ST PAUL, MN -- The Minnesota legislature has adjourned until February 12, 2024. One major piece of legislation Governor Walz is expected to sign within the week is the omnibus environment, natural resources, climate, and energy finance and policy bill. This bill includes language banning all non-essential use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), known as “forever chemicals,” requires manufacturers who are selling products in Minnesota to disclose if PFAS chemicals are present, and closes a loophole in the 2019 bill that ended the use of PFAS in firefighting foam. The omnibus bill passed the Minnesota House and Senate on May 19th with bipartisan support.
PFAS exposure has been linked to low birth weights, lower IQ, reduced immune response, thyroid disease, digestive system issues, cardiovascular problems, cancer, reproductive system issues such as testicular cancer, pre-eclampsia, increased infertility, and gestational diabetes. These chemicals bioaccumulate, which is why they are called “forever chemicals.”
Avonna Starck, Minnesota state director for Clean Water Action, spoke of Amara Strande. Amara dedicated the last few months of her life while in considerable pain from cancer testifying in front of House and Senate committees regarding the need to ban non-essential uses of PFAS. “While we celebrate this historic accomplishment, we mourn the loss of Amara Strande, who died of cancer two days before her 21st birthday and three days before the House vote she worked so hard to see. We mourn for all the lives cut tragically short from illnesses linked to PFAS exposure. Today, Minnesota said loud and clear that we refuse to allow another generation of Minnesotans to suffer due to PFAS exposure. Today we put our environment, our families, and our tax dollars first.”
Other Tartan graduates who linked their illnesses to the PFAS plume in the east metro also testified in person and in writing throughout the legislative session. “Derek Lowen and Ben Rule played an important role in passing this language by telling their stories. Derek survived a baseball sized brain tumor and Ben lived through leukemia. Their experiences matter and their bravery made a difference in this process,” Starck said.
There are currently 108 policies addressing PFAS in 24 states, but none of the policies are as comprehensive as Minnesota’s soon to be signed law.
“Documentation proves that manufacturers knew as early as 1950 that PFAS was toxic and yet products that contained it were promoted and sold to make a profit. PFAS was developed in Minnesota, and it's powerful that it ends here, too,” Starck said.
Representatives Jeff Brand, Matt Norris, Athena Hollins, Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn, and Sydney Jordan and Senators Judy Seeberger, Kelly Morrison, Heather Gustafson, and Erin Maye-Quade all carried elements of the language that were folded into the omnibus bills carried by Representative Rick Hansen and Senator Foung Hawj.
When asked about his role in the legislation, Representative Jeff Brand said, “This is the first step of the major changes needed to protect families and our environmental legacy. I am so proud to partner with the MPCA, Clean Water Action Minnesota, and other advocacy groups in authoring and advocating for this historic legislation.”
Clean Water Action is beginning to develop its Minnesota legislative agenda for next session to continue their work around addressing PFAS and PFAS pollution in Minnesota’s waters.
Clean Water Action works at the national, state and local level to develop strong, community-based environmental leadership and bring together diverse constituencies to work cooperatively for policies that improve lives and protect water. Clean Water Action has been in Minnesota since 1982, focused on finding solutions to health, consumer, environmental and community problems and working to protect our water and our people. Learn more at www.cleanwater.org/MN
In Her Own Words: Amara Strande
"Through no fault of my own, I was exposed to these toxic chemicals. And as a result, I will die with this cancer." https://cleanwater.org/2023/01/25/MN-PFAS-Amara-Strande
In Memory of Amara https://cleanwater.org/2023/04/17/memory-amara
In His Own Words: Ben Rule
"Nobody deserves to go through what I did. We all deserve clean water and good health." https://cleanwater.org/2023/01/25/MN-PFAS-Benjamin-Rule
In His Own Words: Derek Lowen
"3M poisoned our water to save a buck or two" https://cleanwater.org/2023/02/16/MN-PFAS-Derek-Lowen
May 9th Press Conference: Statement and Video "Minnesota PFAS Legislation Takes Ones Step Closer To Becoming Law" https://cleanwater.org/releases/minnesota-pfas-legislation-takes-one-step-closer-becoming-law