Minnesota regulators put off vote on haze reduction

  • Article by: DAVID SHAFFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 27, 2012 - 9:07 PM

Mining company Cliffs Natural Resources says one of its plants could have difficulty complying with the plan.

hide

Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota

Photo: Jackie Crosby, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Minnesota regulators on Tuesday delayed approving new air pollution rules to protect natural areas after a taconite producer said they were too strict and might bring production to a halt.

The delay by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) citizens board gives agency staff members another few weeks to address issues raised by Cliffs Natural Resources, operator of three taconite plants on the Iron Range.

Michael Long, director of environmental strategy for the Cleveland-based mining company, said at least one pellet-making line at its Hibbing, Minn., taconite plant would have a tough time complying with the proposed rules, which are meant to reduce haze caused by air pollution.

"In some cases it could require us to shut down altogether," he told the board.

Haze, or reduced atmospheric visibility, affects Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) in northern Minnesota and Isle Royale National Park on Lake Superior. The state is under a court deadline to come up with a long-term reduction plan under the federal Clean Air Act.

Minnesota's plan was criticized by nine of the 11 organizations that testified before the citizens board. Six conservation groups said the state's proposed haze rules were too weak.

The U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service also objected, saying the rules would not improve visibility over parks and wilderness.

Haze is formed by emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxide, and can be seen at sunset or by comparing high-haze and low-haze photos. Power plants and other industries inside and outside of Minnesota are the sources of the emissions.

Minnesota's proposed plan would require the iron mining industry to use "good combustion practices" at six operations where iron ore is processed into taconite pellets.

That was criticized as too lenient by critics, including the National Parks Conservation Association. They advocate requiring taconite plants to install new low-nitrogen oxide burners, a relatively new technology.

Long said some of the state's emissions limits are "simply set too low and are unachievable," and would put one Hibbing Taconite line in violation 18 percent of the time.

Cliffs has asked for initially less-strict emissions limits that would be ratcheted down later as it gains experience with the new controls. State officials said they discussed those concerns with Cliffs, but could not reach a compromise. Now they will try again.

David Thornton, an assistant MPCA commissioner, said the haze regulations are the first stage of a decades-long effort to restore the air in natural areas to pristine conditions.

"We believe we have got a plan that takes the appropriate steps to do that," he said.

It wasn't enough for conservation groups, which argued that 11 Minnesota taconite operations and coal-fired power plants should upgrade to the best control technology for emissions.

"It's unconscionable that we would consider this adequate," said Christine Goepfert, a regional program manger for the nonprofit national parks association.

Under the state plan, five power plants implicated in the haze problem wouldn't be subject to plant-specific emissions restrictions, except for Xcel Energy's largest coal-fired plant, located in Sherburne County.

Xcel and Minnesota Power supported the state's haze plan. Xcel says it will spend $50 million to retrofit older units at Sherco and has dramatically reduced its statewide emissions thanks to earlier plant upgrades in the metro area.

David Shaffer • 612-673-7090

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

St. Louis - LP: A. Wainwright 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Locke 3
Texas - WP: C. Lewis 12 FINAL
Seattle - LP: E. Ramirez 4
Washington - LP: D. Fister 4 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 8
Tampa Bay - WP: D. Smyly 3 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 1
Boston - LP: T. Layne 2 FINAL
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 5
NY Yankees - WP: S. Greene 8 FINAL
Detroit - LP: D. Price 4
Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran 3 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: Z. Wheeler 2
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 5 FINAL
Cincinnati - WP: M. Latos 7
Cleveland - LP: C. Kluber 2 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: H. Noesi 3
Minnesota - LP: P. Hughes 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: W. Davis 6
Oakland 2 Top 9th Inning
Houston 3
Milwaukee 2 Bottom 7th Inning
San Diego 0
Los Angeles 3 Top 6th Inning
Arizona 1
Miami 1 Bottom 5th Inning
LA Angels 4
Colorado 0 Bottom 4th Inning
San Francisco 1
Atlanta 8/28/14 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 8/28/14 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 8/28/14 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 8/28/14 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 8/28/14 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 8/28/14 6:02 PM
ULM
Boise State 8/28/14 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8/28/14 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 8/28/14 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
D.C. 0 2nd Half
Los Angeles 3
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close