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Cumulative Impacts and the Role Clean Water Action Is Playing in Environmental Justice Work

With the 2023 legislative session ending, Minnesota joins New Jersey and New York in passing cumulative impacts legislation. The Frontline Communities Protection Coalition (FCPC) and community groups have been organizing to pass strong environmental justice legislation to protect our overburdened communities from the many harms of pollution for years. The cumulative impacts bill will provide historically marginalized communities with additional protections from polluters and give the communities a much stronger say in whether or not certain air permits can be permitted if they will impact the community.

This bill is the culmination of years of work, community advocacy and organizing, research, and building power at the legislature. We have worked with community partners, other organizations, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, legislative champions, and other stakeholders to pass this bill.

The bill also faced an uphill battle, despite having full Democratic control of the state legislature. Business interests and certain legislators attempted to stall or weaken the bill, fearing that it would give too much power to overburdened communities. It is thanks to the strong advocacy of our legislative champions and community/organizational support that we were still able to pass a strong cumulative impacts bill, with some limits.

While the community did not get everything we wanted in the final version, we were still able to pass a very strong environmental justice bill. The bill will now have to go through rulemaking, where many of the details will be fleshed out by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). This is our biggest next step in ensuring that this environmental justice law stays strong. If we implement strong rules for this law, it will be one of the most ambitious environmental justice laws in the country.

There is still a lot of work to do in Minnesota towards advancing environmental justice. A big loss in the negotiations of this bill was the geographic limitations put on it, which limited the bill to the seven-county metro area, Duluth, and Rochester, with the option for tribes in Minnesota to opt into the policy. Every marginalized community deserves environmental justice, and we will continue fighting for overburdened communities across the state.

We are committed to continuing to fight for reducing pollution, empowering communities, and moving towards a more just and equitable world. There will always be more work to do, but at this moment we want to celebrate the victories of this session that will strengthen the foundation of environmental justice in our state.

The movement for environmental justice is only growing. There are countless groups and organizations that are committing to center justice within the work that they do, and supporting marginalized communities that are fighting for their own justice. The cumulative impacts bill has always been community centered. The bill has been led by groups working within environmental justice communities and supported by allies. Learn more about the Frontline Communities Protection Coalition (FCPC) and the work we do.


Minnesota's Cumulative Impacts Law: Rulemaking

In the 2023 Minnesota legislative session, we saw the passage of an important environmental justice law; the cumulative impacts law. This law is currently entering into the rulemaking process, where the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will clarify details of how the law will work in effect. This will be an incredibly important process to engage with, as weak rules could effectively undermine any power this law could hold.
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