MPCA and environmental justice

All Minnesotans deserve to live in conditions that support a healthy and fulfilling life. One important part of this is living in an environment with clean air, clean water and unpolluted land. Working to achieve this is at the heart of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s mission to protect and improve our environment and human health.

The MPCA is committed to making sure that pollution does not have a disproportionate impact on any group of people — the principle of environmental justice. This means that all people — regardless of their race, color, national origin or income — benefit from equal levels of environmental protection and have opportunities to participate in decisions that may affect their environment or health. 

MPCA’s environmental justice policy

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) expects the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of communities of color, Indigenous communities, and low-income communities in agency actions and decisions that affect them. It is the policy of the MPCA that an outcome of its work, in addition to protecting and improving the environment and public health, must address environmental justice concerns.

Environmental justice means the right of communities of color, Indigenous communities, and low income communities, to the enjoyment of a healthy environment and to fair treatment and meaningful involvement with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

Fair treatment means that no group of people should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, governmental, and commercial operations or policies.

Meaningful involvement happens when:

  • People have an opportunity to participate in decisions about activities that may affect their environment and/or health;
  • The public’s contribution can influence the regulatory agency’s decision;
  • Their concerns will be considered in the decision making process; and
  • The decision makers seek out and facilitate the involvement of those potentially affected

The above concept is embraced as the understanding of environmental justice by the MPCA

MPCA's Environmental Justice Framework

Our vision, strategies, and implementation actions for integrating environmental justice principles into our work.

This framework represents our commitment to act using our authority, influence, and resources to focus our work where it will have the greatest effect in reducing the impact of environmental pollution.  It provides direction and guidance to modify our practices and integrate environmental justice principles into our work.

Minnesota areas of environmental justice concern 

This interactive map shows areas of environmental justice concern in Minnesota. The MPCA uses the U.S. Census tract as the geographic unit to identify these areas. The agency considers a census tract to be an area of concern for environmental justice if it meets one or both of these demographic criteria:

  • The number of people of color is greater than 50%; or
  • More than 40% of the households have a household income of less than 185% of the federal poverty level

Additionally, the MPCA considers communities within Tribal boundaries as areas of concern. This is an initial first step to identify areas where additional consideration or effort is needed to evaluate the potential for disproportionate adverse impacts, to consider ways to reduce those impacts, and to ensure meaningful community engagement as described in MPCA's environmental justice framework.

Policy, notice, and procedures

Tribal relations

Recognizing and supporting the unique status of Minnesota Tribal Nations, and to facilitate meaningful and timely consultation between the MPCA and Tribes, the MPCA maintains a policy on tribal consultation as well as guidance on air and water permit consultation with Tribal Nations.

Tribal contacts

MPCA staff assist the agency's Tribal Liaison with maintaining current information on tribal contacts for receiving air and water permit notices (per the established MPCA Guidance on Air Quality Permit Consultation with Indian Tribal Governments).

Who to call

Ned Brooks, MPCA’s Environmental Justice Coordinator: 651-757-2557 or ned.brooks@state.mn.us

EJ Issues newsletter

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Other resources

MPCA

  • What’s in My Neighborhood? is a Web-based map- and text-based search tool containing information on soil and groundwater contamination sites within the state; includes properties that have been investigated and cleaned up as well as properties that are currently enrolled in MPCA cleanup programs.
  • Environmental justice and air

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

HTML icon Environmental justice (U.S. EPA)

The Environmental Protection Agency supports the principles of environmental justice: the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

HTML icon EJSCREEN (U.S. EPA)

Uses high-resolution maps combined with demographic and environmental data to identify places with potentially higher environmental burdens and vulnerable populations. EJSCREEN's color-coded maps, bar charts, and reports enable users to better understand areas in need of increased environmental protection, health care access, housing, infrastructure improvement, community revitalization, and climate resilience.