MPCA Environmental Justice Advisory Group

The Environmental Justice Advisory Group advises the MPCA Commissioner on implementation of the agency's environmental justice framework, provides feedback on its effectiveness, and offer suggestions for future improvements. This includes:

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the MPCA in implementing our environmental justice framework, including assisting the MPCA in determining ways to measure success.
  • Providing recommendations to the MPCA Commissioner on improvements to policies and procedures to ensure integration of environmental justice principles into the MPCA’s work.
  • Providing input to the MPCA on activities and timeframes for framework implementation.
  • Collaborating with the MPCA to improve civic engagement with environmental justice communities and acting as liaisons to strengthen communications and relationships between environmental justice communities and the MPCA.
  • Sharing oral history and community experiences so the agency can better understand the communities they serve and inform community-based solutions.

Advisory group members

  • Maryan Abdinur — Maryan was born in Somalia and has worked as an interpreter for Doctors Without Borders as well as for health care providers here in Minnesota. Maryan is currently the Community Based Food Systems Program Organizer with Land Stewardship Project. She also serves on the board of the Minn. Association for Environmental Education.
  • Lea Foushee — A long-time environmental justice activist in Minnesota, Lea is involved in indigenous women’s issues and is a mentor to the new generation of activists.  Lea co-founded the North American Water Office in 1982, and advised the MPCA on the development of its Environmental Justice Framework.
  • Sarah Goodspeed — Sarah is an organizer with Climate Generation. She previously worked as a Policy Analyst with the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy, with Hennepin County as an Environmental Education and Multicultural Outreach Coordinator, and for the Minnesota Chicano Latino Affairs Council as a Legislative and Community Relations Manager.
  • Boise Jones — Boise is a community activist and independent consultant who works on environmental justice issues with a recent focus on North Minneapolis. Boise has served on the Governor’s Climate Change Advisory Council and the MPCA’s mercury reduction oversight group.  Boise was active in advising the MPCA on development of its Environmental Justice Framework.
  • Winona LaDuke — Winona is the executive director of both White Earth Land Recovery Project and Honor the Earth, and has extensive experience working on tribal land claims and preservation, as well as sustainable development.
  • Asha Long — Asha is a founding organizer with Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, and also worked for the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group as an organizer.
  • David Manuel — David is a member of the Red Lake nation. He is a beekeeper, gardener, and wild rice harvester and works for the Red Lake Local Food Initiative.
  • Jennifer Nguyen Moore — Jennifer is the city of Bloomington’s Sustainability Coordinator. She has experience working with new immigrant and non-English speaking communities and has training in meeting facilitation and action planning.
  • Shirley Nordrum — Shirley is a Local Extension Educator with the University of Minnesota. She is the founder and former Director of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe’s Environmental Department.
  • Mariela Ojeda — Mariela is a former MN GreenCorps member who served with the Latino Economic Development Center and provided technical assistance to Latino-owned businesses to help them reduce their environmental impact. She currently works for Habitat for Humanity.
  • LaShella Sims — LaShella is a North Minneapolis resident and a Senior Organizer with the Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing. She directs much of her personal and professional energy toward organizing around transit.
  • Halston Sleets — Halston has worked with indigenous communities in Denali National Park on policy reform regarding subsistence hunting, and most recently as a senior policy aide on Environmental Justice to former Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges.
  • Mahyar Sorour — Mahyar has experience recruiting, training, and organizing youth around environmental justice issues from her work as a Campus Organizer with the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group. She serves on the board of MN 350 and has focused much of her organizing work around the Clean Power Plan and climate change.
  • Steve Sternberg — Steve is an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Minnesota Duluth. His work focuses on environmental engineering issues, including industrial wastewater pre-treatment, landfill design, groundwater contamination modeling, climate change, air pollution, and environmental justice impacts.
  • Anita Urvina Davis — Anita is a North Minneapolis resident and a former Multicultural Environmental Outreach and Education Liaison for Hennepin County. She has extensive experience coordinating efforts between counties, nonprofit organizations, and State agencies. She currently manages grants for the Community POWER Education program.
  • Joan Vanhala — Joan is a resident of the Phillips neighborhood and has extensive experience working on environmental justice issues and creating and community engagement processes that result in sustainable solutions. She was active in advising the MPCA on development of its Environmental Justice Framework. She worked for the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability as a Coalition Organizer. Joan currently is a community engagement coordinator with Hennepin County Community Works.

Selection Committee members and other advisors

A selection committee, made up of MPCA staff and community representatives, reviewed applications and recommended a list of finalists to MPCA Commissioner John Linc Stine.  Selection committee members included:

  • Aisha Gomez — Senior Policy Aide to Mpls. City Councilmember Alondra Cano
  • Henry Jimenez — Executive Director, Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs
  • Roopali Phadke — Professor of Environmental Studies, Macalester College
  • Janiece Watts — Environmental Justice Coalition Organizer, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change
  • MPCA staff — David Benke, Ned Brooks and Karen Solas

In addition, the MPCA consulted with representative from Minnesota’s cultural and ethnic councils and invited input related to their specific community’s members.  These included:

  • Jim Jones — Cultural Resources Director, Minnesota Indian Affairs Council
  • Louis Porter — Executive Director, Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage,
  • Sia Her — Executive Director, Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans

Operating Procedures

The group will determine its operating procedures.  As a suggested starting point, the MPCA prepared a draft charter.


The MPCA strives to ensure that all Minnesotans receive equitable environmental protection, benefit equally from our work, and that all people have the opportunity to participate in and influence environmental decisions. The MPCA’s environmental justice framework outlines a set of strategies to achieve these principles. We developed this plan with input from community stakeholders and we want to establish a forum for ongoing stakeholder feedback, oversight, and collaboration.

The MPCA will regularly improve and modify implementation of the strategies based on initial experience, learning, and feedback.  The environmental justice advisory group is one important way to receive feedback from stakeholders on the framework implementation and to collaborate on ways to improve MPCA’s work.  This group is formed by the MPCA commissioner and is made up of a variety of stakeholders working on community engagement, environmental justice, health equity and related work.