Staff Directory 34031274

Jennifer Bjorhus

Reporter | Environment
Phone: 612-673-4683
Location: Minneapolis
Other languages: None

Jennifer Bjorhus is a reporter covering the environment for the Star Tribune. She was a business reporter for much of her career but in recent years focused on criminal justice issues, including police use of force and responses to sexual assault. 


Bjorhus previously covered a range of topics for major metro newspapers, including the Seattle Times and San Jose Mercury News. She lives in St. Paul with her husband, Ranjit, and has two sons and a cat.
Recent content from Jennifer Bjorhus
Minnesota considers banning TCE following emissions problem in White Bear Township

Minnesota considers banning TCE following emissions problem in White Bear Township

The hazardous industrial solvent remains in wide use despite high toxicity.
Former Minnesota DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, shown in 2015.

Former Minnesota DNR commissioner will head Boundary Waters advocacy group

Tom Landwehr to head up fight to stop proposed copper-nickel mine.

White Bear Township company to pay $7M to settle air pollution violations

Water Gremlin's pollution continued for more than 15 years, state officials said.
This 2016 photo shows the Flint Water Plant tower in Flint, Mich. Prompted by the lead poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan, the state of Minnesota exa

Removing lead from Minnesota drinking water could cost $4B, but benefits could be double

The lead poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan, prompted Minnesota's review.
The Minnesota State Capitol as seen from downtown St. Paul. Funding for a cleanup plan at the WDE Landfill in Andover remains snarled in the Legislatu

Clock is ticking on Andover landfill – and chemicals are leaking

Funding for a cleanup plan at the site in Andover has stalled in the Legislature.
The Environmental Protection Agency Building

Watchdog sees sharp drop in EPA enforcement, cites two Minnesota cases

Report spotlights two pollution cases in Minnesota.
Thanks to the huge public lands package that passed the U.S. Senate, a large gap in the North Country National Scenic Trail’s Minnesota section will

A reroute and redemption, finally, for Minnesota's national scenic trail

Landmark conservation bill would safeguard land in northern Minnesota.
Most of the Minnesota River basin land is agricultural, and water quality is tainted by aging septic systems and animal runoff.

To clean murky Minnesota River, must control septic systems, livestock manure

Cleaning up bacterial pollution will cost $4 million to $10 million over two decades, according to a new MPCA plan, the state's latest effort to solve a decades-old pollution problem.
Displayed is an Environmental Protection Agency report ahead of a news conference in Philadelphia, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. Under strong pressure from

EPA outlines plan for water with toxic chemicals, including 3M's

3M last year settled a state of Minnesota lawsuit related to PFAS, and faces litigation in other states. Environmental and consumer groups immediately challenged the EPA's decision not to push immediately for lower limits on the chemicals in drinking and groundwater.
Nate Kinsey (Richfield Police Department photo)

State high court rejects Richfield's effort to fire police officer

Police chiefs' association says state's highest court "missed an opportunity" to improve police professionalism.
Pig feedlot (but this one is much smaller than the proposed project in Fillmore County)

Farmer drops 'karst country' swine feedlot plan

Proposal drew opposition in southeastern Minn., where many wells are contaminated.
Members of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe are seeking ways to codify their “spiritual connection” to wild rice.

Minnesota tribe asks: Can wild rice have its own legal rights?

Maneuver to inject nature into modern law faces long odds.
PolyMet Mining Cor. proposes to use the old LTV taconite facility to process copper-nickel ore.

Former EPA lawyer challenges regulators on PolyMet water permit

Ex-EPA lawyer says Chicago office "suppressed" employees' PolyMet concerns.
University of Minnesota student Wilson Nyakeri bundled up against the extreme cold felt last week.

Believe it or not, global warming might have caused the arctic blast

As climate destabilizes, Minnesota could see polar snaps more frequently.

Emissions from White Bear Township manufacturer under investigation

Part of Water Gremlin plant is shut down while health effects of toxins are studied.
“You’re dealing with physical evidence, emotion, trauma. This is more than going to a burglary," Hastings Police Chief Bryan Schafer said.

Police undertrained and overwhelmed by rape cases in Minnesota

Inadequate training for police who investigate sexual assaults, along with poor staffing and high turnover, plagues many police departments across the state – resulting in fewer charges against suspected offenders.
Minnesota defines consent as voluntary, but its exceptions for being too drunk to agree to sex are narrow.

How alcohol foils rape investigations

Police are less likely to interview witnesses, assign cases to a detective or forward them to a prosecutor if the victim was drinking, according to a Star Tribune analysis. When cases involving alcohol do reach prosecutors, suspects are much less likely to be charged with a crime or convicted.
These women stepped forward with harrowing stories of being raped, then watched in shock as investigators did little or nothing to pursue their cases.

When rape is reported in Minnesota and nothing happens

A Star Tribune examination of more than 1,000 recent sexual assault cases shows pervasive failings by law enforcement — neglecting to interview witnesses, collect crucial evidence, or conduct criminal background checks on suspects. Many cases were never even assigned to an investigator.
A group photo of participants in the Denied Justice series taken in December at the State Capitol in St. Paul.

Minnesota police board approves state's first sex-assault policy

New rules aim to improve the quality of rape investigations and build trust with survivors.
From left, U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum, Ilhan Omar and Dean Phillips.

U.S. Reps. McCollum, Omar, Phillips ask feds to extend comment period on Twin Metals leases

They noted that the original 30-day public comment period has overlapped with the 28-day partial government shutdown and winter holidays.

Canadian Pacific derailment spills diesel fuel into Battle Creek

A Canadian Pacific locomotive jumped the track and punctured its fuel tank Tuesday night at a rail yard southeast of downtown St. Paul, dumping just…
Kite boarders skim across Bde Maka Ska in front of the Minneapolis skyline in March. The state’s famous winters are warming 13 times faster than its

Minn. one of the nation's fastest-warming states, U scientists say

Cities are warming faster than the rest of the landscape, they tell a panel of legislators.
Sulfate pollution from industrial water discharge can become toxic to wild rice, which tribal leaders warn could be devastating.

Tribal leaders fault state plan, say wild rice in Minnesota is endangered

State report clashes with scientists working with tribes, who say grain is imperiled.
Hoping others receive justice they were denied led many women to add their voices to the series investigating failed rape investigations.

When rape is reported and something happens

As dozens more women have stepped forward to tell their stories, reforms are underway in Minnesota. Victim advocates and rape survivors say they are heartened by the pledges of reform by police leaders, prosecutors and lawmakers.
A quarterly meeting of the Minnesota Peace Officer Standards and Training Board in 2017.

Group proposes changes in training police to handle sex assault cases

Gov. Dayton ordered the police board to draft improved training and investigation guidelines for handling of sexual assaults in the wake of a Star Tribune series documenting chronic breakdowns in rape investigations.
When detective Justin Boardman realized he was failing sex assault victims, he decided to change — himself and his entire department in Utah.

A better way to investigate rape

Utah's shift is a promising sign of how a state can do more to help rape victims get the justice that so often eludes them — if everyone involved is working with the same priorities.
Survivors Rachel Radford, left, and Emma Top each knew their assailant and saw him sentenced, but both came away feeling the punishment was not severe

Convicted for rape in Minnesota, free from prison time

Felons spend less time in prison in Minnesota, and the state says that's by design.
Minnesota Pollution Control Commissioner John Linc Stine.

MPCA chief hears a wave of worry over Fillmore County feedlot plan

Foes of a 5,000-hog farm in Fillmore County flooded the meeting in Mabel, Minn., near the Iowa border.

Minnesota issues long-delayed pollution permit for Minntac tailings basin

State says it will protect nearby lakes and streams, but environmentalists call the permit inadequate.
The proposed swine farrowing operation, with 4,890 pigs, wouldn't be huge by Minnesota standards; the state's largest swine feedlot has five times tha

Outrage toward feedlot in SE. Minn. has created a 'first' in recent memory

Water worries prompt rare second hearing for SE. Minn. hog farm.
Alesha Erickson was photographed in her apartment Sept. 21, 2018 in Mountain Iron, Minn. She was raped in a different unit in the building and moved t

Special Report: A victim heard, justice served

Many sexual assault reports in Minnesota are poorly investigated. Most don't result in charges or convictions. This one was different.
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, shown in August, unveiled sexual assault regulations for colleges and universities that bolster the rights of th

New plan might alter how Minn. colleges handle sex misconduct

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said she aimed new proposed rules to better balance the rights of alleged victims and the due process rights of the accused.
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson with Barb Johnson in September as Swanson's sexual assault working group met for the first time.

Rape, alcohol, consent under review by Minn. sex assault task force

The attorney general's work group plans to have recommendations ready for the 2019 Legislature.

Minnesota police leaders report progress on reforms in sexual assault investigation

Recommendations include statewide model policy, specialized training.
Bradley Traaseth asked authorities multiple times to file charges against the men suspected of raping his daughter, Hannah. He was unsuccessful.

Minnesota rape cases: Rejected by the prosecution

In Minnesota, half of sex assault cases police send to prosecutors never result in charges. Prosecutors reject cases that include DNA evidence, witnesses, and sometimes even confessions, records show.
Tim Bildsoe led the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board, during a vote in 2017. “Everything is on the table,” Bildsoe said in an int

Minnesota police board promises steps to improve sex assault investigations

POST Board will prepare officer training standards and a model policy for sex assault investigations.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman plans several measures to improve the way his office and Minneapolis police pursue sexual assault cases.

Freeman pledges to strengthen sex assault investigations

The Hennepin County attorney said he was surprised at how many cases seem to go nowhere.
Tim Bildsoe led the Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), during a vote in 2017.

State police licensing board plans response to failings in Minnesota's rape investigations

Licensing agency chief plans actions to improve statewide accountability.
These women stepped forward with harrowing stories of being raped, then watched in shock as investigators did little or nothing to pursue their cases.

Frey pledges 'care and compassion' for sex assault victims

Minneapolis mayor was responding to a report showing chronic failings in sex assault investigations in Minnesota.
These women stepped forward with harrowing stories of being raped, then watched in shock as investigators did little or nothing to pursue their cases.

Public officials call sexual assault stories 'horrific'

Lawmakers, prosecutors respond to report on breakdowns in assault investigations.
Yellow law enforcement line with police car and lights in the background.

Fatal police encounters in Minnesota since 2000

More than 160 people have died in forceful encounters with law enforcement in Minnesota since 2000.
Untested rape kits, Wednesday, December 2, 2015 in Andover, MN.

Duluth clears rape kit backlog as reform bill becomes law

The new law gives agencies 60 days to submit kits and requires victim updates.

Bills take aim at Minnesota officers, elected officials accused of abuse

All Minnesota law agencies would be required to establish rules.
Nate Kinsey

Appeals Court backs Richfield's firing of officer who struck Somali youth

Appeals Court upholds Richfield's firing of officer.
Lizzy Wegner, 11, a 6th grader from Watertown-Mayer, beat her classmates in a snowshoe race Tuesday morning at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning C

Wolf Ridge Learning Center takes a leap of growth on shore of Lake Superior

An Eden Prairie couple helped give students access to the Great Lake, but the North Woods center is $2.3 million short of its fundraising goal to make it happen.
Linda Walther, a sexual assault nurse examiner, asked members of the House Public Safety Committee members to examine a sexual assault kit. Under a ne

Minnesota drafts new rape kit protocols with timetables to test

A bill in the state House would set statewide standards for processing sexual assault evidence kits after untested backlog revealed in 2015.

Debts and anger in wake of Minnesota officers' fundraisers

The trail of debts and ill will left by a Pennsylvania events management company has some Minnesota participants in its fundraisers crying foul.
Minnesota Management and Budget released details Friday of harassment in the state government’s executive branch, along with a report recommending n

266 sexual harassment complaints filed in state agencies from 2012-17

New reporting system, changes in culture needed, the report found.

Licensing board strengthens conduct standards for Minnesota law officers

Domestic assault, DUI will now trigger a license review for Minn. officers.
Nate Kinsey, in a Richfield Police Department photo, with his K9.

Richfield, police union argue over case of fired cop at appeals court

Rare appeal tests the power of public employee arbitration and handling of police misconduct.
Gary Swenson reviewed land up for auction at DNR headquarters last month. The state is working harder to publicize the auctions.

What would you bid for an acre of Minnesota wilderness?

The DNR is selling off less-desirable parcels, but demand has been slow.
POST Board executive director Nate Gove said sworn officers should be held to a higher standard.

Minn. police licensing board will consider new, tougher officer standards

Recommendations follow a Star Tribune series on police misconduct.
Gary Paulson has survived four bouts of cancer. His Lake Elmo home and well are near a landfill where 3M dumped PFC sludge.

In lawsuit, Minnesota is asking: What did 3M know about PFCs?

Court filing cracks open 3M's internal research on PFCs, raises new questions about risks for residents.
Rep. Tony Cornish and Sen. Dan Schoen announced Tuesday that they will soon resign, ending a jarring period in Minnesota politics, when the State Capi

Rep. Cornish, Sen. Schoen to resign after harassment claims

Two Minnesota lawmakers announce they will resign on same day following harassment allegations that reverberated at State Capitol.
Chair Tony Cornish assured Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy that reopening Appleton wasn't the only way the committee was look

Rep. Cornish's ex-wife once obtained domestic abuse protection order

Rep. Tony Cornish, facing allegations at the State Capitol, was accused of aggressive behavior toward his ex-wife in 1990.
State Rep. Tony Cornish, a Republican, is denying allegations that he sexually harassed women at the Capitol. ] GLEN STUBBE • glen.stubbe@startribun

Ex-GOP Speaker Zellers says he warned Cornish

"I believe he should resign" and apologize, says the former GOP House speaker.
Allegations of sexual harassment at the State Capitol widened as two women came forward with reports of sexual harassment by GOP state Rep. Tony Corni

Lawmaker, lobbyist accuse Rep. Cornish of sexual harassment

Late Thursday, House Speaker Kurt Daudt suspended Sen. Tony Cornish's chairmanship and called for a human resources investigation of the allegations, which Cornish denies.
Benedicta Hernandez

Obituary: Accountant Benedicta Hernandez came to U.S. alone, then helped her family, community

Benedicta Hernandez, an accountant from the Philippines embarking on a new life, was the first of her family to land in the Twin Cities in…
Nate Kinsey won in court, but the Richfield Police Department considers him fired.

Richfield goes to Minn. Court of Appeals to keep police officer fired

Despite video of incident, officer won twice in court.
Criminal defense lawyer Fred Bruno consulted with his client Brian R. Johnson outside a courtroom at the Dakota County District Court, Wednesday, Apri

PART 3: How Minn. officers accused of serious crimes plea bargain to keep jobs

Officers with convictions – which might have cost them their careers in other states – can exploit weaknesses in Minnesota's licensing rules to keep their jobs.
Minnesota’s top police licensing authority is reviewing its standards of conduct for sworn officers and will consider expanding the list of crimes t

Minnesota police licensing board to consider revising standards

Board chief says there's "potential for some change" in light of Star Tribune series.
Students practice shotgun basics at the state academy in Salem run by the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. Oregon’s police

What Minnesota can learn from Oregon on police oversight

In Oregon, police officers can be disciplined for infractions that wouldn't even trigger a state review here. The northwestern state has become a national model for rigorous licensing, with lessons for Minnesota in police accountability and improving public confidence.
92 percent of the Minnesota River basin's land is agricultural, and the quality and quantity of its water depend overwhelmingly on farming practices.

Heavier rainfall, drained wetlands erode progress on Minnesota River.

The agricultural workhorse river has been the focus of intense efforts since the 1970s to improve its water quality; close to $1 billion has been spent on it. But it's unclear whether that has paid off.
In Minnesota, law enforcement officers can stay on the job for years even when a judge or jury finds them guilty of criminal behavior.

Minnesota police officers convicted of serious crimes still on the job

Over the past two decades, hundreds of Minnesota law enforcement officers have been convicted of criminal offenses. Most were never disciplined by the state. More than 140 are still on the job.
Laura Bloomberg of Buffalo, Minn., said she still lives with the effects of domestic abuse.

PART 2: A blind spot for officers involved in domestic violence in state

The state rarely sanctions police officers in domestic violence cases, a glaring weakness that police chiefs and victim advocates say needs to change.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, shown in 2016, says a project related to the Ford site could be among those packaged for investors.

Mississippi River mayors eye wetlands and parks to reduce flooding and environmental damage

St. Paul's Chris Coleman says a project related to the Ford site could be among those packaged for investors.
Crossroads Elementary in St. Paul, shown in 2016. Classes there won't start until Thursday after concern that toxic vapors under the school's foundati

Vapor intrusion scare delays start for St. Paul school

The MPCA says the air at Crossroads Elementary Science and Montessori School is not contaminated, and vapor mitigation is being installed.
In this May 2016 image provided by the city of Minneapolis, police officer Mohamed Noor poses for a photo at a community event welcoming him to the Mi

Fast-track training put officer Noor on Mpls. police

The former police chief stood by the training of officer Mohamed Noor, who shot and killed Justine Damond. But not everyone is sold on the process.
A male Dakota skipper showing his proboscis which is used for eating nectar. Tuesday June 27, 2017 Minnesota's native Dakota skipper prairie butterfly

With help from Minnesota researchers, imperiled prairie butterfly takes new flight

As the tallgrass prairie has disappeared across much of Minnesota, the Dakota skipper has nearly vanished. Researchers at the Minnesota Zoo have been breeding Dakota skippers in captivity, and now, for the first time, the butterfly is being reintroduced into the wild.

Despite criticism, Minnesota lawmakers seek expansion of R&D tax break

The legislative auditor finds the credit doesn't pay for itself, but the increase is still being sought.
In this photo taken Feb. 10, 2016, skiers ride the chair lift at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, Minn.

Iron Range agency names new management company for Giants Ridge resort

It's the latest change at Giants Ridge after an unflattering audit in 2016.
PolyMet Mine in Hoyt Lakes, Minn.

Suit alleges faulty appraisal in PolyMet land swap

Environmental groups want to block a deal with the mining company proposed by the U.S. Forest Service.
In this October 2008 photo provided by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, a brown bat with white nose fungus is seen in New York.

Fatal bat disease confirmed in the Twin Cities area

White-nose syndrome has killed thousands of bats across Minnesota.
Skiers and snowshoers, like Bill DeZelar here, enjoy trails in Superior National Forest.

Comment period on restricting mining near BWCA extended to August

Proposal to ban mining on 234,000 acres of national forest open for scrutiny.
A group of people led a sing-a-long to the hebrew song Hineh Mah Tov at the beginning an interfaith rally at the Highland Park Community Center on Thu

More than 200 gather in St. Paul to denounce hate crimes, bomb threats vs. Jewish groups

Recent threats against Jewish sites led over 200 from many beliefs to gather in St. Paul to denounce hate.
More from Star Tribune