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Regulators want Mpls. scrapyard to close if it can't meet air rules

State pollution regulators have asked a judge to order an upper riverfront scrapyard in Minneapolis to stop violating air quality standards, even if that means reducing or ending operations, and to pay for permit violations.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency filed with Ramsey County District Court its first public explanation of why it has focused on Northern Metal in its investigation of exceedances of air quality standards.

The agency said that monitors on either side of the Northern Metal yard at 2800 N. Pacific St. have recorded eight times when air in the area exceed state standards.  It said it is focusing on Northern Metal because monitors found that the violations occurred downwind from the yard, and because monitoring filters contained significantly more metal particles than other monitors in Minneapolis.

The company’s yard receives scrap metal, and pulverizes some of it in a shredder inside an enclosed building that is equipped with what the company has described as the best available technology to control emissions. Installation of the shredder was controversial among some area residents.

Attorney Daniel White, representing Northern Metal, responded: "Simply put: MPCA's response is a desperate attempt to excuse its judicially-recognized non-compliance with the air emissions rules and protocols."

The monitoring was begun by the agency after its board voted in 2012 to relax the permit for the shredder without further environmental studies sought by three legislators, some area residents, and environmental advocates. That was done after the shredder failed to meet standards set in its original permit after it began operating in 2009.

The agency said when it revamped the permit that its studies found that the air-quality standards for fine particles would be exceeded by area firms but that the shredder contributed only 2 percent of that load. The violations resulting from the agency’s monitoring generally involve larger particles.

The agency also said that both its staff and a camera added to one of the monitoring sites have observed dust escaping from the shredder building.

Northern Metal went to court last month, arguing that the agency has unfairly singled out its facility in investigating the violations. The filing this week responded to an order by Ramsey County District Judge John Guthmann that the agency shut down the monitors or explain why not.

The agency asked the judge to assess a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per day of violation. It denied the firm's contention that it was not complying with state and federal procedures governing air monitors.

McLaughlin: Ballpark taxes, authority could aid soccer stadium

Above: Commissioner Peter McLaughlin speaks at a groundbreaking ceremony for Target Field Station in 2012 (Liz Flores)

Hoping to break an impasse over a pro-soccer stadium in Minneapolis, a Hennepin County commissioner is suggesting that a final deal could hinge on the taxes and agencies associated with Target Field.

Commissioner Peter McLaughlin proposed his plan at a meeting Tuesday night of 2020 Partners, a North Loop booster group, according to a report in MinnPost. His remarks followed a presentation from Minnesota United officials, who are seeking to build a $150 million stadium near the Farmers Market and exempt it from property taxes.  

In an interview Wednesday, McLaughlin suggested the county could use the sales taxes now paying for the Twins stadium to build infrastructure connections between the soccer stadium and nearby neighborhoods. Those taxes are expected to pay off the stadium debt earlier than expected.

The proposed soccer stadium site on Royalston Avenue is particularly isolated, cut off from downtown, north Minneapolis and the North Loop by freeways.

McLaughlin added that the Minnesota Ballpark Authority -- the public entity that owns Target Field -- could buy the soccer stadium for $1 from team owners, which would absolve it of property taxes but keep it in public hands. Team owner Bill McGuire has said he is open to possible public ownership of the facility.

Both facets of the plan rely on the approval of the Legislature, which showed little appetite last session to tackle the soccer issue. McLaughlin said he met with team owners several weeks ago and they were reluctant to explore using the ballpark sales tax.

“There was a reticence about the sales tax, use of the Twins sales tax,” McLaughlin said. “They were reticent to go down that path….They were of the impression that that was a non-starter at the Capitol.”

McLaughlin said the team needs to express interest or the idea is "nowhere." “I think we need to have a conversation with the team owners…We’re going to have a conversation with them. That’s what I’m hoping,” he said.

The team declined to comment on McLaughlin’s remarks through spokesman Eric Durkee.

McGuire's investment partners include Glen Taylor, who owns the Star Tribune.