In this issue of the Environmental Monitor:

  • U.S. Supreme Court rejects Trump Administration and polluter’s attempts to limit the reach of the Clean Water Act
  • TCE ban passes Minnesota Senate
  • A recap of Earth Day 50 - thank you to everyone who took part!
  • ACTION ALERT: tell your MN Senator to vote no on a bill to reduce environmental protections 
  • Minnesota passes 50% carbon-free milestone for energy

U.S. Supreme Court decision reinforces groundwater protections under the Clean Water Act

In a big win for clean water, on Thursday, April 23rd, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with environmental groups, including MCEA, on a water pollution case involving a wastewater treatment plant in Maui, Hawaii. This decision will have rippling impacts across the United States, including Minnesota.

In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court said that the Clean Water Act prohibits pollution discharged to groundwater if the pollution ultimately contaminates surface waters (lakes, rivers and wetlands). Such discharges are only allowed with a Clean Water Act permit, which is designed to prevent harm to the environment and public health. 

MCEA represented the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in an amicus brief for the case that described the impact of groundwater pollution leaching from the Minntac mine's tailings basin (and potentially the PolyMet tailings basin) and how it is critical for the Clean Water Act to address this pollution.

Click here to read our write-up on the decision: Maui and Minnesota: what a win at the U.S. Supreme Court means for Wild Rice in Minnesota


The Minnesota Senate passes SF 4073 banning the use of toxic TCE

With overwhelming bipartisan support, on Thursday, April 30th the Minnesota Senate passed SF 4073 in a 66-1 vote. The bill will effectively ban the use of TCE (Trichloroethylene), a highly toxic degreaser used for industrial applications. The Minnesota House is poised to pass their own ban in a bipartisan move to stop one of Minnesota's most notorious chemicals. 

Dozens of Minnesota communities deal with TCE pollution of their drinking water. Citizen groups, legislators, MCEA, and other environmental groups across Minnesota have called for the ban for over a year. TCE gained new statewide attention after reports came out that Water Gremlin, a manufacturer in White Bear Township, had been polluting the air with TCE for over a decade. 

SF 4073 was renamed the “White Bear Area Neighborhood Concerned Citizens Group Ban TCE Act” for the residents who live near Water Gremlin that pushed hard to get this critical ban of the toxic chemical passed. Now the bill moves to the House, where MCEA will be making sure this critical legislation gets to the finish line. When this becomes law, Minnesota will be the FIRST state in the U.S. to ban this toxic chemical; ensuring a safer air and water for people across Minnesota.


A digital Earth Day 50

Earth Day celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. On April 22, 1970, at the first Earth Day, millions of Americans gathered to learn and invision together a more sustainable, thriving, future. While COVID-19 made these in-person gatherings impossible this year, the spirit of Earth Day carried on. 

This year, MCEA celebrated individual acts that our staff, supporters, and people across Minnesota take each day to build a better planet. From joining a community garden, to sewing homemade reusable paper towels, together we said yes to a brighter future.

Thank you to everyone who joined us. A special thank you to the 1st grade students from Kenny Community School, who shared with MCEA what Earth Day looks like to them. We must continue our fight for climate action and strong environmental protections on their behalf. 

No rollbacks

ACTION ALERT: Tell your Senator to protect MN from environmental rollbacks

Unfortunately, the same polluting industries that are always up at the Capitol lobbying are up to their old tricks. They think that the public is distracted by COVID-19, and that this presents an opportunity to pursue their agenda of reducing environmental protections.

Help us stop them.

Click here to tell your Senator to stop a bill filled with environmental rollbacks dead in its tracks. 

SF 4499 was passed hastily last week, and contains nearly 100 sections of new policy language (click here for our testimony detailing all of them). Buried in these sections are provisions that would:

  • End clean car standards for Minnesota, and end the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's authority to regulate vehicle emissions - forever
  • Give industrial polluters 16 extra years to comply with stronger standards to protect our water
  • Force our state agencies to reissue air pollution permits, even if new and more accurate information shows that the pollution exceeds health-based standards, and
  • Gag state employees from talking to the public about groundwater protection areas

A recent report shows Minnesota now gets roughly 50% of its power from carbon-free sources. This symbolic milestone highlights the cost-effectiveness and reliability of renewable energy in Minnesota. Renewable energy is Minnesota's future.

MCEA's work at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has successfully secured the retirement dates of all but one coal power plant in Minnesota. As these polluting coal plants shut down, Minnesota has the opportunity (and obligation to our people and planet) to integrate solar and wind at a scale not yet seen in the Midwest.

We have the chance to become a leader nationwide in real climate action through cheap, reliable renewable energy. MCEA will be at the PUC, state agencies, and the Legislature to help make that happen.


Did you miss our article explaining the recent decision from the Minnesota Court of Appeals that struck down PolyMet's air permit? If so, click here to check it out!


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Contact Us

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