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Revisor ID: R-04805

The MPCA is beginning work to implement a new groundbreaking law to remedy Minnesotans’ disproportionate exposure to pollutants. The law defines environmental justice areas and requires the MPCA to conduct a rulemaking process to address the cumulative impacts of pollution during permitting processes.

For many neighborhoods and communities in Minnesota, decades-old permitting and zoning decisions by local, state, and federal governments have resulted in heavily polluting industrial and manufacturing facilities located near homes, schools, and parks.

As part of the law, the Legislature requires the MPCA to develop criteria for requiring a cumulative impact analysis and its content, define a substantial adverse environmental and health impact, establish the structure of a community benefits agreement and process, and ensure permit applicants have access to social and environmental factors, including elevated rates of disease, poor access to health insurance and medical care, and food insecurity.

These criteria, standards, agreements, and processes will be developed through the state’s thorough and lengthy rulemaking process.

Procedural rulemaking documents

July 2023

Newly defined environmental justice areas

For the first time, the Legislature defined an environmental justice area in Minnesota law. These areas are the focal points for developing Minnesota’s cumulative impact analysis criteria and processes for some air permit decisions. An environmental justice area is one or more census tracts — small, permanent subdivisions of a county or city — meeting any of the following criteria:

  • 40% or more of the population is nonwhite.
  • 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 must use these criteria for the cumulative impact rulemaking, which only impact the Twin Cities seven-county metro area and the cities of Duluth and Rochester. The MPCA has developed maps for the Twin Cities metro, Duluth and Rochester that show environmental justice areas and one-mile buffer zones.

More than 120 facilities possibly impacted. The cumulative impacts law applies to new facilities as well as some current facilities that are expanding or need to renew an air permit. Based on the Legislature’s criteria for environmental justice areas and types of air permits, approximately 123 current facilities, including landfills, power plants, refineries, and manufacturing plants, may be impacted by this new law.

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Community open houses

Attend an upcoming community event to learn more about cumulative impacts, and how you can get involved in this rulemaking process.

Legislative timeline

July 24-October 6, 2023: The MPCA is seeking comments regarding the scope of the cumulative impacts rulemaking. 

Attend a community information session and/or comment on the scope of this rulemaking, which includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Establish benchmarks to assist the MPCA commissioner's determination regarding the need for a cumulative impacts analysis.
  • Establish the required content of a cumulative impacts analysis and provide sources of public information that an applicant can access regarding environmental stressors present in an environmental justice area.
  • Define conditions, criteria, or circumstances that establish an environmental or health impact as a substantial adverse impact.
  • Establish the content of a community benefit agreement and procedures for entering into community benefit agreements.
  • Establish a petition process and form to be submitted to the agency by residents in environmental justice areas to support the need for a cumulative impact analysis.
  • Establish a process through tribal consultation by which a tribal government can elect to apply the state’s cumulative analysis requirements to a permit application.
  • Develop an engagement process that incorporates input from the community and stakeholders during the cumulative impact rulemaking development, including but not limited to establishing the community benefit agreement and petition processes.

October 2023-April 2026: The MPCA will solicit and gather the best data, ideas, and approaches to develop a thoughtful cumulative impacts analysis process for air permitting decisions in the seven-county metro area, Duluth, and Rochester. The MPCA is committed to ensuring voices in all communities impacted by this new law are heard throughout the three-year process.

May 24, 2026: The date by which MPCA must have criteria and processes ready for public comment and legal review.

Please check this page regularly for updates to the timeline and information about our engagement process.

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Sign up for updates about the cumulative impacts rulemaking process and opportunities for public input.