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New change to state law allows agency to crack down on repeat polluters: 'Tools to act quickly in certain situations'

This is a huge win for the lungs of residents and the future of our planet.

This is a huge win for the lungs of residents and the future of our planet.

Photo Credit: iStock

Great news for Minnesotans and the planet alike: The state just passed a groundbreaking law that empowers regulators to take swift, decisive action against the worst polluters, according to the Star Tribune.

Starting July 1, 2024, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) will have a suite of new powers to shut down businesses that falsify pollution records, repeatedly violate the terms of settlements, chronically break permit rules, or operate without proper permits. Talk about accountability.

This law was inspired by cases like Water Gremlin, a company that produced fishing tackle and battery parts while violating air pollution regulations for nearly two decades. Under the old rules, the MPCA said its hands were tied unless a polluter posed an "imminent and substantial danger" to public health.

No more excuses. Now, serial offenders will face real consequences, like revoked permits or being forced to cease operations. This is a huge win for the lungs of Minnesotans and the future of our planet.

The MPCA is putting its money where its mouth is, too. The agency is getting over $5 million to hire 22 new staff members focused on air quality monitoring, permit reviews, and inspections. It's also investing in state-of-the-art pollution sensors to stay on top of pollution.

"Though the legislature has provided the agency stronger tools to act quickly in certain situations, the MPCA must still investigate and gather factual evidence that warrants taking action," Becky Lentz, an MPCA spokeswoman, said in an email to the Star Tribune.

Evan Mulholland, an attorney with the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, said the law granted a broad authority for the MPCA commissioner to protect communities.

"This change will help MPCA do both," added Claire Lancaster, a spokeswoman for Governor Tim Walz, in an email.

Some fear the law could spur costly legal battles, but sometimes, you must fight for what's right. Minnesota just showed the nation how to hold polluters' feet to the fire. Here's hoping other states follow its lead.

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