- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - U.S. Steel is fighting back against stricter environmental standards set to be enforced by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

The draft environmental permit, which has yet to be released publicly, would affect U.S. Steel’s Minntac facility in Mountain Iron. State law limits companies from releasing too many sulfates into waters where wild rice grows.

Ann Foss, metallic mining director for the pollution agency, said U.S. Steel has operated the iron ore facility without renewing its environmental permit for 23 years. She said sulfate levels are too high in surface water around the facility.

U.S. Steel says it would have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars if the standards are enforced, and that business would be hurt. Minnesota Public Radio News (https://bit.ly/16Y4M8N ) reports the company has been lobbying lawmakers, including testimony before a House committee and private meetings with Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders.

Several lawmakers representing the Iron Range back U.S. Steel. The pollution agency’s Citizen Advisory Board would make a final decision on the permit, unless lawmakers do so first.

“It’s huge because it’s all about people’s jobs,” said state Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm. “It could shut down the entire industry if it doesn’t get resolved. We absolutely need to resolve it and resolve it in a positive way.”

Environmental groups and officials with the federal Environmental Protection Agency want the standards to be enforced. Kathryn Hoffman, an attorney for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, said the sulfate standard has been state law since 1973.

What Minnesota regulators do in the case of U.S. Steel could have an effect on other industries, Hoffman said.

“How do we know that sulfide mines will be held to the law?” she said.


Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org

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