June 11, 2024

MN350 Calls for Legislative Hearings on State Agency Failures to Stop Polluters


St. Paul, MN, June 10, 2024 — As the Executive Director of MN350, I am joining a coalition of environmental organizations to highlight a troubling pattern of inaction by the Walz Administration in enforcing environmental laws. Our coalition has cataloged numerous instances of state agencies failing to protect Minnesotans from pollution. The People Not Polluters website ( details twelve such examples, including responses to nitrate pollution from agriculture in southern Minnesota, damage from the Line 3 pipeline in northern Minnesota, and air pollution from Smith Foundry in Minneapolis.

Longtime environmental advocate Don Arnosti stated, “These are not isolated incidents. Again and again, state agencies refuse to use the tools the legislature has provided to protect Minnesotans and our environment.” Arnosti added that this problem of polluter capture, where corporate polluters exert undue influence over their regulation, is not new. “Governor Walz didn’t create this problem, but he needs to fix it. Instead, it is getting worse on his watch. The Legislature needs to hold hearings.”

The organizations supporting the People Not Polluters project include Climate Generation, CURE, East Phillips Neighborhood Institute, Friends of the Boundary Waters, Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate, Izaak Walton League of America – Minnesota Division, Minnesota Environmental Justice Table, Minnesota Environmental Partnership, Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, Minnesota Well Owners Organization, MN350, Pollinator Friendly Alliance, Sierra Club North Star Chapter, TakeAction MN, Waadookawaad Amikwag, and WaterLegacy.

Organizers said “polluter capture” of state agencies is a form of regulatory capture “where corporate polluters have too much influence over how they are regulated.” Examples cited include the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Department of Health, and the Department of Agriculture.


Environmental Justice At Stake

Dawn Goodwin, a water protector from White Earth and member of the RISE Coalition, highlighted the failure of state agencies regarding the Line 3 Pipeline. “Polluting industries like Enbridge say they care about Indigenous concerns, but they don’t. They will say what they need to get their permit, then do what they want. They do not care about us, our trauma, or our Treaties. We needed the Walz Administration to care, and it didn’t. It promised environmental justice and Tribal consultation and it failed.”

Joe Vital, organizer with the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute, expressed frustration over the MPCA’s handling of pollution from the Smith Foundry. “The MPCA ignored community concerns about pollution from the Smith Foundry for years. Our community has high asthma rates, and the foundry’s fine-particle pollution contributes to the problem. It took a surprise inspection from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to bring to light something we have known for years. We don’t understand why the MPCA has sided with a polluter for so long.”

Roxxanne O’Brien, a neighborhood activist, spoke about the prolonged operation of the Northern Metal metal shredder in North Minneapolis despite ongoing air quality violations. “If Northern Metal was in Linden Hills, it would have been shut down quickly. But apparently, we’re expendable.”


Courts and Federal Agencies Step In

Several agency failures cited by the coalition include instances where courts or federal agencies validated concerns raised by advocates. These include:

  • The MPCA’s failure to identify significant air permit violations by Twin Cities-area foundries, only revealed after surprise EPA inspections.
  • The DNR’s misuse of federal funding meant for improving wildlife habitat, instead benefiting the timber industry.
  • The Minnesota Supreme Court’s 2023 ruling finding the MPCA engaged in irregular procedures to avoid dealing with EPA concerns when issuing wastewater permits for the proposed PolyMet NorthMet Mine.
  • Multi-agency failure to address nitrate contamination from farm runoff in Southeastern Minnesota, affecting private wells. The EPA estimated 9,218 residents were at risk of excess exposure and ordered the state to provide alternative drinking water until nitrate levels fell below the danger level.

Paula Maccabee, Advocacy Director and Counsel for WaterLegacy, emphasized, “This isn’t just a matter of opinion. Both Minnesota courts and federal agencies have had to step in where our state agencies failed to follow the law, control toxic pollution, or protect Minnesota health and water quality.”


Call For Legislative Hearings

The coalition partners noted that state agencies often rely on ineffective voluntary measures. Jeff Broberg, founder and board member of the Minnesota Well Owners Organization (MNWOO), stated, “Everyone depends on clean water. Minnesotans have a right to expect state agencies to enforce the law to protect our water and health. But the Walz administration continues to rely on failed voluntary measures. It’s time for the legislature to exercise their oversight authority and hold hearings.”

Steve Morse, Executive Director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, called on legislators to fulfill their constitutional role. “Our state’s environmental community – and all Minnesotans – are counting on state agencies to protect our health and our common home. Legislators must ensure the agencies live up to their responsibilities and secure clean water and air for all.”

Margaret Levin, State Director of Sierra Club North Star Chapter, echoed the call for legislative action. “Multiple organizations and individuals have tried to get the Walz administration’s attention on this issue. But they refuse to acknowledge the problem or propose meaningful solutions. It’s time for the Legislature to exercise their oversight authority and hold hearings.”

For more information, visit


Tee McClenty
Executive Director




MN350 is a statewide climate advocacy group with 30,000 supporters. We work to make Minnesota a national leader in a just transition to a clean energy economy. MN350 Action is its political and advocacy arm. |