Phillips fights back on Smith Foundry


On Feb. 7, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) convened its second public community meeting on Smith Foundry following the damning findings by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in May of 2023, which revealed multiple egregious violations of the federal Clean Air Act. During this public forum, a concerned community member asked, “Why doesn’t the MPCA enforce a temporary shut down until Smith Foundry is in compliance?” The MPCA’s weak response invoked its past legal entanglement with Northern Metals in North Minneapolis, signifying a lack of confidence in the agency’s ability to secure a favorable outcome in court due to not enough “scientific evidence.” This statement reeks of negligence. It disregards the evidence presented in the EPA findings and ignores the mounting testimonies and health crises of the residents of East Phillips. In essence, the MPCA’s reluctance to impose a temporary shutdown exposes its prioritization of profit over people.
For far too long, the MPCA has not protected East Phillips. In response, the East Phillips community resolved to take matters into its own hands, rallying community members, allies, City Council members and state representatives in a collective effort to enact sweeping reforms at the local, municipal and state levels. City Council Member Jason Chavez, Reps. Samantha Sencer-Mura and Fue Lee, and Sen. Frank Hornstein have used their positions of power with dignity, actively engaging with constituents to forge a path toward environmental justice and healthier living conditions in communities like East Phillips. Sencer-Mura and Lee are spearheading legislative initiatives aimed at requiring facilities like Smith Foundry to adhere to strict emission reporting standards, abolishing outdated grandfathering clauses, and imposing substantial penalties for emission violations.
The MPCA, entrusted with safeguarding the well-being of its constituents by controlling pollution, has unequivocally failed East Phillips and countless other environmental justice communities across the state. City and state officials have recognized these systemic failures and are leveraging their authority to introduce legislation aimed at rectifying generations of injustice. However, the mere introduction of bills does not guarantee their passage; it demands widespread support from all echelons of government, including Gov. Tim Walz, to champion the cause of clean air, clean water and uncontaminated soil for every community in Minnesota.

Luke Gannon lives in East Phillips and is Director of Program Engagement at East Phillips Improvement Coalition.

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