Minnesota Environmental Justice Table
Who we are
The Minnesota Environmental Justice Table (MNEJ) is a diverse coalition of community members and organizations building an environmental justice formation across the North Star State. We work to both support base-building efforts in frontline communities and coordinate their representation at state energy and climate policy tables. Our dual project goals of environmental justice and zero waste include reducing toxic pollution loads and GHG emissions, and creating much-needed jobs through reuse, recycling, and composting. We are dedicated to ending incineration in Minnesota and developing a zero waste plan for the state. We organize with the most marginalized, including BIPOC, poor, homeless, and incarcerated people, many of whom are harmed by the HERC incinerator.
The Fight to Close HERC
The Hennepin Energy Resource Center (HERC) incinerator was built in 1989 in Downtown Minneapolis, close to North Minneapolis, where most of the city’s Black population lives. Each year the facility produces 1.5 million pounds of emissions, including heavy metals like lead and mercury, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide (NoX), sulfur dioxide, and dioxin (a cancer-causing chemical in Agent Orange), and dozens of other pollutants. These invisible pollutants cause or exacerbate health conditions ranging from asthma and bronchitis to heart disease and cancer. As a result, communities directly adjacent to the incinerator – including those in North Minneapolis – have the highest rates of asthma hospitalizations in the state. HERC is owned by Hennepin County, and in the past, the majority of the Hennepin County Commissioners were in favor of incineration. We plan to show them that Minneapolis doesn’t have to choose between burning or dumping its trash, because zero waste is possible, feasible, and affordable. While there have been several unsuccessful campaigns against HERC over the years, the MNEJ Incinerator Working Group’s campaign is tied to liberation and built to outlast individuals and organizations until it succeeds in shutting HERC down.
Incinerator: Hennepin Energy Resource Center
Location: 505 6th Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN
Pounds of pollutants (annually): total HAPs 83,144.87 (2017)
Mercury: 5.28 (2017)
Lead: 7.86 (2017)
Community: 49% minority, 50% below poverty line
Critical Date: (Permit expiration date): not available
Akira Yano works as an Environmental Justice Organizer at the MN EJ Table. He was born in Berkeley, CA but grew up in both the Bay Area and the Twin Cities. His environmental justice journey began five years ago, when he first learned about the HERC incinerator and its pollutants’ disproportionate effect on the predominantly Black/low-income neighborhoods of North Minneapolis. His path as an environmental justice educator has now returned him to the HERC, but this time as an organizer committed to a zero-waste, sustainable future. He not only wants to shut down the HERC, but make sure the communities it has harmed guide the re-imagining of a Minneapolis liberated from the suffocating system of trash incineration.
Krystle D’Alencar works as an Environmental Justice Organizer with the MN EJ Table, focusing on solid waste alternatives to incineration and landfills. They are currently getting their master’s in computer engineering and urban planning to apply innovation and tech to sustainable development, and investigate the relationship between waste and racial justice. Krystle grew up in Boston but has lived in the Twin Cities for almost a decade, developing strong ties to their greater community and joining movements against police brutality, housing injustice, and other forms of systemic racism. They see closing HERC as a step toward reclaiming the fundamental right to good health, and ending an inequitable waste system that is tightly intertwined with all other injustices against marginalized people.
In the news
On May 4 2021, the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners adopted its first Climate Action Plan. This came after a lengthy process, culminating in a final plan with the stated vision of advancing equity and creating a coordinated approach to planning and policy development.
Published by the MinnPost
Most plastic waste in Minneapolis is not recycled, a new report has found, but instead is burned at a downtown incinerator adjacent to low-income communities of color, perpetuating a system in which vulnerable groups are exposed to high levels of pollution.
Published by Sahan Journal