Critical developments in the fight against PolyMet's pollution and a chance to act on climate

Big win on PolyMet, unprecedented district court trial, climate win in the Northland & more!

  • On January 13th, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed key PolyMet permits and required the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to hold a contested case hearing
  • Following MCEA's win, state regulators have re-opened a permit for a large industrial dairy operation for public comment
  • MCEA has spent the last two weeks in court demanding the truth about the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) decisions to keep EPA scientists' concerns about the PolyMet water permit out of the public eye
  • MCEA gave oral arguments on PolyMet's "sham" air permit
  • A gas plant in the Northland has been stopped for failing to consider environmental impacts to Minnesota

January has been a pivotal month in our work to protect Minnesota from PolyMet's pollution and for demanding climate action from the state government. We will continue holding agencies accountable. Minnesota deserves the truth. Minnesota deserves a thriving future.


Pictured: MCEA's Senior Staff Attorney, Ann Cohen, moments after the Court of Appeals announced its reversal of PolyMet's dam safety and permit to mine. Ann is MCEA's lead attorney on our appeal of the DNR permits. 

MCEA and people across Minnesota celebrate victory against PolyMet: MCEA, the people of Minnesota, and everyone who lives downstream of PolyMet's unsafe mining proposal had a big win on January 13th. In a historic decision, the Court of Appeals reversed key PolyMet permits and required the Minnesota DNR to hold a contested case hearing.

The Court’s decision shows that the process that granted these permits is broken, and the Court’s intervention means that the ultimate decision on PolyMet will be based on science and the law.

We did this together and we are incredibly grateful for your support that made it possible.

This win doesn't mean the fight is over: in a press release on January 16th, PolyMet stated its intention to petition the Minnesota Supreme Court for review of the Court of Appeals' decision rejecting PolyMet's permit to mine and dam safety permits. If the Minnesota Supreme Court accepts PolyMet's petition, we will be ready to take this fight head on at the State's highest court. Support our work today and join The People vs. PolyMet.



MCEA won an important precedent in the Minnesota Court of Appeals in 2019 that requires Minnesota regulators to address greenhouse gas impacts before issuing a permit. In January, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) published the first environmental study under this new precedent. The project is a large industrial dairy expansion. Unfortunately, it only estimates the amount of greenhouse gas pollution, and does not study ways to reduce or avoid that pollution.

Simply measuring the harm we are doing to our climate is not enough. We need to take action, now.

The greenhouse gas pollution from the proposed factory farm expansion is massive. Each year, the greenhouse gas emissions of this proposal would be equivalent to driving an average passenger vehicle over 81,000,000 miles (that's like driving to the moon and back over 160 times.) Another analogy is that this massive feedlot expansion is equal to the emissions of nearly 7,000 new cars on Minnesota roads.  

Minnesota is not meeting our climate goals, and we need to move forward, not backward. Gov. Walz has said that climate change is an existential threat. That means we need to be a leader and take action now to reduce and mitigate greenhouse gas pollution.

Tell the MPCA: don't just measure climate pollution, require climate action.


District Court trial on MPCA's handling of EPA comments on PolyMet's water permit: On Wednesday, the hearing at the Ramsey County district court on how MPCA kept EPA's critical comments out of the public record wrapped up. The case now moves into post-trial briefing, which we anticipate will last for several months. When briefing is complete, Judge Guthmann has 90 days to release his decision and send the case back to the Court of Appeals. This is an unprecedented case, and we will keep you updated as developments occur.


Photo sourced from: Romerito Pontes from São Carlos [CC BY (]

One year after Brumadinho

Just before noon on January 25th, 2019, a tailings dam in Brazil collapsed, killing 270 people. The dam released around 12 million cubic meters of tailings, impacting the whole region. Brazil's National Water Agency stated the tailings could pollute over 300 kilometers downstream - nearly the exact distance between PolyMet's proposed dam and Duluth. Since the disaster, Brazil has banned this method of dam design. PolyMet wants to use the same method in Minnesota.

Disasters like the Brumadinho dam catastrophe remind us why we do this work. The health of downstream communities and our ecosystem are threatened by the outdated and unsafe methods PolyMet has proposed. The lives and health of Minnesotans outweigh the value of minerals PolyMet wants to pull out of our land.

MCEA remains steadfast in our commitment to use our legal tools to protect what makes Minnesota who we are: our people, land, air, and water.


Oral arguments on PolyMet's air permit: On January 8th, MCEA argued at the Minnesota Court of Appeals that the air pollution permit issued to PolyMet is a "sham" - a placeholder for a much larger and much faster operation.

PolyMet told the MPCA one thing and their investors another. By concealing the true size and scale of the mine it hopes to operate, PolyMet avoided a permit requiring the use of the best available technology. 

We are sitting tight for the Court's decision in early April.

Duluth youth

MCEA's JT Haines (right) with Friends of the Climate, a Duluth youth group that filed a "friend of the court" brief supporting our lawsuit. 

Gas plant halted in the Northland: Minnesota Power has been pushing a proposal to build an electric plant powered by fracked gas (as a joint venture with a Wisconsin utility) at a time when we can't afford to build new fossil fuel infrastructure. MCEA sued to stop it, and in December, the Minnesota Court of Appeals unanimously struck down the "affiliated interest agreement" approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that would have authorized the plant.

The Appeals Court ruled that the PUC could not approve the agreement requiring Minnesota ratepayers to pay for the construction of the power plant without first completing a study of its environmental and public health impacts. 

If we hadn't won this appeal, the Twin Ports would be forced into forty years of greenhouse gas pollution. Duluth does not deserve to be locked into a fossil fuel future.

On January 22nd, Minnesota Power asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals decision. MCEA will urge the Supreme Court to let the Appeal Court decision stand.

Minnesota does not need a 40-year investment in fracked gas. As we enter our planet's critical decade on climate, please support MCEA's work in support of this vision.


New MCEA capacity at the Capitol

MCEA has had some big wins in the fight to protect Minnesota's air, land, water, and people. We are gearing up for the legislative session beginning February 11, in anticipation of large corporate interests attacking these wins. In preparation, MCEA has hired a new, full-time, Legislative Associate, Andrea Lovoll, to build out our capacity at the Capitol. We will not let corporate money take back these critical wins. Support our work today to help fuel our fight at the Legislature. 


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Contact Us

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
1919 University Ave W
Suite 515
St. Paul, Minnesota 55104
(651) 223-5969