One of the Land Stewardship Project’s core values is democracy. We believe that those most impacted by the decisions our state agencies make should have a meaningful voice in the decision-making process. Yet, since the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Citizens’ Board was abolished in 2015, agency decisions have become increasingly opaque, the public has had fewer opportunities to make their voices heard, and corporate interests are being treated as clients by the MPCA.
This legislative session, we have a strong chance of reinstating the MPCA Citizens’ Board, with required representation from rural and urban communities who face the brunt of the environmental, human health, and economic impacts of industrial projects. The bills to do so were introduced Feb. 20 in the Minnesota House and Senate by Rep. Kristi Pursell (DFL-Northfield), the vice chair of the House Agriculture Committee, and Sen. Foung Hawj (DFL-St. Paul), the chair of the Senate Environment, Climate, and Legacy Committee.
But nothing is a given. Big Ag and the Chamber of Commerce will come out swinging. They have deep pockets and plenty of lobbyists, but we have the people on our side — and we need to demonstrate that.
Hearings are on the horizon in both the Minnesota House and Senate and we need you to demonstrate the public demand for Minnesotan-run and people-centered public institutions! Here’s how you can take action:
- Take just two minutes to e-mail your state legislators to urge them to support the bill. Add a personal message to make it even more effective!
- If timing allows, attend one or more hearings in-person. Packing a hearing room is one of the most effective ways to demonstrate public demand for a legislative proposal. Fill out our interest form to be the first to know when hearings are scheduled!
More on the MPCA Citizens’ Board
The MPCA Citizens’ Board was established when the MPCA was created in 1967. Made up of eight regular Minnesotans and the MPCA Commissioner, the Board had legal authority to make final decisions on environmental review and permitting of industrial projects, including factory farms. The Board even had the power to overturn agency decisions. The Board held public hearings where Minnesotans could make public comments, they made their decisions in a public forum, and the agency had to justify its recommendations to the Board.
In 2014, the MPCA Citizens’ Board went against the advice of MPCA staff and ordered an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the state’s largest factory farm, Riverview Dairy, as it tried to expand. Based on registered feedlot data from the MPCA, Riverview Dairy facilities can hold more than 135,700 dairy cows. Five years ago, it was estimated that Riverview produces approximately 27% of Minnesota’s milk and 2% of the world’s milk. Those numbers are likely higher today as it continues to expand and push small and mid-sized dairies out of business.
This was the first and only time an EIS has been ordered on any new or expanding feedlot proposal in Minnesota history. Following this vote, corporate interests and their allies in the Legislature swiftly abolished the Citizens’ Board in backroom dealings in 2015.
By reinstating the MPCA Citizens’ Board, we will put decision-making power back into the hands of Minnesotans (as intended), advance environmental justice, greatly increase transparency in the agency, and create meaningful opportunities for the public to make their voices heard.
Additional organizations involved in organizing to reinstate the MPCA Citizens’ Board include the Environmental Justice Coordinating Table, Greener Pastures, Honor the Earth, the League of Women Voters, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, and the Minnesota Environmental Partnership.