Reparations for Environmental Racism at Northern Metals?

On March 3rd the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) announced the settlement agreement between the agency, the City of Minneapolis, and Northern Metals Recycling. The recycling facility that has been a community burden for operating with disregard to their responsibility for air quality and health of the residents of North Minneapolis, has finally met the match of what community organizing can accomplish.

Since 2009, concerned neighbors have pounded on the door of the MPCA about Northern Metals Recycling highlighting the stench of heavy metallic air that compounds the impacts of all industrial facilities that surround this part of the Mississippi River. Northern Metals ignored the continuous commands from the MPCA to report their air emissions and operations. This led to the decision by the MPCA to revoke the permit of Northern Metals, but the course of action that was taken by the residents of North and Northeast Minneapolis is ultimately what procured the the end of the recycling plant in North Minneapolis.

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The settlement orders Northern Metals Recycling to pay a total of $2.5 million dollars in fines for continued air monitoring, reimbursements to the state, and a sum of $600,000 for community reparations in the form of environmental and health programs, and the deadline to completely move out of North Minneapolis by August 2019. Fines and reimbursements will be issued to the state through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The community programs will be administered through the City of Minneapolis. Read the full settlement here.

We want to look at this settlement as a victory. And on one hand it is. It took real courage by so many members of these communities to organize with one another, to speak up about the pain that has been bared because of Northern Metals polluting, and to demand better. On the other hand, in no way will this sum of money or any program absolve the harm it's caused. Northern Metals Recycling has the next two and a half years to move its operations to the small town of Becker, MN but that's a long time to ask residents to endure. So now the question turns to how the city will guarantee the fair and thorough use of funds that serve true benefit to these neighborhoods, that exemplifies environmental justice. This is only a step towards a concrete solution that deals with undoing decades of environmental racism and degradation.

We will keep fighting alongside our neighbors in North and Northeast Minneapolis to ensure that their voices remain the core of these decisions, to demand transparency and inclusion. And within these next two and a half years with Northern Metals allowed to finish out operations, we will keep reminding them what they’ve done, and what we can do.  

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  • commented 2017-03-07 22:44:49 -0600
    As many know, a Consent Decree between the MPCA, the City of Minneapolis, and Northern Metals was signed on Feb 28, 2017.

    Many water pollution violations are cited, in addition to the air pollution issues.

    It appears that deals have been cut to move the worst parts of the Northern Metals operation to Becker, in Sherburne County. Why local officials there would be so foolish as to seek the presence of a facility that has caused so many problems in Minneapolis is unclear.

    The core of the deal is that the “Metals Recovery Plant” has been permanently shut down (in Minneapolis). The shredder (“Kondurator”) is supposed to be shut down by Aug 1, 2019, and

    “After termination of shredding activities pursuant to this Consent Decree, Northern Metals may operate the facility to receive, sort, size, and ship metal and other materials….”

    So, get this folks: nothing in this Consent Decree says Northern Metals is going away from North Minneapolis. The scrapyard will remain!

    Now, compare this with what Cam Gordon says in his February e-newsletter:

    “Northern Metals. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Northern Metals have reached a court approved settlement agreement that includes all operations at the Minneapolis facility being shut down and moved out by August 2019, fines totally $2.5 million dollars that includes a payment of $600,000 to the city over three years to mitigate health problems in the area. The city funds will go to projects that identify and educate at-risk residents on asthma triggers; enroll families with children suffering from poorly controlled asthma in a new asthma trigger mitigation program; implement community blood lead level screening events and follow-up as needed to help reduce environmental exposure to lead. While I would have preferred to see all operations moved out of the city sooner, I consider this a big victory for the city and commend the MPCA for their diligence and persistence.”

    Compare what the Decree says: “Northern Metals may operate the facility to receive, sort, size, and ship metal and other materials….” with what Cam apparently thinks it says: “… all operations at the Minneapolis facility being shut down …” Are other Minneapolis officials similarly confused? Is the confusion connected to the $600,000 they are getting out of the deal? (This is less than one-tenth of the settlement Northern Metals bullied the City into paying some years ago.)

    The March 3 Strib article is also misleading, beginning with:

    “The Northern Metals Recycling facility in north Minneapolis, long a source of residents’ air quality concerns, will relocate to Becker, Minn., by August 2019.”

    The MPCA’s headline says “Legal settlement brings relief to North Minneapolis residents.” Doubtless is will bring some, as the shredder has been the main point of contention for many years. But is also appears, from my conversations with PCA officials, that they were not even aware of the existence of the “Metals Recovery Plant” until recently, and had never conducted a comprehensive inspection of the facility.

    It is hard not to wonder if various parties have actually read the Consent Decree and are clear on what they are and are not getting out of it. Likewise, has there been any sort of informed consent on the part of the lucky residents of Becker?
  • followed this page 2017-03-07 22:44:15 -0600

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