Minnesota’s lead environmental protection agency has failed to protect our water and wild rice: A Minntac Case Study

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision could require the MPCA to enforce tougher water quality standards on pollution discharged from U.S. Steel’s Minntac mine

Part I in a series which explores how the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has failed for decades to enforce water quality standards against U.S. Steel and its Minntac mine in northern Minnesota.

Wild rice is a sacred food to the Ojibwe and Dakota peoples, holding spiritual and cultural value. For some Anishinaabe in northern Minnesota, it’s also source of income. It’s Minnesota’s state grain and important to the state’s identity.

It’s also very sensitive to water pollution, notably sulfates.

Minnesotans care about clean water. In 1967, the Minnesota Legislature created the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), giving it a “unique challenge and a demanding responsibility: to protect the air, waters and land of our great state.”

In 1973, Minnesota created a rule limiting sulfate pollution in wild rice waters, known as the Wild Rice Rule. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the rule under the federal Clean Water Act.

The problem is, the MPCA has rarely enforced the Wild Rice Rule. The agency first applied it in 1975, regarding wastewater discharge from Minnesota Power’s Clay Boswell coal-fired power plant, court records say. The agency didn’t apply the rule again until 2010, 35 years later. Continue reading

Support: Rebuilding MIGIZI, Native Lives Matter Youth Alliance, and more

In this blog:

  • Help MIGIZI rebuild after fire
  • Native Lives Matter Youth Alliance holding march Saturday against police brutality
  • Support clean drinking water for Fond du Lac (a must read)
  • Lower Phalen Creek Project asks for help to get Wakan Tipi Center into special session bonding bill

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Religious institutions speak out on George Floyd’s murder, repent for past complicity, call for change

Police protect the Third Precinct. (file)

The President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said most police officers “carry out their duties with honor”

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the anger over long-standing problems with police brutality has boiled over to the streets. It’s put the question of the police’s role in society squarely on the front burner. Some are pushing to abolish the police altogether.

In this deeply moral moment, religious communities are weighing in, issuing statements on Floyd’s murder.

Faith communities have played an important role in civil rights movements. Their voices could be powerful in pushing for greater police accountability. This blog will follow how they engage in this important work in the coming months.

What follows is a summary of some of the initial statements on Floyd’s murder, including links and short excerpts. For those of you who are part of one of these faith communities, this is an opportunity to push them to follow through on their commitments and then some.

This list is based on an Internet search and may not be complete. Please post links to statements we missed in the comment section below.

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News Wrap: Updates on local, national police reform proposals; why this all started in Minneapolis, and more

In this blog:

  • Communities United Against Police Brutality issue report on ending police violence
  • Nationwide tracking of public officials, governments, in support for divesting from police to invest in community needs
  • CityLab: Why Minneapolis was the city that triggered a national uprising
  • NYT essay: Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true.
  • Friends offering online screening of “Suppressed: The Right to Vote” in honor of Juneteenth

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Police reform, police abolition, and barriers to police accountability: An overview

There’s an ongoing gathering at the flower-strewn site where George Floyd was killed.

A veto-proof majority of the Minneapolis City Council has committed to dismantle and defund the Minneapolis Police Department, according to stories in MPR, the Star Tribune, CNN and other news outlets.

In New York City, Mayor Bill DeBlasio is proposing to shift some police funding to social services, with the idea that such funding will do more to promote public safety than funding the tradition police force. Congressional Democrats have proposed the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 which “would ban chokeholds, establish a national database to track police misconduct and prohibit certain no-knock warrants, among other initiatives,” the Washington Post reports.

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Native American voting rights: The first people on the land should not be the last to vote

In 2017 and 2018, the Native American Voting Rights Coalition—founded by the Native American Rights Fund—held nine public hearings to better understand how Native Americans are systemically and culturally kept from fully exercising their franchise. More than 120 witnesses testified from dozens of tribes across the country.

The Native American Rights Fund just released the results of that research in the report: Obstacles at Every Turn: Barriers to Political Participation Faced by Native American Voters. Continue reading

Minneapolis police union losing public support, MN unions press police union president to resign

The Minneapolis Police Department has become a toxic brand, and rightfully so.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the Minneapolis Public Schools, the University of Minnesota, the Walker Art Center and other organizations have cut ties with the Minneapolis Police Department following George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. (Floyd had allegedly tried to pass a fake $20 bill, a nonviolent crime.)

Key unions around the state are calling on Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Association of Minneapolis, to resign over his handling of Floyd’s murder, his history of inflammatory statements, and his antagonism towards communities of color. Continue reading

MPCA grants limited contested case hearing on Enbridge Line 3’s water crossing certificate, but ducks tough issues

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) today announced it has agreed to hold a contested case hearing on the water crossing certificate for the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline.

Line 3 would cross more than 200 water bodies in northern Minnesota and 79 miles of wetlands. The MPCA’s announcement is a partial win for pipeline opponents, including Native Nations, environmental groups and regular citizens. Yet the MPCA still is failing to live up to its environmental protection mission.

The MPCA had recommended approving Line 3’s water crossing permit. Pipeline opponents will now have the opportunity to appear before an Administrative Law Judge to challenge the MPCA’s case, based on the project’s water and wetland impacts.

Sadly, the MPCA limited the contested case hearing’s scope, leaving key issues off the table. Pipeline opponents will not be allowed to argue against Line 3 based on its climate impacts or future crude oil spills, both powerful reasons to reject the project.

Continue reading

Statements on George Floyd’s murder from Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors, Indigenous Environmental Network

The Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors (MUID) and the Indigenous Environmental Network have both issued statements on the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police, identifying the roots of the problem and ways to get involved.

In a related matter, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz today announced an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, focusing on discriminatory practices against people of color. Continue reading