ Table, COPAL's Emma Rage, and Health Professionals for a Healthy Community's Kathleen Schuler. Photo by Mair Allen of MCEA


Changing permitting could lower the cumulative impacts of pollution


As part of the Frontline Communities Protection Coalition, MCEA has helped develop a bill that would address the cumulative impacts of pollution in overburdened neighborhoods. If passed, the Frontline Communities Protection Bill (HF 637/SF 466) would change the ways polluting industrial facilities are permitted. As it stands, each facility is allowed to produce pollution up to a certain permitted level. But, facilities don’t exist in isolation. They are usually grouped together and near other sources of pollution, like freeways. 

To better protect public health, we need a permitting process that takes into account the COLLECTIVE pollution burden on a community, because people don’t breathe the impacted air from one source – they breathe it from all the sources. This cumulative impacts legislation recognizes that reality, and in some circumstances would require agencies to consider TOTAL pollution levels in a community during the permitting process. It’s also important to note that people who are from communities of color, are low-income, or have immigrated are much more likely to live near industry, where they bear the brunt of the City's pollution. Learn more about the issue from our Healthy Communities Program Director, Evan Mulholland here. You can also watch our Legislative Director Andrea Lovoll’s powerful and personal testimony about this issue here

A Tax-Smart Way to Support Minnesota’s Future


People who have traditional Individual Retirement Accounts and are at least 70½ years old have a tax-smart strategy available to lessen their taxes when withdrawing funds: distributing gifts directly to an eligible non-profit. This is called a Charitable Qualified Distribution. If a donor directs the IRA to distribute directly to a nonprofit, it’s not considered taxable income. Some donors may also find that an IRA rollover provides greater tax savings than a traditional individual donation because of the reduction in adjusted gross income. It’s also a smart option because starting at age 72, the IRS mandates that IRA owners take annual income withdrawals, called Required Minimum Distributions. Failure to take these withdrawals can lead to stiff penalties.


And when you direct your IRA distribution to MCEA, it’s a win-win: you receive the tax benefit, and your generosity helps protect Minnesota’s environmental future. Please consult your tax advisor with questions about how advantageous this could be for you, and when you’re ready, contact Debra deNoyelles, MCEA’s Development Director to ensure that your IRA rollover is recorded for maximum benefit.


Clean Water Action’s Minnesota State Director Avonna Starck, MPCA Commissioner Katrina Kessler, MPCA Assistant Commissioner Kirk Koudelka, MCEA Legislative Director Andrea Lovoll & MDH Assistant Commissioner Daniel Huff gather for a photo at a recent press conference on PFAS. 

PFAS chemicals are forever and so is our commitment to fight against them


Last week, MPCA leaders publicly thanked MCEA and Clean Water Action for their leadership in the fight against PFAS. It was a gratifying moment for legislative staff working relentlessly both behind the scenes and via public testimony to pass common-sense bans against these harmful chemicals.  

It’s been an honor to work to keep Minnesota’s people, water, and land safe from toxic PFAS in the future. Legislative Director, Andrea Lovoll, has testified numerous times on how important this ban is from her perspective as a resident of the state, a mother, and a small business owner. She even baked legislators cookies to underpin how ubiquitous PFAS are – and how, absent legislation demanding PFAS labeling, no one can know what products contain these chemicals. This important fight is ongoing and there are lobbyists from chemical companies flying into our state everyday to try and stop this common-sense ban.Tell your legislators you support a world where the proliferation of toxic PFAS chemicals that were invented in Minnesota, ends here too. 

A new bill would create quick response to Fish Kills 


Over the past decade, fish kill events have increased in intensity and frequency. The Rush Creek fish kill last July, where over 2,500 fish were killed, was the fourth major fish kill in the Winona County area since 2015. This is a deeply troubling trend that needs to be better understood and addressed. MCEA is working with The Land Stewardship Project, Minnesota Well Owners' Organization, and Minnesota Trout Unlimited on a bill that would improve Minnesota’s response to fish kill events by creating an interagency protocol that will help better pinpoint the sources of contamination. It also forefronts public health communication to ensure residents, business owners, local governments and others who could be impacted by the affected surface water are notified of the potential hazards. 


Without this bill, contamination from sources like agricultural run-off will continue to pollute our waters and put not only aquatic life but also public health at risk. Watch Carly Griffith, MCEA Water Program Director, testify in favor of the bill here.