NORTHERN METALS

CMEJ DEMANDS: NORTHERN METALS COMMUNITY INTERVENTION


WHAT

  • Northern Metals, located on the banks of the Mississippi River and near residential areas where families live, caught on fire on April 21st (again). Due to previous community pressure, they were forced to move their shredding operation to Becker, MN, but they still store several types of combustible materials at the Minneapolis site.

  • Community residents have been trying to get accountability by the multiple regulating agencies and government bodies (city, county, state) that have authority over Northern Metals for over a decade.

  • Northern Metals is NOT a local company. It is a multinational corporation called EMR that has been proven to lie about its operations to regulators and the community. 

  • EMR’s parent company, based in England, is owned by an even bigger global corporation. It operates dozens of sites across the US and dozens more around the world. 

  • Repeat offender - The Becker fire last year burned for 5 days. The toxic smoke plume spread and was visible from space. Another EMR fire in Camden, New Jersey in January 2021 caused residents to be hospitalized, and triggered fines of $97,000.

  • While this is about Northern Metals right now, there is a pollution complex of many facilities polluting here that is perpetuated by policies of the state.

  • Minneapolis will get $281.5 million from the American Rescue Plan that should be spent on public parks and other positive public infrastructure projects in Environmental Justice neighborhoods, not just roads.

  • Northern Metals is a bad actor catalyst for demanding change of legacy pollution in Environmental Justice communities across Minneapolis and the Twin Cities - north and southside, Environmental Justice communities across geographies, united.

 

SO WHAT?

  • People are dying. We want to iterate that this continuing and accepted pollution in our community is killing people and making people sick (as MPCA and MDH studies have shown). 

  • While it may not be a gunshot, it is a state-accepted form of violence against the community, persisting for a longer term and with more insidious harm. 

  • This is a multi-jurisdictional issue, with the city, county, and state all having a role to play in passing the buck and not working together to stop this violence in the community.

  • What keeps Northern Metals in operation is what keeps the multiple polluters across this industrial corridor in operation, hurting people in the city.

  • These agencies must show direct action in mitigating their role in perpetuating structural racism and the racially disparate health outcomes in our state.


NOW WHAT: FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION

  1. AG and Hennepin County Attorney: File criminal* charges against Northern Metals immediately.

  2. City agencies and elected officials: City must begin process for applying nuisance and eviction laws on Northern Metals (similar to how landlords break leases with nuisance code violators in housing. When a problem property is raided the landlord has to evict the tenant, especially if felonies have been committed). 

  3. City Fire Department: Stop Northern Metals operations - The fire plan and protocol/accountability for fire hazards onsite must be made public - as a repeat offender (post Becker fire, Camden, NJ fire, and prior northside Northern Metals fires) and because of site location (near gas station, residential areas).  

  4. Minneapolis and state Health Departments: These fires are environmental health hazards concentrated here, and the Health Department doesn't seem to respond or take a stance. Fine these entities, do a cumulative health effects analysis, and shut down Northern Metals.

  5. All City Council and Mayoral Candidates (for the November 2021 election) must sign a declaration (being drafted) of their support for holding accountable Northern Metals and other polluters which are creating environmental health problems for families.


NOW WHAT: FOR STRUCTURAL CHANGE (MULTIPLE POLLUTERS)
CITY:   Enact an Environmental Justice ordinance requiring cumulative health impacts assessment and land use reviews which ensure community say on land developments. Hold all jurisdictional development in adherence (freeway projects etc.).
CITY:   Study what it would take use eminent domain to purchase Northern Metals and other problematic industrial land that is rented out to bad actors. Use purchased land for a community investment trust plan for cleanup and community use/public benefit. Begin a community visioning project to work with the community affected by Northern Metals to develop a vision for redevelopment of the site and other problematic adjacent properties. Use COVID Recovery Act dollars to this end.
STATE:  MN Pollution Control Agency and MN Dept of Health: 

  • Change MPCA and MDH authority on cumulative health impacts and ability to regulate industry and state projects (i.e. highways) in Environmental Justice areas [state legislation change], in order to require more protective measures in Environmental Justice communities and to give the agencies the ability to shutdown repeat bad actors. Act in Fall 2021-2022 legislative session.

  • Change statutory language to ensure fines from MPCA enforcement actions go into an Environmental Justice Fund (not just the general fund) so money will be invested back into the community where the harm occurred.

  • Ensure that testing/reporting plan/monitoring is more comprehensive in Environmental Justice neighborhoods - and is done by 3rd parties during litigations (like we had Northern Northern Metals doing). 
    It is clear MPCA's monitoring plan has serious gaps. Revise to account for duration, concentration, toxicity, and spatial exposure to vulnerable populations (women of child bearing age, children, elderly).

  • Public forum to share the comprehensive plan for reductions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and cumulative impacts of toxics/co-pollutants/criteria pollutants in Environmental Justice communities by MPCA permitted facilities. Open and provide notice of MPCA Environmental Justice advisory meetings for community members to have access and provide comment on Environmental Justice concerns.

STATE:  Environmental Quality Board (state): Ensure environmental review in Environmental Justice neighborhoods more thorough, including reviews done by third parties when property is owned by City (RGU).

MAY 2021

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Minn. Stat § 609.671, subd. 9 states: ”False statements; tampering. (a) A person is guilty of a felony who knowingly:

(1) makes any false material statement, representation, or certification in; omits material information from; or alters, conceals, or fails to file or maintain a notice, application, record, report, plan, manifest, permit, license, or other document required under sections 103F.701 to 103F.755; chapter 115 or 116; the hazardous waste transportation requirements of chapter 221; or rules adopted under these laws; or

(2) falsifies, tampers with, renders inaccurate, or fails to install any monitoring device or method required to be maintained or followed for the purpose of compliance with sections 103F.701 to 103F.755, chapter 115 or 116, or rules adopted under these laws.

© 2021 by CMEJ