Our 2022 priorities focus on climate, environmental justice

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Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

In late November, the MEP team including members, staff, and our Board of Directors finalized our coalition’s 2022 Collaborative Priorities. This document will help set MEP’s strategy for the 2022 legislative session and our communications throughout the year. 

The Collaborative Priorities are informed by the things that MEP runs on: science, our values, and our member organizations’ work. MEP’s vision statement expresses our hope that Minnesota will put people and planet first, and that’s reflected in the policies and investments we propose.

The document reflects one of the core understandings of our coalition: that we face multiple intersecting crises that must all be solved. Minnesotans have seen climate impacts – like wildfire smoke and December thunderstorms – more than ever before during 2021. Our Pollution Control Agency now recognizes most of our state’s waters as being impaired, with broad swaths of the state devoid of waters that are fishable or swimmable. And our environmental challenges don’t affect the state evenly: communities of color and low-income areas are especially vulnerable to and harmed by pollution and climate change.

Our top shared priorities

In 2019, MEP members selected the climate crisis as our keystone issue – without a healthy climate, none of our other challenges can be solved. Minnesota needs a unified plan to address how to achieve a net-zero economy by 2040. Most of the proposals put forth or supported by MEP have this in mind, addressing the core greenhouse gas emission sources of transportation, agriculture, electricity, and buildings. MEP will continue to speak out against Line 3, the newly built Enbridge pipeline that will generate more annual carbon emissions than Minnesota’s entire economy.

As we work to solve the climate crisis and related problems, we also recognize that our institutions are too often failing to provide solutions, or actively making the problem worse by siding with polluters. Our state agencies are meant to safeguard the people of our state. Their approval of projects like Line 3 or the PolyMet sulfide mine exemplifies how our regulatory system has been captured by corporations. It’s resulted in a pattern of treating corporations as clients, failing to act in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, and disregarding harms to Indigenous communities. MEP will continue developing plans to make these institutions more accountable and people-centered.

Building on previous sessions and our work on lead testing in 2021, MEP will advocate for investments and policies that protect Minnesotans and our natural spaces from lead. Lead is one of the most potent and common neurotoxins harming Minnesotans, as our work in Duluth has demonstrated, with communities of color especially impacted. It’s also frequently found in fish, mammals, and birds, poisoning our food chain due to lead tackle, ammunition, and other sources. MEP will continue seeking investments to replace lead water pipes and policies to prohibit the use of lead in hunting and fishing.

We see opportunities for the Legislature to invest significant funds in cutting emissions, repairing and upgrading water infrastructure, and restoring our natural systems. MEP and partners will advocate for bonding dollars for climate, equity, water, and other issues. We’ll also continue to support Minnesota’s dedicated environmental funding, including the reauthorization of the Minnesota Lottery funds for natural resources and reforms to make the funding stream more equitable.

And as we’ve done each year, MEP will continue using our voice to support our members’ policy priorities. 

How we’ll push forward

As we do each session, MEP will directly lobby the Legislature on these priorities, activating our network of engaged Minnesotans to push their lawmakers to act. As with the last several years, the divided Capitol presents obstacles to progress, but that doesn’t mean we can’t move forward in key areas, especially given the state’s historically large anticipated budget surplus. Last session, MEP and our allies successfully advocated for a clean Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund bill, preventing it from being tied to a rollback to the Clean Cars rule.

MEP will continue to focus much of our work on persuading the Walz Admininistration to champion Minnesota’s future and give support to our priorities. We’re encouraged that the Governor named climate as one area that state surplus dollars should invest in. Governor Walz should use his opportunity to lead on climate this year, especially in light of his record outlined in the climate report card that MEP signed last year.

Looking forward, MEP will also help provide Minnesotans with the tools they need to hold lawmakers accountable and change the conversation at the Capitol. We’ll soon be releasing our Caucus hub, which will provide Minnesotans information on how to influence their political parties and elections through their precinct caucuses and beyond. We’ll also share platform resolutions championed by our members to help educate Minnesotans and improve party positions. At a time when our democracy is on shaky ground, shoring up these foundations is critical.

Our agenda – to protect the future of our state and our world – is broad and ambitious, but it is achievable. Minnesotans shouldn’t settle for anything less than bold action.

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