Frontline Communities & Cumulative Impacts

Frontline communities and cumulative impacts

Pollution already heavily concentrated in “frontline communities” — communities that experience the first and worst negative impacts of pollution — combined with existing unjust conditions that produce health and socioeconomic disparities, leads to the accumulation of compounding negative impacts or “cumulative impacts.”

The cumulative impacts law can improve health equity

HPHC is a member of the Frontline Communities Protection Coalition (FCPC), a group of organizations led by COPAL MN and the Minnesota Environmental Justice Table. During the 2023 legislative session, the FCPC, guided by the existing work of North Minneapolis’ Community Members for Environmental Justice (CMEJ), helped pass Minnesota’s Cumulative Impacts law.

The cumulative impacts law will require the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to carefully examine existing levels of pollution before approving a permit for a new polluting facility. The law — if implemented effectively — will protect communities’ rights to breathe clean air. In fall 2023, the MPCA began the first stage of the rulemaking process for the cumulative impacts law. This is an intensive, three year process with multiple opportunities to advocate for health equity.

How might this affect you and your community?

The cumulative impacts law focuses on “environmental justice areas,” which are defined by Minnesota law as census tracts meeting any of the following criteria:

  • 40% or more of the population is Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC)
  • 35% or more of the households have an income at or below 200% of poverty ($60,000 for a family of four)
  • 40% or more of the population over the age of five has limited English proficiency
  • Located within Indian Country

The MPCA will use these criteria for the cumulative impacts law’s rulemaking, which will focus on Duluth, Rochester, and the Twin Cities seven-county metro area.

Maps of environmental communities across Minnesota:

Duluth Environmental Justice Map

Rochester Environmental Justice Map

Twin Cities Metro Environmental Justice Map   

List of Polluting Facilities in Minnesota       

 

Get Involved

MPCA is hosting initial public meetings in September 2023:

 

MPCA is seeking public comments to guide the law’s rulemaking process. Take action!

HPHC is compiling hundreds of health professionals’ comments and will submit them directly to the MPCA. The more comments we can collect, the stronger our message will be! Submit your public comment by Tuesday, October 3.

TAKE ACTION HERE

 

Timeline

Phase 1 | July 24 – October 6, 2023: The MPCA seeks the public’s comments on rulemaking for the cumulative impacts law

Phase 2 | October 2023 – April 2026: The MPCA gathers the data, ideas, and approaches to develop a cumulative impacts analysis process for air permitting decisions impacting Duluth, Rochester, and the Twin Cities seven-county metro area. Public engagement is key to ensure an equitable, transparent, and community-centered implementation process for the law.

Phase 3 | May 24, 2026: The MPCA must have criteria and processes ready for final public comment and legal review. 

 

There’s a lot at stake, but we can stand up for health equity together.

Weak and inequitable rulemaking could result in the law not living up to its original intent of providing meaningful change for communities unjustly burdened by pollution. The MPCA will be hearing from opposition stakeholders who stand to profit from weak rulemaking, so it’s crucial that we make our voices heard throughout the process to protect public health.     

 

What’s next? 

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