Fight Back! News

News and Views from the People's Struggle

East Phillips residents rally after major advancement towards shutting down Smith Foundry

By Charlie Berg and Joe Vital

Minneapolis, MN – Residents of the East Phillips neighborhood and organizers with the Climate Justice Committee rallied outside of Smith Foundry on Tuesday, June 4, after an announcement from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that it had reached a settlement with Smith, with the most significant provision requiring that the heavy-polluting foundry shut down its furnace within 12 months.

The rally showcased the results of a steadfast commitment to environmental justice. At the rally, every speaker emphasized that, while the ruling from the EPA is a huge step in the right direction, the Shut Down Smith Coalition, East Phillips residents and their allies are not finished.

Residents who spoke drove home the point that their collective effort is leading to results – that they are building an environmental justice fighting-machine that takes on the system in the streets, in the courts and in political offices. The Smith rally was a time to celebrate a major success, and to motivate organizers and neighbors for the next phase of the fight: demanding a total closure.

After the rally, the Climate Justice Committee circulated the following statement, summarizing these developments, the present state of the struggle, and where it goes from here:

“After a long campaign by community organizers in the East Phillips neighborhood, the EPA finally announced on Tuesday, June 4th, that they had reached a partial settlement with Smith Foundry, requiring that the facility permanently shut down its furnace within 12 months, immediately shut down two of their pouring lines, and pay an $80,000 penalty. Still, the settlement allows Smith to continue to operate as a metal finishing shop.

“This represents a major advancement in the East Phillips and Little Earth communities’ struggle for environmental justice, which is in direct continuity with the significant and hard-won victories at the Roof Depot and Bituminous Roadways. Every inch of ground gained thus far is the result of a tireless, multi-pronged struggle by a broad coalition of activists and community members who were willing to fight for the air we breathe by any means necessary.

“However, this fight is NOT over. Twelve more months is far too long for the neighborhood to continue to endure Smith Foundry’s reckless pollution. And, there are unknown ramifications of operations as a metal finishing plant.

“If Zynik Capital, the EPA, or the MPCA—whose commissioner, Katrina Kessler, was recently granted new powers by the MN State Legislature to shut down polluters like Smith—really treated public health as their top priority, Smith could be shut down today.

“Furthermore, we will continue to loudly demand that all Smith Foundry workers affected by the shutdown be afforded everything they rightly deserve, including generous severance packages, compensation for negative health impacts caused by working at Smith, and a just transition to new employment in a healthy and safe workplace.

“Finally, we demand that the MPCA—and Zynik Capital—issue apologies to the residents of East Phillips and Little Earth. This agency has steadfastly refused to use its enforcement powers, and instead has delivered decades of negligence, lies, and utter disregard for neighbors’ complaints about the epidemic of industrial pollution in their community. MPCA and Zynik must also provide reparations to the neighborhood in whatever form the residents see fit.

“As we enter a new phase in our efforts for environmental justice, we are determined to continue heightening the level of struggle and raising the bar for what communities can achieve when they are prepared to fight. Until East Phillips, Little Earth, and all communities across Minnesota have the power in their hands to build a future free from environmental injustice, the Climate Justice Committee will stay in the streets.

“When we fight, we win!”

#MinneapolisMN #MN #Environment #EnvironmentalJustice #EnvironmentalRacism #SmithFoundry #CJC #EPNI #OppressedNationalities #IndigenousPeoples