Walz appoints Kessler as pollution control commissioner

By: - October 29, 2021 3:46 pm

Katrina Kessler has decades of experience as a water regulator prior to her promotion to commissioner. Courtesy photo.

Gov. Tim Walz appointed Katrina Kessler to be his new commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, or MPCA, effective Nov. 1.  

Kessler, who has decades of experience as a water regulator, is being promoted after serving as assistant commissioner of MPCA for water policy and agriculture. 

Walz struggled to find candidates during a monthslong search, challenged by a political environment in which Senate Republicans have fired or threatened to fire several of his commissioners. 

The anti-pollution agency faces important and politically fraught issues, including the future of sulfide mining in northern Minnesota; water quality amid agriculture pollution; the fate of mega farms; and, air pollution, especially among low-income Minnesotans who suffer higher rates of asthma and other bronchial diseases.

Kessler’s predecessor, Laura Bishop, resigned in July prior to a Senate confirmation vote in which majority Republicans indicated that they would remove her. 

Bishop drew the ire of Senate Republicans after working to implement tougher auto emissions standards. 

The Senate has failed to confirm nearly all of Walz’s commissioners, though most have served since early 2019. 

Walz and lawmakers are currently at a standstill in negotiations to have a special legislative session to divide up $250 million for essential workers — like nurses, meatpacking workers and personal care aides — who risked their health during the pandemic. Walz wants assurances that his commissioners’ jobs are safe from Senate sacking during any special session. Senate Republicans have refused to offer a guarantee. 

Kessler served as a permit engineer at the MPCA for 13 years prior to work for the city of Minneapolis on sewer infrastructure. She rejoined the MPCA in 2019.

“We can continue to foster stronger economic growth and protect our natural resources by embracing the best science, local innovation and Minnesota common sense,” Kessler said in a news release.

Walz said in the release that Kessler is “prepared to lead the state forward during this critical time to protect our state’s waters, air, land and climate for future generations of Minnesotans.” 

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Anna Koenning
Anna Koenning

Anna Koenning is a reporting intern for the Reformer. She covered international news for Madrid-based El Independiente and works as a barista when she isn't at the Reformer or in class at the University of Minnesota, where she studies journalism, Spanish and political science.