MN Could Include Environmental Justice in Deciding Industrial Projects
Thursday, March 16, 2023
Racial disparities exist in Minnesota when it comes to asthma cases. Environmental-justice advocates said it is one example of pollution disproportionately affecting communities of color, and they hope a bill in the Legislature would add protections.
The plan calls on the Pollution Control Agency to consider whether an industrial site or other entity seeking a permit would add to the cumulative impact in a racially diverse area that already has environmental stressors.
Carolina Ortiz, associate executive director of the Latino advocacy group COPAL MN, said the timing is especially important as Minnesota sees more climate migration from other countries.
"They're running away from some of the pollution, some of the additional barriers they face over there," Ortiz observed. "But then they're coming here to face the same thing, just in a different location."
Criteria for the environmental justice areas would include certain percentages of people who are nonwhite, who speak limited English, as well as income levels and tribal lands. The measure has been heard by various committees and is expected to be included in a larger omnibus bill. The League of Minnesota Cities recognizes the need but worries about how municipal water facilities would need periodic reviews of permits.
Tim Schaefer, legal advocate for COPAL MN, said it should not be viewed as an obstacle toward economic growth, because it can help create stronger and healthier communities.
"If economic growth comes at the expense of human health, if it comes at the expense of people's families and people's safety and security and their well-being, it's not worth it," Schaefer argued.
Roxxanne O'Brien, founder of Community Members for Environmental Justice in North Minneapolis, said neighborhoods in her area often lack the power to limit the development of industry and traffic and the pollution that comes along with it.
"We're not the ones heavily adding the carbon footprint out here, but we are the ones who get exploited the most," O'Brien contended.
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