Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

MPCA seeks applicants for its environmental justice advisory group

Selected community members to advise agency on incorporating environmental justice principles throughout its work

 

January 10, 2023



(St. Paul, MN) – Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Commissioner Katrina Kessler today encouraged members from diverse and underrepresented communities to apply for the agency’s environmental justice advisory group, a cohort of individuals from across Minnesota who advise the agency on matters related to environmental justice. Applications are open through Feb. 13, 2023.

Environmental justice is defined as 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. The MPCA has been working for over a decade to advance these principles and develop strategies to reduce pollution and health disparities in communities most at-risk, including Black, Indigenous, low-income, and communities of color.

“Too many Minnesotans experience disproportionate exposure to pollution and related health problems simply because of where they live, and this is unacceptable,” said MPCA Commissioner Katrina Kessler. “All Minnesotans should have access to clean air, clean water and healthy lands, but unfortunately agency data show this is not the case. We still have a long way to go, and I am eager to prioritize this work with our environmental justice advisory group.”

Since its inception in 2016, the MPCA environmental justice advisory group has assisted the agency in elevating environmental justice as a foundational priority and integrating environmental justice into its work to protect human health and the environment. As a direct result of the advisory group’s work, the MPCA is prioritizing permits and safeguards in environmental justice areas of concern and integrating equity into grantmaking decisions. The agency has also improved the ways it engages with communities during the permitting process and established internal initiatives to train and educate employees on diversity, equity, and inclusion topics so they are better prepared to understand and work with Minnesota’s diverse and multicultural communities.

The environmental justice advisory group counsels the MPCA in five key areas:

• How to integrate environmental justice principles into MPCA’s work across the agency, such as permitting, compliance, and grant awards.

• Agency activities and programs including prioritizing projects, identifying effective tools and criteria, continuous review of outreach and engagement strategies, and training for MPCA staff.

• Best approaches to building stronger relationships with communities in environmental justice areas of concern and providing opportunities for meaningful engagement.

• Legislative action planning and response.

• Ways to measure progress toward environmental justice goals.

Working with the advisory group, the agency hopes to build trust with the public by increasing accountability and improving engagement with diverse communities on permitting decisions and other work. The MPCA addresses this work with a sense of urgency, understanding that many communities are already in the throes of health and environmental disparities.

Past and current members of the advisory group hold professional positions in higher education, local and state government, and community sectors. Application information is available on the MPCA’s environmental justice webpage. The deadline to apply is Monday, Feb. 13, 2023. Selection process will begin immediately, and the group will reconvene in the early spring. All meetings will be open to the public.

 

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